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Echuca
Victoria
EchucaWharf.JPG
Echuca's main landmark,
its historic wharf on the Murray River
Population: 12983
Postcode: 3564
Elevation: 96 m (315 ft)
Location:
LGA: Shire of Campaspe
State District: Murray Plains
Federal Division: Murray
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Annual Rainfall
22.2 °C
72 °F
9.3 °C
49 °F
428.4 mm
16.9 in

Echuca (/əˈkə/ ə-CHOO-kə) Echuca is a town located on the banks of the Murray River and Campaspe River in Victoria, Australia. The border town of Moama is adjacent on the northern side of the Murray River in New South Wales. Echuca is the administrative centre and largest settlement in the Shire of Campaspe. As of the 2011 census, Echuca had a population of 13,708. The population of the combined Echuca and Moama townships was estimated be 20,365 at June 2015.

Echuca, an Aboriginal name meaning "Meeting of the Waters", is indicative of the role rivers have played in the town's existence. Echuca is situated close to the junction of the Goulburn, Campaspe, and Murray Rivers. Its position at the closest point of the Murray to Melbourne contributed to its development as a thriving river port city during the 19th century.

History

Foundation

Echuca was founded by one of the most enterprising characters of the early colonial days, an ex-convict named Henry Hopwood. In 1850 he bought a small punt which operated across the Murray River near the Campaspe junction. The relatively small settlement known as "Hopwood's Ferry" became Echuca as the town grew. The Post Office known as Hopwoods Punt opened around 1854 and was renamed Echuca on 1 January 1855.

While the settlers at Echuca treated the local Aborigines with relative kindness, their way of life was irrevocably changed by their relationship with the Europeans. Having already been decimated by smallpox in the late 1820s, the 1850s saw many Aborigines developed a taste for European luxuries such as bread, tobacco and alcohol. They were relegated to the role of fringe-dwellers, living on the banks of the Murray, and occasionally entering into the European economy as fishermen and farm labourers, and by selling the possum rugs which they crafted.

Australia's inland port

By the 1870s Echuca had risen to prominence as Australia's largest inland port. Being the point of shortest distance between the Murray River and the major city of Melbourne, Echuca was both a key river port and railway junction. Steam-driven paddleboats would arrive at the 400-metre long redgum Echuca Wharf, unloading it to be transported by rail to Melbourne. Wool, wheat, other grains, livestock and timber were the most common cargoes. The wharf has been listed as a Heritage Place on the Australian National Heritage List.

This industrial boom led to a rapidly expanding population, at one stage in excess of 15,000, with more than a hundred pubs (hotels) rumoured to exist in the Echuca district at one time. An iron bridge was constructed over the Murray River in 1878 by the NSW Railways Department.

Decline

The expansion of the railways from Melbourne to most parts of Victoria, as well as improvements to roads and fickle river conditions all combined to lessen Echuca's importance, and by the 1890s the paddlesteamer fleet was in decline. An economic depression and the collapse of several banks virtually ended Echuca's role as a major economic centre, and her population began to disperse.

Geography

Climate

Echuca has a semi-arid climate (BSk).

Climate data for Echuca RSL
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 45.3
(113.5)
46.8
(116.2)
40.5
(104.9)
36.4
(97.5)
28.4
(83.1)
24.4
(75.9)
24.2
(75.6)
26.8
(80.2)
34.0
(93.2)
38.4
(101.1)
43.2
(109.8)
44.6
(112.3)
46.8
(116.2)
Average high °C (°F) 31.1
(88)
30.7
(87.3)
27.3
(81.1)
22.6
(72.7)
17.8
(64)
14.6
(58.3)
13.6
(56.5)
15.5
(59.9)
18.3
(64.9)
22.0
(71.6)
26.0
(78.8)
28.7
(83.7)
22.3
(72.1)
Average low °C (°F) 15.0
(59)
15.0
(59)
12.7
(54.9)
9.2
(48.6)
6.4
(43.5)
4.3
(39.7)
3.4
(38.1)
4.4
(39.9)
6.0
(42.8)
8.2
(46.8)
10.9
(51.6)
13.0
(55.4)
9.0
(48.2)
Record low °C (°F) 5.0
(41)
5.8
(42.4)
1.0
(33.8)
0.4
(32.7)
-1.9
(28.6)
-4.5
(23.9)
-5.5
(22.1)
-5.0
(23)
-1.5
(29.3)
0.2
(32.4)
1.3
(34.3)
0.0
(32)
-5.5
(22.1)
Precipitation mm (inches) 27.5
(1.083)
27.0
(1.063)
31.1
(1.224)
32.4
(1.276)
40.0
(1.575)
42.5
(1.673)
41.4
(1.63)
42.4
(1.669)
38.6
(1.52)
42.6
(1.677)
32.8
(1.291)
29.2
(1.15)
427.7
(16.839)
Avg. precipitation days 3.9 3.7 4.6 5.9 8.3 10.3 11.5 11.4 9.5 8.3 6.0 5.1 88.5

