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The Darling River

Darling River at Steamers Point - Wilcannia
The Darling River meanders through New South Wales from its origins in Queenslands' Darling Downs till it meets the mighty Murray River at Wentworth. It is a significant landmark in Outback Australia. Much of the pioneering history of the region has centred on the river, and it remains vital for agriculture, horticulture and town life. Following the river will take you through the traditional lands of the Ngemba and Barkindji peoples, to who the river in an integral part of their lives and lifestyle

In the 1830's and 40's European explorers in search of the fable 'Inland Sea' finally resolved the mystery by tracking the 1000 river miles to Brewarrina to Wentworth. Sturt , Mitchell, Dowling and Burke and Wills performed epic exploring feats
The Darling became the 'Wild West' frontier for European settlement in the 19th century. By mid-century cattlemen began to carve out fast stations and forge stock routes to Adelaide and Melbourne. The successful navigation from the Murray to Brewarrina by riverboat in 1859 signalled that the river had also became a highway. River front wool empires grew at a phenomenal speed; some were 2-3 million acres, Shearing millions of sheep, so that by the 1890's the river ports at Bourke, Wilcannia and Wentworth were shipping world record amounts of wool away to Europe. At the same time militant shearers wrestled with landowners all along its length. Unionism took shape and gave impetus to the labour Party on the eve of Federation. Legends were made here along the Darling. Literary myths were created by Henry Lawson, Will Ogilvie and Breaker Morant. Kidman, Tyson and McCaughey created pastoral Kingdoms of unparalleled proportions the light-horseman of World War1 were bred on these vast plains. Big hearted men and women lived and died here fighting, waves of drought, flood and rabbits. Here Flynn, Drummond, Daniels and the Bush Brothers translated Christian compassion into epics of pioneering vision

Men and women of great technical skill have demonstrated ways to harness the river and the land to bring prosperity. There were many hard lessons learnt from overstocking and land degradation. There is currently great applications to proper and sustainable use of this precious lifeline.

As you travel, set yourself to discover these stories; to understand extraordinary cross section of our history and geography. Ask questions, seek out the folk who live and work along the river, use the Tourist Information Centres and Museums and you will finish the journey richer and wiser for the effort.

"Darling River, longest member of the Murray-Darling river system in Australia; it rises in several headstreams in the Great Dividing Range (Eastern Highlands), near the New South Wales-Queensland border, not far from the east coast, and flows generally southwest across New South Wales for 2,739 km (1,702 mi)  to join the Murray at Wentworth (on the Victoria border), 240km from the Murray's mouth in South Australia.

The main source of the Darling is usually considered to be the Severn, which becomes successively the Dumaresq, Macintyre, Barwon, and, finally, the Darling. Discharge of the lower tributaries (Culgoa, Warrego, Paroo, Gwydir, Namoi, Macquarie, and Bogan) of the main stream fluctuates as a result of droughts and floods. Because much of the Darling's course runs through extensive saltbush pastures, receiving an average of less than 250 mm (10 in.)  of rain annually, the river often loses more water by evaporation than is gained from its tributaries, many of which sometimes fail to reach the main stream. There are instances in which distributaries leave the main stream and disappear in inland basins. Several, however, flow into salt flats and in wet years emerge to rejoin the parent stream. The Great Anabranch (which leaves below the Menindee Lakes to join the Murray) and the Talyawalka Creek (which leaves near Wilcannia to rejoin the Darling 128km downstream near Menindee) are examples of these anastomosing distributaries (i.e., streams that leave and link up again with the main river). The entire Darling system drains a 650,000-sq-km (250,000-sq-mi) basin with an average annual discharge of 102 cu m (3,600 cu ft) per second at Menindee. The river has an average gradient of 16mm. to the kilometre.

The NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation provide preformatted flow and height reports containing one weeks data for selected river catchments. The River Level Report for the Darling River  is updated weekdays approximately 11am.