Day five and the Murray Sunset National Park VKFF-0373

Day five of our trip was Saturday 10th April 2021. This was to be day one of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) 2021 Activation Weekend. This weekend was the main reason Marija and I had travelled to Victoria. Marija and I always try to take part in the KRMNPA Weekend as it is a lot of fun. The Activation Weekend is normally held in November each year, but was cancelled last year due to COVID and rescheduled for April 2021.

We had planned to activate the Murray Sunset National Park VKFF-0373 on Saturday, and then Hattah Kulkyne National Park VKFF-0231 on Sunday. We have activated both parks previously.

We started the day with a beautiful cooked breakfast at the Langtree Cafe in Mildura.

In the past we have activated the Murray Sunset National Park from the Pink Lakes section of the park. This time we decided to activate the Wallpola Island section of the park along the Murray River and the State border of Victoria and new South Wales.

Above:- Map showing the location of the Murray Sunset National Park in north-western Victoria. Map c/o Protected Planet

Murray Sunset has four distinct areas:- Pink Lakes; Wallpolla Island, Mulcra Island, and Lindsay Island.

Above:- Map showing the various sections of the Murray Sunset National Park. Map c/o Protected Planet

After breakfast we headed out of Mildura to the little town of Merbein where we stopped briefly to look at an old Thompson Centrifugal Irrigation Pump which was commissioned in September 1920 and decommissioned in 2015.

We then drove out on the Old Mail Road and soon reached the Murray Sunset National Park which was well signposted.

The Murray-Sunset National Park is the second largest National Park in Victoria and comprised an area of 633,000-hectares (1,560,000-acres). The park which borders the South Australia State border is located about 440km north-west of Melbourne. The Sturt Highway passes through the northern section of the park. The majority of the park is in the remote area between the Sturt Highway and the Mallee Highway.

Above:- An aerial view of the Murray Sunset National Park. Image c/o Google maps

The Murray Sunset National Park was established in 1979. In 1999 it was expanded to encompass the Pink Lakes State Park. The majority of the park lies within the Murray-Sunset, Hattah and Annuello Important Bird Area, so identified by BirdLife International due to it containing mallee habitat supporting a wide range of threatened mallee bird species including the Malleefowl, Black-eared Miner and Mallee Emu-Wren.

We turned off Old Mail Road and followed a series of 4WD tracks leading down towards the Murray River. We stopped along the way to look at some of the billabongs running off the Murray. Many were full of European Carp, an invasive fish which is an absolute pest in the Murray.

We found a clearing in amongst the scrub and set up our little portable station consisting of the Yaesu FT-857d and the 20/40/80m linked dipole supported by the 7 metre telescopic squid pole.

I called CQ on 7.144 and it was very appropriate that our first station in the log was Tony VK3XV mobile, who is the KRMNPA Award Manager.

Unfortunately during our activation we had a few sprinkles of rain, so it was out with the bothy bag. This must have been quite a sight, someone huddled underneath a bright orange piece of plastic in the middle of nowhere.

Marija and I logged a total of 170 stations on 40m including the following Park to Park contacts:-

  • Tony VK3YV – Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020
  • Rob VK2VH/3 – Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741
  • Rob VK4AAC/3 – Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741
  • VK3UAO/p – Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627
  • VK3PF/p – Warby Ovens National Park VKFF-0742
  • VK2IO/p – Brisbane Water National Park VKFF-0056
  • VK4SMA/p – Neurum Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1621
  • Joe VK3SRC/p – Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0628
  • Julie VK3FOWL/p – Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0628
  • Ian VK1DI/p – McQuoids Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0849
  • Tony VK3XV/p – Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623
  • James VK2TER/p – Wyrrabalong National Park VKFF-0550
  • Peter VK3PF/p – Barmah National Park VKFF-0739
  • Gerard Vk2IO/p – Popran National Park VKFF-0417
  • Peter VK3TKK/p – Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627
  • Bryan VK3LF/p – Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556
  • Bill VK3CWF – Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055

We logged a total of 10 stations on 80m

I also tried calling on 14.310 on the 20m band but had no takers.

