The Barham-Koondrook Visitor Information Centre is located at 25 Murray St, Barham, tel: (03) 5453 3100. It can provide brochures outlining historic walks around Koondrook.
The bridge which connects Barham and Koondrook is one of the oldest surviving bridges on the Murray River. 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.
Follow the course of the river along Murray Parade. To the left, on the water's edge, is the town's pumping station. Just past it, and scenically situated in a riverbend, is Koondrook School (1880). On the other side of Murray Parade is the old water tower (1919).
Punt Road and Arbuthnot Sawmill
Beyond the school, Murray Parade becomes Punt Rd. The name related to the fact that a punt operated here from 1884 to 1904. It can still be seen at low tide, along with several wrecks. It was also here that barges and paddleboats were constructed between 1881 and 1923. They were launched on a log slipway.
On the river side of Punt Rd is the Arbuthnot sawmill, built in 1890 for Alexander Arbuthnot who moved here from Gunbower Island. Miraculously, it is still operating. A walkway has been constructed over the complex and guided tours are conducted for a fee with discounts for group bookings, tel: (03) 5453 2401. Adjacent to, and associated with, the sawmill is River Red Gum Furniture, tel: (03) 5453 3339.
Punt Road and Museum
Starting from the corner of Punt Rd and Arbuthnot St are a series of historic shops - a butcher's (1904), a grocery store owned by the sawmill, and the Arbuthnot Mill office (1889). Adjacent the shops is a schoolhouse which was shifted from Myall (west of Koondrook) for the usage of the local historical society. They have a display of local artefacts and are open on Wednesdays or by appointment, tel: (03) 5453 2296.
Next door to the schoolhouse, at Punt Rd and Station St, is the Baptist Church, built in 1889 and moved to this site in 1910 when it was enlarged.
On the other side of the road is a weighbridge associated with the old tramway. The tracks can still be seen behind it although the service was shut down in 1978.
At the Punt Rd and Station St corner the tramway bifurcates. One track runs along the middle of Main St which heads off to the right. The other follows the river to the goods shed which was built in 1890 for the storage of wool and other wares. The tramway office was located at its west end. A wharf was built on the riverbank here in 1882. It was removed in the 1950s. The pit in front of the shed once held the train turntable which was built in 1904 to reverse the tram engines for the return journey to Kerang.
Now return to and follow the other portion of the track along Main St. The old log buggy was, for many years, hauled by bullocks from the forests to the Arbuthnot Sawmill. The Koondrook Tramway Station in the middle of the road was not built until 1913 although the rail line opened in 1889. The track carried produce and passengers between Koondrook and the railhead at Kerang. It closed in 1978. Adjacent the station is the 'Coffee Pot', a replica of the last light-rail steam engine.
St Paul's Anglican Church, opposite the station, was opened in 1884. On the other side of the road, at the Keene St corner, is the Koondrook Hotel which was rebuilt in 1915 after a fire destroyed the original 1880 building. On the same side of the road, a little further on, is St Pauls Shop which was originally the town's first post office.
Turn left into Maunder St then right into Gunbower Parade which follows the course of Gunbower Creek, an anabranch of the Murray River. On the other side of the waterway is Gunbower Island, a section of land sandwiched between the creek and the main branch of the Murray River. 50 km long, it is reputedly Australia's largest inland island, extending from Koondrook to Torrumbarry Weir. The island is characterised by swamps, enormous river red gums and, on the higher ground, box forest. The beautiful red gums make excellent timber and have been milled since the 1870s.
Gunbower supports a diversity of native animals (including kangaroos, emus, goannas, possums and snakes) and 160 bird species. Still entirely in its natural state it is ideal for bushwalking, bushcamping, bird watching and canoeing.
A short distance along Gunbower Parade is Condidorio's Bridge which was built in 1906 to provide access to the island. It is a pedestrian bridge only, although there are plans to build a sturdier replica which will carry vehicles.
At the moment, the local access point is Twin Bridges. Head out of Koondrook along Main St (the road to Kerang) and turn left at the outskirts of town onto the Koondrook Weir Rd which leads over the bridge and onto the island. Signposts indicate the route to the canoe trail.
Within the forest are many dirt tracks which are only navigable by 4WD when wet. Roads to and on the island are detailed in a map which can be purchased from the Cohuna office of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (tel: 03 5456 2266) or from the main Melbourne office. You can also obtain brochures outlining the Gunbower Island Canoe Trail (5 km return).
Wetlander Cruises, 8 km south-west of Barham, on the road between Koondrook and Cohuna, offer cruises every day on the Gunbower Creek, tel: (03) 5453 3000.
Bradys Burls Red Gum Craft (tel: 03 5453 2945) and The Red Gum Refinery (tel: 03 5453 3211) have adjacent premises at 5-7 Grigg Rd. Both make interesting furniture out of their chosen material. A 'burl' is a growth on the red gum which Mr Brady cuts off and converts into usable objects.