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European discovery of the River Murray system: First European sighting of the River Murray

The upper course of the River Murray was originally named the Hume River. In late 1824 William Hovell teamed up with Hamilton Hume to explore beyond the Murrumbidgee. They planned to travel south-west along the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and reach the southern coast at Western Port.

They discovered fine pastures and a number of rivers running down from the mountains in a north-westerly direction. On 16 November they reached:

...a fine river...this beautiful stream is found to be not less than eighty yards in breadth, apparently of considerable depth; the current about three miles an hour; the water, for so considerable a current, clear. The river itself is serpentine, the banks clothed with verdure to the water's edge; their general height various, but seldom either more or less than eight or nine feet, inclined, or, precipitous...

(Journey of discovery to Port Phillip, New South Wales; by Messrs. W. H. Hovell, and Hamilton Hume in 1824 and 1825)

The river was named after Hume, and a tree nearby was blazed by Hovell. It was in the vicinity of Albury and six years later and further downstream that Charles Sturt would name the same river, the Murray. Hume and Hovell continued on, and crossed the Mitta Mitta, Kiewa and Ovens Rivers, and on 24 November, sighted a singular looking hump which they named Mt Buffalo.

They crossed and named the Goulburn River a week later and finally on 16 December reached Corio Bay near Geelong - somewhat off course from their intended arrival at Western Port. Just over a month later they were back in Sydney and were able to report to Governor Brisbane that they had found extensive and fine grazing land, and had added further to the knowledge of the river system in Australia's south-east corner. The riddle of where all the rivers ran would not be solved for another six years.

Further reading

Bland, William. Journey of discovery to Port Phillip, New South Wales by Messrs. W.H. Hovell and Hamilton Hume in 1824 and 1825; Sydney, R. Hill, printer 1831; Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia, 1965

Prest, Jean. Hamilton Hume and William Hovell, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1963

Hume, Hamilton. A brief statement of facts in connection with an overland expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip, in 1824, Yass: J.J. Brown, Courier Office, 1874


Project Gutenberg of Australia: Hovell, William H and Hamilton Hume. Journey of Discovery to Port Phillip, New South 1824 and 1825

Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition See: Hovell, Willian Hilton

Australian Dictionary of Biography online edition See: Hume, Hamilton

Hume and Hovell's marked tree
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Hume River (Murray River) discovered
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