The distance of Moneroo Plains, and of the Doomot and Morumbidgee Rivers from Sydney, alarms the settler, who knows not the value of those localities; but men whose experience has taught them to set this obstacle at nought, have long depastured their herds on the banks of the last two. The fattest cattle that supply the Sydney market are fed upon the rich flats, and in the grassy valleys of the Morumbidgee; and there are several beautiful farms upon those of the Doomot. Generally speaking, the persons who reside in those distant parts, pay little attention to the comfort of their dwellings, or to the raising of more grain than their establishments may require; but there can be no doubt this part of the interior ought to be the granary of New South Wales; its climate and greater humidity being more favourable than that of Sydney for the production of wheat.
Ref - Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Complete by Sturt - page 20
A short time before we reached the Morumbidgee, we forded a creek, which we crossed a second time where it falls into the river.
After crossing it the first time we opened a flat, on which the marks of sheep were abundant. In the distance there was a small hill, and on its top a bark hut. We were not until then aware of our being so near the river, but as Mr. O'Brien had informed me that he had a station for sheep, at a place called Juggiong, by the natives, on the immediate banks of the river, I did not doubt that we had, at length, arrived at it.
And so it proved. I went to the hut, to ascertain where I could conveniently stop for the night, but the residents were absent. I could not but admire the position they had taken up. The hill upon which their hut was erected was not more than fifty feet high, but it immediately overlooked the river, and commanded not only the flat we had traversed in approaching it, but also a second flat on the opposite side. The Morumbidgee came down to the foot of this little hill from the south, and, of course, running to the north, which latter direction it suddenly takes up from a previous S.W. one, on meeting some hills that check its direct course.
From the hill on which the hut stands, it runs away westward, almost in a direct line, for three miles, so that the position commands a view of both the reaches, which are overhung by the casuarina and flooded-gum. Rich alluvial flats lie to the right of the stream, backed by moderate hills, that were lightly studded with trees, and clothed with verdure to their summits.
Some moderate elevations also backed a flat, on the left bank of the river, but the colour of the soil upon the latter, as well as its depressed situation, showed clearly that it was subject to flood, and had received the worst of the depositions from the mountains. The hills behind it were also bare, and of a light red colour, betraying, as I imagined, a distinct formation from, and poorer character than, the hills behind us.
At about three miles the river again suddenly changes its direction from west to south, for about a mile, when it inclines to the S.E. until it nearly encircles the opposite hills, when it assumes its proper direction, and flows away to the S.W.
We crossed the Underaliga creek a little below the stock hut, and encamped about a mile beyond it, in the centre of a long plain. We were surrounded on every side by hills, from which there was no visible outlet, as they appeared to follow the bend of the river, with an even and unbroken outline. The scenery around us was wild, romantic, and beautiful; as beautiful as a rich and glowing sunset in the most delightful climate under the heavens could make it. I had been more anxious to gain the banks of the Morumbidgee on this occasion, than I had been on a former one to gain those of the Macquarie, for although I could not hope to see the Morumbidgee all that it had been described to me, yet I felt that on its first appearance I should in some measure ground my anticipations of ultimate success. When I arrived on the banks of the Macquarie, it had almost ceased to flow, and its current was so gentle as to be scarcely perceptible. Instead, however, of a river in such a state of exhaustion, I now looked down upon a stream, whose current it would have been difficult to breast, and whose waters, foaming among rocks, or circling in eddies, gave early promise of a reckless course. It must have been somewhat below its ordinary level, and averaged a breadth of about 80 feet. Its waters were hard and transparent, and its bed was composed of mountain debris, and large fragments of rock.
As soon as the morning dawned, the tents were struck and we pursued our journey. We followed the line of the river, until we found ourselves in a deep bight to the S.E. The hills that had been gradually closing in upon the river, now approached it so nearly, that there was no room for the passage of the drays. We were consequently obliged to turn back, and, moving along the base of the ranges, by which we were thus apparently enclosed, we at length found a steep pass, the extreme narrowness of which had hidden it from our observation.
By this pass we were now enabled to effect our escape. On gaining the summit of the hills, we travelled south for three or four miles, through open forests, and on level ground. But we ultimately descended into a valley in which we halted for the night. On a closer examination of the neighbourhood, it appeared that our position was at the immediate junction of two valleys, where, uniting the waters of their respective creeks, the main branch declines rapidly towards the river. One of these valleys extended to to the S.W., the other to the W.N.W. It was evident to us that our route lay up the former; and I made no doubt we should easily reach Whaby's station on the morrow.