All up we logged 179 QSOs including 33 Park to Park contacts.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3YV/p (Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020)
  2. VK2VH/3 (Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741)
  3. VK4AAC/3 (Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741)
  4. VK3UAO/p (Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627)
  5. VK3PF/p (Warby Ovens National Park VKFF-0742)
  6. VK2IO/p (Brisbane Water National Park VKFF-0056)
  7. VK2KYO
  8. VK2HHA
  9. VK3CRG
  10. VK3MPR
  11. VK3DNH
  12. VK5CZ
  13. VK5FANA
  14. Vk3AWA
  15. VK5KLV
  16. VK3AHR
  17. VK7QP
  18. VK5YX
  19. VK4SMA/p (Neurum Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1621)
  20. VK7EK
  21. Vk3MKE
  22. VK3WTX
  23. VK3NL
  24. VK2PKT
  25. VK3UH
  26. VK3MAB
  27. VK3SQ
  28. VK3MCK
  29. VK3DAC
  30. VK4SM/m
  31. VK5KSW
  32. VK1AD
  33. VK2TH
  34. VK7LTD
  35. VK3ANL
  36. VK2HBG/p
  37. VK3SRC/p (Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0628)
  38. VK3FOWL/p (Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0628)
  39. VK1DI/p (McQuoids Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0849)
  40. VK3XV/p (Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623)
  41. VK3LF/p
  42. VK4BXX
  43. VK4/NN3Z
  44. VK2TER/p (Wyrrabalong National Park VKFF-0550)
  45. VK2JNA/m
  46. VK5AYL
  47. VK3ZK
  48. Vk3ARH/m
  49. VK4CZ
  50. VK4KLA
  51. VK5PH
  52. VK5DW
  53. VK2YK
  54. VK5GA
  55. VK5HMB
  56. VK5FDMG
  57. VK3PF/p (Barmah National Park VKFF-0739)
  58. VK2IO/p (Popran National Park VKFF-0417)
  59. VK3TKK/p (Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627)
  60. VK3LF/p (Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556)
  61. VK5HAA/p (SOTA VK5/ SE-018)

I worked the following stations on 40m SS B:-

  1. VK3XV/m
  2. VK3SQ
  3. VK3PI
  4. VK3MPR
  5. VK3ZK
  6. VK3EJ
  7. VK2PKT
  8. VK1AD
  9. VK2VK
  10. VK7QP
  11. VK5HS
  12. VK2KYO
  13. VK3ANL
  14. VK5ATN
  15. VK3MCK
  16. VK5JBH
  17. VK2HHA
  18. VK3YV/p (Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0620)
  19. VK5FANA
  20. VK7FAMP
  21. VK3UH
  22. VK7LTD
  23. VK5AAY
  24. VK3CRG
  25. VK4KC
  26. VK4MAD
  27. VK4DOG
  28. VK4AAC/3 (Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741)
  29. VK2VH/3 (Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741)
  30. VK3UAO/p (Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627)
  31. VK3LF/m
  32. VK3PF/p (Warby Ovens National Park VKFF-0742)
  33. VK2IO/p (Brisbane Water National Park VKFF-0056)
  34. VK4FDJL
  35. VK3OHM
  36. VK3SRC/p (Point Nepean National Park VKFF-)
  37. VK3FOWL/p (Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0628)
  38. VK2XXM
  39. VK3ARH/m
  40. VK5CZ
  41. VK1HF/m
  42. VK3MKE
  43. VK1DI/p (McQuoids Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0849)
  44. VK3CWF
  45. VK5KSW
  46. VK4BXX
  47. VK4/NN3Z
  48. VK4FHEL
  49. VK4SMA/p (Neurum Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1621)
  50. VK3DNH
  51. VK2KF
  52. VK5WG
  53. VK3MTT
  54. VK3XV/p (Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623)
  55. VK4SM/2
  56. VK2TER/p (Wyrrabalong National Park VKFF-0550)
  57. VK2STG
  58. VK1MIC
  59. VK3PF/p (Barmah National Park VKFF-0739)
  60. VK3PAT
  61. VK5AYL
  62. VK2DG
  63. VK3BNJ
  64. VK5TBC
  65. VK3PT
  66. VK2VEX
  67. VK3VKT
  68. VK5KBJ/m
  69. VK3EY
  70. VK3HSB
  71. VK5TR
  72. VK5PH
  73. VK3GB
  74. Vk3ACZ
  75. VK5FDMG
  76. VK5GY
  77. VK3DPG
  78. VK2IO/p (Popran National Park VKFF-0417)
  79. VK3FD
  80. VK2EXA
  81. VK5IS
  82. VK3ZM
  83. VK3TKK/p (Organ Pipes National Park VKFF-0627)
  84. VK2FAPR
  85. VK2FAPC
  86. ZL3MR
  87. VK5GAZ
  88. VK5KHZ
  89. VK2LF/p (Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556)
  90. VK3CU
  91. Vk2NMZ
  92. VK4HNS
  93. VK7KT
  94. VK7ZGK
  95. VK5HAA/p (SOTA VK5/ SE-018)

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5DW
  2. VK2KYO
  3. VK2YK
  4. VK5GA
  5. VK5CZ
  6. VK2DG
  7. VK5FANA
  8. VK3SQ
  9. VK3BBB
  10. VK2CCP

Marija and I packed up at about 3.00 p.m. and continued west on the Old Mail Road. This is a dry weather road only and runs from Meridian Road in Merbein South to Paringa in South Australia. We stopped every now and again just to take in the isolation of the area.

