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Kinchega Woolshed

Home > Menindee > Accommodation | Animals and Wildlife | Camping | Long Weekend | Photography
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published May 28th 2016
When Australia rode on the sheep's back
If you love history, then a visit to the old Kinchega Woolshed is a brilliant way to get a peek into Australia's rich pastoral history.

Kinchega woolshed
Kinchega woolshed (©paula mcmanus)

The 26 stand woolshed was built in 1875 and was in operation for a total of 97 years.

The woolshed was large enough for 64 shearers to work at the same time. At the very first shearing in the woolshed in 1875, a staggering 72,800 sheep were shorn, producing 1,421 bales of wool which were sent down the Darling River by paddle steamer.

Kinchega woolshed
Kinchega woolshed (©paula mcmanus)

Kinchega Station was huge. By 1881 the station was a massive one million acres and had 143,000 sheep. Built of corrugated iron and river red gum, the woolshed really has stood the test of time. The shed was once twice the length that it is currently, but the building is still in remarkably good condition.

During the shed's heyday years more than 6 million sheep were shorn. Those are amazing numbers, but when you are standing in its location it is even more incredible. The woolshed is in the outback, literally in the middle of nowhere; it's massive and is believed to be the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Kinchega woolshed
Kinchega woolshed (©paula mcmanus)

Inside the now quiet woolshed you'll see the wool presses and sorting tables, a machinery room and an original steam engine as well as the sweating pens where the sheep were held for shearing. During its near 100 years of operation, the woolshed went through all of the major changes to sheep shearing. It evolved from hand blades, to steam driven and diesel mechanical shears and eventually modern electric shears.

The last sheep was shorn in 1967 and during its time, the woolshed served as an important shearing hub to the various pastoral holdings in the area.

Kinchega woolshed
Kinchega woolshed (©paula mcmanus)

Life on the station and in the woolshed must have been incredibly harsh. There were none of the luxuries that we expect and rely on in today's modern times.

Due to its isolated location, the station needed to be completely self sufficient. Shearers are notoriously big eaters. The station garden and kitchen needed to be able to keep up with the 5 full meals that were cooked and served to the workers each day; all done on wood fired ovens too.

Kinchega woolshed
Kinchega woolshed (©paula mcmanus)

My grandmother was station cook for a while. I can't imagine the volume of food that would have gone through her kitchen during her time at Kinchega, but a "normal" day of meal preparation, serving and clean up for 64 shearers and other woolshed workers would have been:

A fully cooked breakfast at 6.30am, cake, biscuits and sandwiches for morning smoko at 9.30am, roast meat with 3 veg and dessert for lunch at noon, afternoon smoko at 3pm and another roast to serve for tea (dinner) at 7pm.

It must have been endless and backbreakingly hard work. The food served would have been tasty, hearty and simple, The main priority for the cook was to provide the shearers with enough protein to give their bodies the fuel to keep up with their physically demanding work.

emu kinchega
Emu, Kinchega National Park (©paula mcmanus)

The shearers quarters are within a short walking distance of the shed. These days, those shearers quarters are available to hire as tourist accommodation.

As well as the basic overnight accommodation available at the Woolshed site, there are 35 bush camping sites and picnic areas in and around the lakes and on the riverbank.

Kinchega woolshed shearers quarters
Kinchega woolshed shearers quarters (©paula mcmanus)

Many of Australia's early explorers were determined to conquer the outback and many of them used Menindee and Kinchega as a stop over point. The most famous of those were Burke and Wills and Charles Sturt.

Charles Sturt travelled up the Darling River in 1844 on his way to the north-west. Burke and Wills stayed in the area in 1860 before contuining on their way to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Burke and wills expedition
Burke and Wills campsite at nearby Pamamaroo Creek. (©paula mcmanus)

Following the explorers were pastoralists and drovers. There were violent conflicts with the Barkindji Aborigines (the Darling folk). The whites encroached upon traditional hunting grounds and the Aborigines killed and ate the farm stock. The trouble was serious enough to cause drovers to shun the area and landowners to abandon their properties. In 1853 police were brought in to secure the area. The Barkindji were forced from the land and many died from being exposed to European diseases.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is now working with the Menindee Aboriginal Elders Council to protect the age old Aboriginal heritage of the region.

Kinchega National Park covers an area of 44,000 hectares and is bordered by the Darling River and the beautiful Menindee Lakes The whole area is full of trees - river red gums, coolabah and black box.

When the lakes are full, the area is an inland oasis for birds and wildlife. Birds flock to the area all year round to breed in the extensive rookeries. Big red kangaroo and emus can be easily seen in their native habitat.

red kangaroo (Macropus rufus)
Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), Kinchega National Park (©paula mcmanus)

Kinchega is a long drive from everywhere, but is so worth the visit. It's a pristine environment and (when there is water in the lakes) is a bit of a mecca for birdwatchers, photographers, 4WD'ers, and those who love fishing and camping. Park visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming and boating or visit Aboriginal cultural sites.

Get yourself a map, go exploring and stay for a night or 2. A visit to Kinchega National Park and it's beautifully preserved woolshed is a trip you simply must do.

Kinchega woolshed
Kinchega woolshed (©paula mcmanus)

Kinchega National Park, Menindee. Approximately 110kms from Broken Hill

Vehicle entry fee: $8 per vehicle per day.

Getting there:
Menindee is located 1106kms north west of Sydney, 630kms from Adelaide and 800kms from Melbourne.
The 110kms road from Broken Hill is sealed. The road from Menindee to Kinchega is dirt, but easily driveable by non-4WDs.

Staying there:
There is basic shearers quarters accommodation available within the park, as well as camping sites.
I stayed at Burke and Wills Motel in Menindee and can highly recommend it - clean, comfortable and air conditioned.

Staying safe:
Always check road and weather conditions prior to travelling and staying in the outback.

Burke and Wills Motel Menindee
Burke and Wills Motel, Menindee (©paula mcmanus)

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Why? Step back in time
Phone: (08) 8080 3200
Where: Kinchega National Park
Your Comment
Congratulations winning first place.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12622) 1602 days ago
Great story Paula. Love the personal connection and handsome kangaroo.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4161) 1611 days ago
I would so love to visit this part of the country. Unfortunatley when we were in Broken Hill a couple of yeas ago, time did not permit the detour to Menindee.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|8042) 1611 days ago
Congratulations of winning first prize in this month's competition.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|8042) 1602 days ago
Great article. Stunning photography.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|5927) 1601 days ago
Congratulations on a great story, and the gold. Well done
by Steve Hudson (score: 3|1249) 1601 days ago
Just found this article. Quite an eerie place.
I was recommended to visit by friends who had camped there.
While I was in Broken Hill I said to locals we were going there, but many had never heard of it, let alone been there.
This area is quite ecologically vulnerable with the Menindee lakes at very low levels.
Thanks for your images.
It is hard to believe so many people were out there in the middle of nowhere.
by Jenny Esots (score: 3|1413) 1602 days ago
Excellent article and well deserving of a win. Love your photography too. I am hoping to drive through Broken Hill in a few months time, and am inspired to go and visit this interesting place.
by Di Hill (score: 2|526) 1601 days ago
Amazing photography and good story - you've brought back heaps of good memories! I camped in this woolshed many years ago helping some friends doing kangaroo research. Menindee is a magic place that every Ozzie should visit!
by Kate Blake (score: 3|1415) 1611 days ago
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