We were now far beyond the acknowledged limits of the located parts of the colony, and Mr. Whaby's station was the last at which we could expect even the casual supply of milk or other trifling relief. Yet, although the prospect of so soon leaving even the outskirts of civilization, and being wholly thrown on our own resources, was so near, it never for a moment weighed upon the minds of the men.
The novelty of the scenery, and the beauty of the river on which they were journeying, excited in them the liveliest anticipations of success. The facility with which we had hitherto pushed forward blinded them to future difficulties, nor could there be a more cheerful spectacle than that which the camp daily afforded. The animals browzing in the distance, and the men talking over their pipes of the probable adventures they might encounter.
The loads had by this time settled properly, and our provisions proved of the very best quality, so that no possible improvement could have been made for the better.
On the morrow we pushed up the southern most of the valleys, at the junction of which we had encamped, having moderate hills on either side of us. At the head of the valley we crossed a small dividing range into another valley, and halted for the night, on the banks of a creek from the westward, as we found it impossible to reach Whaby's station, as we had intended, before sunset. Nothing could exceed the luxuriance of the vegetation in this valley, but the water of the creek was so impregnated with iron, as to be almost useless.
Being anxious to obtain a view of the surrounding country, I ascended a hill behind the camp, just as the sun was sinking, a time the most favourable for the object I had in view. The country, broken into hill and dale, seemed richer than any tract I had as yet surveyed; and the beauty of the near landscape was greatly heightened by the mountainous scenery to the S. and S.E. Both the laxmania, and zanthorea were growing around me; but neither appeared to be in congenial soil. The face of the hill was very stony, and I found, on examination, that a great change had taken place in the rock-formation, the granite ranges having given place to chlorite schist.
We reached Whaby's about 9 a.m. of the morning of the 27th, and received every attention and civility from him. The valley in which we had slept opened upon an extensive plain, to the eastward of which the Morumbidgee formed the extreme boundary; and it was in a bight, and on ground rather elevated above the plain, that he had fixed his residence. He informed me that we should have to cross the river, as its banks were too precipitous, and the ranges too abrupt, to admit of our keeping the right side; and recommended me to examine and fix upon a spot at which to cross, before I again moved forward, expressing his readiness to accompany me as a guide.
We accordingly rode down the river, to a place at which some stockman had effected a passage,--after a week's labour in hewing out a canoe. I by no means intended that a similar delay should occur in our case, but I saw no objection to our crossing at the same place; since its depth, and consequent tranquillity, rendered it eligible enough for that purpose.
THE RIVER DUMOT. The Dumot river, another mountain stream, joins the Morumbidgee opposite to Mr. Whaby's residence. It is little inferior to the latter either in size or in the rapidity of its current, and, if I may rely on the information I received, waters a finer country, the principal rock-formation upon it being of limestone and whinstone. It rises amidst the snowy ranges to the S.E., and its banks are better peopled than those of the stream into which it discharges itself. Of course, such a tributary enlarges the Morumbidgee considerably: indeed, the fact is sufficiently evident from the appearance of the latter below the junction.
During our ride with Whaby down its banks, we saw nothing but the richest flats, almost entirely clear of timber and containing from 400 to 700 acres, backed by ranges that were but partially wooded, and were clothed with verdure to their very summits. The herds that were scattered over the first were almost lost in the height of the vegetation, and the ranges served as natural barriers to prevent them from straying away.
CROSS AND RE-CROSS THE MORUMBIDGEE.
On the following morning, we started for the place at which it had been arranged that we should cross the Morumbidgee, but, though no more than five miles in a direct line from Whaby's house, in consequence of the irregularity of the ground, the drays did not reach it before noon. The weight and quantity of our stores being taken into consideration, the task we had before us was not a light one. Such, however, was the industry of the men, that before it became dark the whole of them, including the drays and sheep, were safely deposited on the opposite bank. We were enabled to be thus expeditious, by means of a punt that we made with the tarpaulins on an oblong frame. As soon as it was finished, a rope was conveyed across the river, and secured to a tree, and a running cord being then fastened to the punt, a temporary ferry was established, and the removal of our stores rendered comparatively easy. M'Leay undertook to drive the horses and cattle over a ford below us, but he did not calculate on the stubborn disposition of the latter, and, consequently, experienced some difficulty, and was well nigh swept away by the current. So great was his difficulty, that he was obliged to land, to his great discomfiture, amidst a grove of lofty nettles. Mulholland, who accompanied him, and who happened to be naked, was severly stung by them. The labour of the day was, however, satisfactorily concluded, and we lay down to rest with feelings of entire satisfaction.
