Located 823 km south-west of Sydney and 80 metres above sea-level, Barham, the largest town in Wakool Shire, and its twin town Koondrook (combined population 1217) sit on opposite sides of the Murray River. Although in NSW Barham is twice as far from Sydney as Melbourne and is therefore economically and culturally oriented to Victoria. It is Aussie Rules rather than Rugby League which excites the most interest here.
Barham is surrounded by rich river flats and picturesque red sand hills. Timber, dairying and citrus fruit are the main produce of the immediate area. Irrigation is supplied by the Murray River which is, not surprisingly, an excellent spot to dangle a line for Murray cod, golden perch, carp, silver fish, catfish and yabbies.
This pretty riverside town is situated upon land thought to have been occupied by the Wemba-Wemba Aborigines. In 1843 Edward Green acquired the lease of an unoccupied land grant of 114 656 acres. He named the station 'Barham' after his wife's maiden name.
Victorian selectors began to occupy land on the southern bank of the Murray as Victoria's goldrush-era came to an end. Koondrook developed in the 1870s as a service town to the Murray River paddlesteamer trade. As there was no bridge across to Barham it was settled more slowly. However this situation changed in 1904 when road traffic was enhanced by the construction of a lift bridge with a central section that was raised to allow paddlesteamers to pass through on the way back and forth to Echuca. It is one of the oldest surviving bridges on the river.
Citrus fruit was first planted at Barham in 1911 and the Barham Packing Co. was formed in 1930.
The Barham-Koondrook Show is held on the third Saturday in October.
Things to see
The Barham Visitor Information Centre is located at 25 Murray St, tel: (03) 5453 3100. It can provide a brochure outlining a short walk around Barham.
Barham Lakes Complex
Barham Lakes Complex is located off Murray St, at the south-eastern corner of town. It is a recreation area situated upon reclaimed riverside land. There are four interconnected artificial lakes, stocked with fish and yabbies, spread over 16 ha, with another 24 ha of grassland sporting hundreds of native plants. There is also a 4-km walking track with picnic and barbecue facilities, showers and toilets, a children's playground and a beached swimming area.
The Barham Sandbar
Follow Jamieson Avenue and Hudson Boulevarde along the riverside. A walking track then cuts through the Barham Caravan Park. On the water's edge is a boat ramp and a sandbar which is a popular swimming area.
Beyond the caravan park is Riverside Park which is a popular family and picnicking area (there is a mardi-gras here at Christmas). It is possible to see the pumps which draw water from the Murray for the town's usage. The park's log buggy is representative of the type of vehicle which was once commonly used in the local timber industry. Pulled by horse or bullock teams, it carried timber from the forests to the mills. Nearby is Pioneer Rock, a piece of granite from the Pyramid Hill area (see entry on A HREF="VicCohuna.shtml">Cohuna) which is 'in recognition of the pioneering spirit' of the early settlers.
The bridge across to Koondrook, one of the oldest on the Murray River, was built in 1904. It is a lift bridge with a central section which was raised to allow paddlesteamers to pass through on the way back and forth to Echuca. Until it was motorised in 1997 it was operated by a system of weights worked by two men turning wheels. It is still occasionally raised.
On the other side of the bridge is Lions Park which has free electric barbecues and a section of redgum forest.
At Murray and Thule Sts is the Royal Hotel (1904) and a marker indicating the directions of and distances to neighbouring towns. At Murray and Mellool Sts is the National Bank building (c.1912).
The Bonum Sawmill barks, saws and stacks red gum for shipment. It is situated 500 m from the shopping centre along the Moulamein Rd and is open for inspection from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. weekdays, tel: (03) 5453 2262.
Koondrook State Forest
12 km out of town along the Moulamein Rd is Koondrook State Forest, which covers 31 000 ha from Barham almost to Moama. There are kangaroos, emus and wild pigs plus over a hundred bird species. This area is ideal for forest drives and many of the roads are well-signposted.
Other state forests in the vicinity are Campbell's Island, Cuttwell and Whymoul. There are a number of Aboriginal middens in the area. They are signified by a rise in what is otherwise a very flat landscape. Tampering with them is an offence.
Visitor's Information Centre
25 Murray St
Barham NSW 2732
Telephone: (03) 5453 3100
Facsimile: (03) 5453 3122