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Goyder's Line

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by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published September 30th 2014
Fact or fiction : In search of an imaginary line
Have you ever wondered what those roadside signs are that point to a historical monument or marker? We have all driven past them before, but recently I had the opportunity to stop at one such monument just north of Redhill on Port Wakefield Road. The sign referred to Goyder's Line, something of which I was vaguely familiar with, but held some doubts.

Port Wakefield Road, Redhill
Goyder's Line Monument

So after heading back home, it was time to dive in to the research books, and I discovered that George Woodroofe Goyder was a Surveyor in the 1850's who became famous by declaring that crops would only grow in fertile land that had reasonable rainfalls. While this statement itself wasn't that visionary, Goyder drew a line over a map of South Australia and determined that crops would have the best chances of growing in areas to the south or west of his line, and by definition he implied that crops planted to the north or east of his line would fail.

Melrose-Wilmington Road
Goyder's Delineation

The mythbuster in me then thought that it would be appropriate for me to search for this imaginary line and to assess whether Goyder was right or not. Searching for an imaginary line is as difficult as it sounds. First stop was the monument at Redhill and an opportunity to observe the fertile land behind the sign, and the not so fertile land alongside the monument. It appeared as though Goyder could be right, but I needed more proof, so off to Melrose I headed.

Melrose-Wilmington Road
Monument on a slab

The monument, similar to the last one, gave some indication as to Goyder's vision. On the western side of the rock, was some grazing land, while on the eastern side was some saltbushes. Still not convinced I headed towards the (perhaps) aptly named World's End on the Burra to Robertstown Road. The large sign, visible from a long distance, gave me hope. However looking in all directions around this sign, I could see nothing that resembled crop lands.

Burra to Robertstown Road
Goyder's Sign

So I decided to head from Eudunda in a roughly northwest direction to determine if this imaginary line determined by Goyder had some substance or not.

Eudunda, Windmill & Tank - Maybe

Booborowie, Golden Fields - Yes

Laura, Canola Fields - Yes

Murraytown, Old ruins on Goyder's Line

Wilmington, Fertile Land - No

As the pictures highlight, Goyder's line is real. While rainfall in some years may blur the boundary of his line, on average it is correct that farmers who grow crops towards the north east of Goyder's Line will struggle. The three monuments in the mid-north of South Australia recognise Goyder's vision.
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Where: Melrose, South Australia
Your Comment
Whale, Oil and Beef!
An interesting article bringing back school social studies... thanks
by koj77 (score: 2|152) 2393 days ago
Thanks for giving me insights into the Goyder Line Steve.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 2395 days ago
Hi Steve Have a look at Sir Hubert Wilkins from Hallet and discover why he became interested in his research. What a fantastic South Australian Cheers Jenine
by jnine (score: 0|2) 2392 days ago
My late father always told me when Goyder marked the small map, his ink nib was 10 miles wide. So 16km in metric is the leeway for the line you think is imaginative. NO Goyder proved the doubters wrong!
by deafy (score: 0|2) 124 days ago
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