A great part of the following day was consumed in reloading, nor did we pursue our journey until after two o'clock. We then passed over tracks on the left of the river of the same rich description that existed on its right; they were much intersected by creeks, but were clear of timber, and entirely out of the reach of floods. At about seven miles from where we started, we found ourselves checked by precipitous rocks jutting into the stream, and were obliged once more to make preparations for crossing it. Instead of a deep and quiet reach, however, the Morumbidgee here expanded into a fretful rapid; but it was sufficiently shallow to admit of our taking the drays over, without the trouble of unloading them. There was still, however, some labour required in cutting down the banks, and the men were fully occupied until after sunset; and so well did they work, that an hour's exertion in the morning enabled us to make the passage with safety. On ascending the right bank, we found that we had to force through a dense body of reeds, covering some flooded land, at the base of a range terminating upon the river; and we were obliged, in order to extricate ourselves from our embarrassments, to pass to the N.W. of the point, and to cross a low part of the range.
This done, we met with no further interruptions during the day, but travelled along rich and clear flats to a deep bight below an angle of the river called Nangaar by the natives; where we pitched our camp, and our animals revelled amid the most luxuriant pasture. Only in one place did the sandy superficies upon the plain indicate that it was there subject to flood.
The Morumbidgee from Juggiong to our present encampment had held a general S.S.W. course, but from the summit of a hill behind the tents it now appeared to be gradually sweeping round to the westward; and I could trace the line of trees upon its banks, through a rich and extensive valley in that direction, as far as my sight could reach. The country to the S.E. maintained its lofty character, but to the westward the hills and ranges were evidently decreasing in height, and the distant interior seemed fast sinking to a level. The general direction of the ranges had been from N. to S., and as we had been travelling parallel to them, their valleys were shut from our view. Now, however, several rich and extensive ones became visible, opening from the southward into the valley of the Morumbidgee, and, as a further evidence of a change of country from a confused to a more open one, a plain of considerable size stretched from immediately beneath the hill on which I was to the N.W.
GEOLOGY OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.
The Morumbidgee itself, from the length and regularity of its reaches, as well as from its increased size, seemed to intimate that it had successfully struggled through the broken country in which it rises, and that it would hence forward meet with fewer interruptions to its course. It still, however, preserved all the characters of a mountain stream; having alternate rapids and deep pools, being in many places encumbered with fallen timber, and generally running over a shingly bed, composed of rounded fragments of every rock of which the neighbouring ranges were formed, and many others that had been swept by the torrents down it.
The rock formation of the hills upon its right continued of that chlorite schist which prevailed near Mr. Whaby's, which I have already noticed, and quartz still appeared in large masses, on the loftier ranges opposite, so that the geology of the neighbourhood could not be said to have undergone any material change. It might, however, be considered an extraordinary feature in it, that a small hill of blue limestone existed upon the left bank of the river. The last place at which we had seen limestone was at Yass, but I had learned from Mr. Whaby, that, together with whinstone, it was abundant near a Mr Rose's Station on the Dumot, that was not at any great distance. The irregularity, however, of the intervening country, made the appearance of this solitary rock more singular.
Although the fires of the natives had been frequent upon the river, none had, as yet, ventured to approach us, in consequence of some misunderstanding that had taken place between them and Mr Stuckey stockmen. Mr Roberts stockmen [these men had lately fixed themselves on the river a little below Mr. Whaby's, however, brought a man and a boy to us at this place in the afternoon, but I could not persuade them to accompany us on our journey neither could I, although my native boy understood them perfectly, gain any particular information from them.
In consequence of rain, we did not strike the tents so early as usual. At 7 a.m. a heavy thunder storm occurred from the N.W. after which the sky cleared, and we were enabled to push forward at 11 a.m., moving on ageneral W.N.W, course, over rich flats, which, having been moistened by the morning's showers, showed the dark colour of the rich earth of which they were composed. Some sand-hills were, however, observed near the river, of about fifteen feet in elevation, crowned by banksias; and the soil of the flats had a very partial mixture of sand in it. How these sand-hills could have been formed it is difficult to say; but they produced little minor vegetation, and were as pure as the sand of the sea-shore. Some considerable plains were noticed to our right, in appearance not inferior to the ground on which we were journeying. At noon we rose gradually from the level of these plains, and travelled along the side of a hill, until we got to a small creek, at which we stopped, though more than a mile and a half from the river. The clouds had been gathering again in the N.W. quarter, and we had scarcely time to secure our flour, when a second storm burst upon us, and it continued to rain violently for the remainder of the day.
This report is submitted in good faith. All endeavors have been made to make all entries authentic and correct. For any corrections and additional valuable information, maps and photos you may have please contact
John Stephenson(Mobile 0431 481 451) Ex West Blowering Resident, now living in Wollongong, NSW. Australia.