the weir at Cohuna
Cohuna (including Gunbower Island)
Pleasant service town surrounded by the
waters of the Murray River
Cohuna is an immaculate and peaceful little town
of some 2200 people situated on the Murray
Valley Highway, 265 km north of Melbourne and 80
m above sea-level. Adjacent the main road is a
portion of Gunbower Creek, an anabranch of the
Murray River. Sandwiched between the creek and
the main body of the Murray River, 8 km to the
north, is Gunbower Island and Cohuna is the main
access point to the island's many attractions.
Cohuna is flanked by lush pastures which have
been generated with the assistance of the
Torrumbarry Irrigation System. They have been
put to good use by the district's many dairy
cows. Pigs, cattle, wool and timber also
contribute to the local economy. The town has a
caravan park attractively situated on the banks
of Gunbower Creek.
The area is thought to have been occupied by
the Baraparapa people long before white
settlement and prehistoric burials of world
importance were found locally in 1925 and in the
Major Thomas Mitchell passed through the area
on his 1836 exploration of 'Australia Felix'.
The first settlers came to the district from the
north in 1835 or 1836. However, the boon of
irrigation did not get under way until just
before the First World War. The myxomatosis
virus made its first successful debut in local
rabbit warrens c.1950.
Unbeknownst to most Australians Cohuna's
casein factory became involved in one of the
most famous projects in human history when its
produce became a part of the diet of the
astronauts flying the Apollo space missions.
At Easter-time the town takes on a festive
atmosphere as a result of the Easter tennis
tournament. The Cohuna Secondary College hosts
the Camping and Leisure Expo on the Melbourne
Cup Weekend. There are outdoor and camping
displays, caravans and 4WDs, arts and crafts and
a wide variety of foods, tel: (03) 5456 2555.
The Cohuna Aquatic Festival is in February. It
includes the 10-km Bridge to Bridge Swim.
Things to see:
The Golden Rivers Centre at Barham, tel: (03)
The former Scots Presbyterian Church has become
the display centre for the Cohuna and District
Historical Society. There are household items
and memorabilia of the district, including a
portion of a tree marked by Thomas Mitchell in
1836 on what was the first exploratory journey
by Europeans into this part of the country.
There is also a separate brick building
housing archives and photographs for those
interested in family and local history research.
The museum is located in Sampson St and is open
on the first Sunday of the month from 2.00 p.m.
to 4.00 p.m. or any time by appointment, tel:
(03) 5456 2422 or (03) 5456 2713.
Mathers' Waterwheel Museum is located 9 km out
of town. It houses a well-laid out collection of
memorabilia from yesteryear. There is also an
aviary of native birds. The Mathers cater
principally to coach groups but individuals and
small groups are also welcome. Follow the Murray
Valley Highway towards Kerang for about 5 km,
turn right onto Carwardines Rd (bitumen) just
before Barr Bridge, then turn left onto Brays Rd
when you come to the church. They are open from
10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every day but Monday,
tel: (03) 5456 2473.
Grove Cottage Crafts and Tea Rooms is located 4
km south-east of town on the Murray Valley
Highway, tel: (03) 5456 3233.
Creek Lake, marshy lakes and billabongs
with dead trees on the edge of Cohuna
Gunbower Island is the section of land
sandwiched between the Murray River and its
anabranch, Gunbower Creek. 50 km long, it is
reputedly Australia's largest inland island. It
runs from Koondrook to Torrumbarry Weir. The
island is characterised by swamps, enormous
river red gums and, on the higher ground, box
forest. The beautiful red gums make excellent
timber and have been milled since the 1870s.
Gunbower supports a diversity of native
animals (including kangaroos, emus, goannas,
possums and snakes) and 160 bird species. Still
entirely in its natural state it is ideal for
bushwalking, bush camping, birdwatching and
Cohuna is the primary jumping-off point for
those wishing to visit the island. Cohuna Island
Rd heads off the highway at the roundabout and
leads directly over the creek, which is adjacent
the highway. Alternatively, if you head south
along the Murray Valley Highway, there are a
number of signposted side roads (unsealed but
fine for 2WD when dry) which lead onto the
island. Roads to and on the island are detailed
in a map which can be purchased from the Cohuna
office of the Department of Natural Resources
and Environment in King Edward St (tel: 03 5456
2266) or from the main Melbourne office. You can
also obtain brochures outlining the Gunbower
Island Canoe Trail (5 km return).
On two occasions this century, the Kow Swamp
Area has been the site of palaeontological finds
of world importance. In the late 1960s about 40
human skeletons, dating back ten to fifteen
thousand years, were discovered in a prehistoric
burial site. Remarkably, the skulls possess
archaic physiological features which predate
those of modern humans and yet much older skulls
found at nearby Lake Mungo do not. This has led
to speculation as to whether Aborigines were the
earliest inhabitants of the country. These
wetlands support many waterbird communities and
are popular with anglers.
There are two approaches to Kow Swamp from
the north: via Cohuna or Leitchville. If you are
coming from Cohuna head towards Echuca on the
Murray Valley Highway for about 8 km then turn
right into Pipers Rd. After about 6 km you will
come to a T-intersection at the north-western
corner of Kow Swamp. Turn right onto Pyramid
Hill Rd. After about 50 m there is a cleared
area on the left at Box Bridge where you can
stop for a picnic.
If, instead, you turn left onto Kow Swamp Rd
it ends, after several kilometres, at a
T-intersection with Leitchville South Rd. Turn
right and the road leads to a park with barbecue
facilities on the swamp's eastern shore.
If you are coming from Leitchville just
follow Leitchville South Rd to the eastern shore
or turn right onto the Kow Swamp/Pyramid Hill Rd
for Box Bridge. Accommodation is available for 6
to 8 people at Swampy's Holiday House, tel: (03)
About 10 km beyond the aforementioned Box
Bridge, Pyramid Hill Rd passes Mt Hope which was
climbed in 1836 by Thomas Mitchell on his
exploratory journey into 'Australia Felix'. The
name derives from Mitchell's hope that he might
discern the sea from its peak. There are picnic
facilities and a Mitchell plaque at the base of
the mountain and it is but a short walk to the
top of the hill from whence there are good views
of the district and Kow Swamp.
Pyramid Hill and Terrick Terrick State
The main road continues on through Bald Rock to
Pyramid Hill. If you take the turnoff to the
left at Bald Rock, onto an unsealed road, it
will lead you south through Terrick Terrick
State Park (see entry on Pyramid Hill).