Culture

Paddle steamers

PS Pevensey
Paddle Steamer PS Pevensey

The port is home to the largest paddle steamer collection in the world, which includes the world's oldest operating wooden hulled paddle steamer, the PS Adelaide built in 1866. There are several historic vessels operating out of Echuca on a daily commercial basis such as PS Pevensey (built 1911), PS Alexander Arbuthnot (built 1923), PS Adelaide (built 1866) operating from the wharf and the PS Emmylou (built 1980 with a steam engine in use from 1906), PS Canberra (built 1913) and PV Pride of the Murray (built 1924 as a logging barge C24) operating from Riverboat Dock, a short distance downstream from the main wharf. These vessels conduct between 4-6 1hour cruises daily, while the PS Emmylou offers 1.5 hour lunch cruises twice daily and 2 x 1hour cruises daily, and in peak seasons 2-3hour dinner cruising and 1,2 & 3 night accommodated cruises for up to 18 passengers. There are also a number of privately owned paddle steamers in Echuca. As well as the paddle steamers there are numerous houseboats, many of which can be hired. The MV Mary Ann (built 1981) operates as a cruising restaurant in busier times.

The Port of Echuca is also restoring the PV Success to full working order. When operational, it will be added to the fleet of paddle steamers at Echuca Wharf.

Events and festivals

Annual activities include the Club Marine Southern 80 waterski race, the largest waterski race in the world (February), the Riverboats Music Festival (February), the Echuca Moama Weddings Expo" (May), the Steam Rally Echuca" (Long weekend June) and the Echuca Moama Winter Blues Festival" (July).

In popular culture

In 1984, the Australian television mini-series, All the Rivers Run, based on a novel by Nancy Cato and starring Sigrid Thornton and John Waters, was filmed in and around Echuca. The local Paddle Steamers PS Pevensey and PS Emmylou featured in the mini-series as the PS Philadelphia and PS Providence, respectively. The airing of this series around Australia and internationally revitalised Echuca's tourism economy.

In 1985, parts of the Australian telemovie My Brother Tom (based on the book by James Aldridge) were filmed in Echuca.

In the TV series Glitch, Vic, the district supervisor for the police forces of Echuca, the fictional Yoorana, and surrounding communities, is based in Echuca.

Restaurants and dining

Echuca is renowned for its variety of restaurants and eating services available. International cuisines are all easily accessible in the town including Thai, Chinese, Italian, Indian and Greek. Another major aspect of Echuca's tourism is the well known wharf-side restaurant "Oscar W's", currently closed for renovations but a popular attraction for rural weddings and fine dining due to its allocation of a 2013 AGFG Chef's Hat.

Transport

Echuca-Moama rail bridge Stevage
The Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge.

Echuca is connected over the Murray River to Moama by the Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge. This historically significant bridge has riveted iron spans supported on cast iron pillars. Trains no long run on this bridge; a dedicated rail bridge has been constructed next to the old bridge, which now only carries road vehicles.

Echuca-Moama Transit runs 3 services hourly to Echuca East, South & the town of Moama. The terminus is the Old Echuca Post Office on Hare Street. At the moment they are testing a service to 24 Lane and streets on the way to the lane which are near the Rich River Golf Club. V/Line operates the Echuca line rail service from the local station to Melbourne, via Bendigo. Echuca Airport is also located outside the town.

Sister city

Echuca's sister city was Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. However, Whitehorse terminated the special relationship in 2008.

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