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Wilcannia was once an important port along the Darling River and in fact the third largest inland port in Australia during its peak time of the 1880’s, sending wool and wheat along the Darling for market. 

Between Cobar and Broken Hill, the township of some 500 people, Wilcannia was born of the Darling River and the river trade that occurred before the introduction of the railway and motor transport. Wilcannia was an important staging area for the transport of particularly wool and wheat, going east to South Australia. The region where the township lies is generally arid with the major vegetation occurring along the river course and pastoral and crop irrigation also depending on the river. 


The sparse pastoral efforts in the region consist of very large holdings running sheep and cattle just as they have done since the 1840’s.  It was not until 1859 that the first paddle steamer along the Darling reach Wilcannia and a town was planned on what had been the site of a shepherd’s hut. By 1880 there were 100 paddle steamers plying the river, the town had 18 hotels and was given the name ‘Queen City of the West’.  This prosperity can still be seen in the fine 19th century buildings that still exist in the town.

Paddle steamers MARION (left) and PILOT (right) at Wilcannia, NSW (7553109224)
By Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The bridge over the Darling River at Wilcannia would raise in the middle section to allow the river steamers to pass through.

Bridge Darling River Wilcannia
By Peterdownunder [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

The Wilcannia bridge today.