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Mildura's Chaffey Trail

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by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published May 11th 2015
Celebrating the achievements of two great brothers
It was 1886 when a couple of young American engineers and irrigation planners were invited to Australia to view the Murray River and determine its potential. A year or so later, the Chaffey Brothers (George and William) purchased some properties near Mildura and Renmark, and created the Mildura Irrigation Company with a view to using the massive river flows to create an innovative and sustainable model of irrigating nearby fields and crops.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Rothbury downstream of Lock 11 - Steve Hudson


The model was successful, albeit some poor investments by the brothers led to the company becoming bankrupt. George returned to the USA, while William remained in Mildura and helped lay the foundations for today's vibrant Mildura community, and the region known as Sunraysia. In honour and respect of the efforts of the brothers, the Mildura Rural City Council has created the Chaffey Trail, a self-guided tour of the highlights of the Chaffey legacy.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Chaffey Bridge - Steve Hudson


The Old Mildura Homestead

It was here that the Chaffey vision for an irrigation colony evolved with the success of the fruit trees around the homestead that were watered from the Murray River. The homestead today is a reconstruction of the original homestead that stood on this particular site, complete with outbuildings, the wool-shed and the rose garden.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Old Mildura Homestead - Steve Hudson


Lush green lawns and picnic areas provide ample play areas for children while adults view the buildings and artefacts from yesteryear in the grounds, or perhaps visit the museum within the buildings.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Old Buildings - Steve Hudson


Mildura Homestead Cemetery

Mildura's oldest and smallest cemetery includes the graves of some early pioneers, and also members of the Chaffey family. Designed by Antonia Chaffey, William's great grand daughter, a commemorative garden beside the burial site of the William's mother and his first wife comprises a granite sculpture and a special seat.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Remember the Mother - Steve Hudson


Rio Vista House

This magnificent house, the home of William for many years, was designed in the classical asymmetrical villa form and was completed in 1890 by Adelaide builder John Williams. The house has large verandas, cedar and jarrah panelling, Italian marble fire places and Victorian leadlight and stained glass windows. The house has been fully restored and is open daily for closer viewings.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Rio Vista House - Steve Hudson

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Rio Vista House - Steve Hudson


Lock 11 and Mildura Weir

During the 19th Century, the Murray River was a lot different to what is visible today. Droughts would reduce it to a series of waterholes, while floods would cause large catastrophes. The introduction of water regulation via locks and weirs provided for a constant level for both irrigation and navigation by paddle steamers.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Lock 11 - Steve Hudson


Lock 11 and the Mildura Weir were completed in 1927, and remain the only ones on the entire length of the River Murray where the lock and the weir are separated by an island known as Lock Island.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Gardens and Picnic Area - Steve Hudson


Mildura Wharf

Originally completed in 1892, and then extended in 1899 to accommodate vessels at various river heights, the Mildura Wharf was the central transport station for Mildura in its early days. Paddlesteamers and other passenger and freight vessels would queue to dock at the wharf in order to transport people, grapes, citrus products and wool to their ultimate destinations.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Wharf and Paddlesteamer - Steve Hudson


Today the wharf is used by tourist paddlesteamers who will take you on a short ride up and down the river to get an alternative view of Mildura and surrounds.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Multi-level Wharf at Night - Steve Hudson


Mildura Grand Hotel

The Mildura Grand Hotel stands today over three titles which originally housed the hotel, the Mildura Coffee Palace and the original Chaffey offices. Expansion plans last century saw the latter two establishments partly demolished to make room for the growing Grand Hotel.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Mildura Grand Hotel - Steve Hudson


Psyche Pumps and Kings Billabong

The Chaffey Brothers plan was to pump river water to the height of the land, and then to use that water for irrigation purposes. To achieve that, George Chaffey had a revolutionary design of a triple expansion steam engine connected to three centrifugal pumps and driven by a wood burning boiler to lift water in to Kings Billabong, which was then progressively pumped further to other lands.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Psyche Pumps - Steve Hudson


Kings Billabong is now a wetland reserve and bird sanctuary, while the Pumphouse at Psyche Bend is now a working Museum that are open thrice weekly.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Kings Billabong - Steve Hudson


Chateau Mildura

In 1888 the Chaffey Brothers planted 150 acres of wine grapes to create 'Chateau Mildura' and to formally commence the region's wine industry. Chateau Mildura had several owner changes and name changes during the 20th Century, and at one stage was known for the best brandy and sherries in the country.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Chateau Mildura - Steve Hudson


Nowadays the property is back in private hands and owned by a local horticulturalist who has taken the historic complex back to its original purpose of table wine production.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
Chateau Mildura - Steve Hudson


Merbein

Merbein is a small town some 10km west of Mildura which holds unique links for the Chaffeys. It was here that the first Government owned irrigation pumps came in to being, while nearby is the distillery/winery established by William in 1913 and sadly where his life came to an end when he collapsed here in 1926. The Merbein Rotary Lookout above the distinctive white cliffs provides recognition to the contribution by the Chaffey Brothers over the years.

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
View from Lookout - Steve Hudson

Chaffey Trail, Lock 11, Mildura Weir, Mildura, Psyche Pumps, KIngs Billabong, Rio Vista House, Old Mildura Homestead, WB Chaffey, Grand Hotel Mildura, Chateau Mildara, Merbein
InformationBoard - Steve Hudson


Information on the Chaffey Trail is available from the website, or from the Mildura Information Centre. The trail is open every day for external viewing, with some of the attractions open for internal viewing and demonstrations at various times of the day or year. There are information boards at each location providing a valuable contribution towards and a recognition of the Chaffey Brothers in the creation of today's vibrant Sunraysia region.
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Why? Explore the legacy of the Chaffey Brothers
When: Any time
Where: Mildura, Victoria
Cost: Free
Your Comment
A good summary of Mildura, well done
by Stefano (score: 2|213) 1299 days ago
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