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Community, Business and Visitor Guide

Goolwa Local History

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Goolwa is a town in South Australia, situated at the mouth of the Murray River where it meets the Southern Ocean. It has a rich local history that has shaped the town into what it is today.

The Ngarrindjeri people are the traditional owners of the land where Goolwa sits. They lived in the area for thousands of years before European settlement. Goolwa was a strategic location for the Ngarrindjeri people as it allowed them easy access to both the ocean and the Murray River.

The first European to discover the area was Captain Charles Sturt in 1830. He explored the Murray River and its mouth, which he named Lake Alexandrina. Soon after, in 1837, the South Australian Company established a small settlement at Goolwa to take advantage of the river trade.

During the mid-19th century, Goolwa was a bustling river port. It was an important link in the transportation of goods from the Murray River to Adelaide. Paddle steamers brought wool and other products down the river to Goolwa, where they were loaded onto sailing ships bound for Port Adelaide and beyond.

One of the most significant events in Goolwa's history was the construction of the Goolwa Barrages. The barrages were built across the Murray River mouth in the 1930s to regulate the water flow and prevent saltwater intrusion into the river. The barrages have transformed the landscape and created the Coorong National Park, which is internationally recognised for its environmental significance.

Today, Goolwa is a popular holiday destination. Its stunning beaches, waterways and heritage architecture draw visitors from across the country. The town hosts a number of popular events throughout the year, including the Goolwa Regatta Week, which is the largest freshwater sailing event in the southern hemisphere.

Goolwa has a rich cultural history. The town is home to several historic buildings, including the Goolwa Customs House, which was built in 1866 and is now a museum.

Another significant landmark in Goolwa is the Hindmarsh Island Bridge. The bridge spans the Murray River and connects the mainland to Hindmarsh Island. It was the subject of a controversial debate in the 1990s over its construction and the significance of the Ngarrindjeri people's connection to the land. Despite the controversy, the bridge remains an important piece of infrastructure in the region today.

In conclusion, Goolwa has a rich and fascinating local history that has shaped the town into what it is today. Its strategic location at the mouth of the Murray River, its importance as a trade port, and the construction of the Goolwa Barrages have all played a role in the town's development. Today, it is a thriving holiday destination with a vibrant cultural scene and beautiful natural surroundings.

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