Swan Reach was first settled in the 1850s and was originally the largest of five sheep and cattle stations in the area. The original Swan Reach homestead is now the Swan Reach Hotel and some of the old stables are still standing at the back of the hotel.
Swan Reach became one of the first riverboat ports in South Australia and was a loading port for grain and wool. Trading boats came through once a week to sell their wide range of goods. However they were soon replaced by the General Store when the rail link from Morgan to Adelaide was opened up. The paddle boat trade at Swan Reach dwindled as Morgan became South Australia¹s busiest port of the time. As a reminder of those historic days some old loading facilities still remain on the cliff face. The ferry has always been an important method of crossing the river and was first installed in 1897 and was operated by a hand winch.
Swan Reach is still basically a rural town for sheep and cereal farming with some irrigated fruit and vegetable produce also grown. Population in 1990 was 275 permanent residents (this has now dropped to 220). This population expands during weekends and holidays. The local tourist industry revolves, in the main, around Adelaide-based shack and cabin dwellers on the riverfront downstream from the town.