Our next stop was Lock 9 on the Murray River. The first navigational lock on the Murray River was completed at Blanchetown in South Australia in 1922. The weirs and locks were originally constructed to provide year round navigation for commercial cargo and passenger paddle steamers. They were generally built too late to be of benefit to the river trade, as the development of railways and the growth of motorised road haulage had overtaken river transport. Today there are 13 navigation locks on the Murray River.

There was plenty of birdlife at Lock 9 and I took the opportunity of taking a few snaps.

We then visited the historic Lock 9 pumping station which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. It was one of the various pumping stations constructed by the Chaffey brothers as part of their vast irrigation scheme built after 1887.

There were some great views of the Murray River at this location.

We then decided to do a little more park activating. We set up again in the Murray Sunset National Park, but this time just downstream from Lock 9.

I called CQ and Andy VK2VOO answered, followed by Tim VK5AV mobile, and then Olga VK5VOB. I logged 38 stations on 40m including the following Park to Park QSOs:-

  • Bill VK3CWF/p – Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055
  • Peter VK3PF/p – Gunbower National Park VKFF-0740
  • Tom VK5NFT/p – Canunda National Park VKFF-0075

I also worked a total of 26 stations on 80m including the following Park to Park contacts:-

  • Bill VK3CWF/p – Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055
  • Peter VK3PF/p – Terrick Terrick National Park VKFF-0630

Marija worked the following station on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3CWF/p (Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055)

Marija worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK3CWF/p (Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055)
  2. VK3PF/p (Terrick Terrick National Park VKFF-0630)
  3. VK5MWW

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2VOO
  2. VK5AV/m
  3. VK5VOB
  4. VK3CWF/p (Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055)
  5. VK3ZPF
  6. VK4HAT
  7. VK2HRX
  8. VK7JFD
  9. VK2VK
  10. VK5DC
  11. VK3PF/p (Gunbower National Park VKFF-0740)
  12. VK4CZ
  13. VK4FDJL
  14. VK5BB
  15. ZL1TM
  16. ZL4NVW
  17. VK2AKA/m
  18. VK5IS
  19. VK2MG
  20. VK5LB
  21. VK2PV
  22. VK2NIT
  23. VK3SQ
  24. VK5VBR
  25. VK5NFT/p (Canunda National Park VKFF-0075)
  26. VK4NH
  27. VK4DXA
  28. ZL4TY/VK4
  29. VK4ACX
  30. VK5VGC
  31. VK2DJP
  32. VK5JOB
  33. VK2PBC
  34. VK3CAT
  35. VK7RM
  36. VK3WAR
  37. VK3RW
  38. VK3VLF

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5WG
  2. VK4HNS
  3. VK3RW
  4. VK2MOP
  5. VK2LAT
  6. VK2MG
  7. VK2LEE
  8. VK4CZ
  9. VK4NH
  10. VK4DXA
  11. ZL4TY/VK4
  12. VK3PI
  13. VK3ANL
  14. VK4SMA
  15. VK3GQ
  16. VK3NCR
  17. VK5AYL
  18. VK3CWF/p (Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055)
  19. VK3ZPF
  20. VK4IDK
  21. VK3MET
  22. VK5CZ
  23. VK5MWW
  24. VK3PF/p (Terrick Terrick National Park VKFF-0630)
  25. VK3AJA/5
  26. VK5GY

This time around we had made 68 QSOs and 7 Park to Park contacts.

For the two activations in Murray Sunset on the day we made a total of 247 QSOs and 40 Park to Park contacts.

We packed up and drove slowly down Lock 9 Road towards Lake Culleraine and the Sturt Highway. It was slow going as there were plenty of kangaroos out and about.

References.

Victorian Heritage Database, 2021, <http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/327?print=true>, viewed 3rd May 2021

Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray-Sunset_National_Park>, viewed 3rd May 2021.

Day four and the Karadoc Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2123

Day four (Friday 9th April 2021) had rolled around very quickly. We didn’t have any scheduled park activation, rather we planned on doing a lot of sightseeing.

After breakfast we headed to Woodsie’s Gem Shop at Nichols Point just outside of Mildura.

We purchased a little quartz pig from their gift shop/display room and then entered ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ which is the Wood’s family extensive private collection of crystals, fossils, and carvings from around the world. This is an excellent display and we spend quite some time there having a look at the various displays.

We then tried our luck in the Garden Maze at Woodsie’s. This was quite a challenge and we could not find the end and headed for the ‘Give Up gate’. I am happy to say we were not the only to take the easy way out.

We then drove south on the Calder Highway into the little town of Red Cliffs. We stopped to have a look at Big Lizzie, the largest tractor in the world for its time. In 1914 Mr. Frank Bettrill with the aid of Foundry of A.H. McDonald or Richmond, commenced construction of Big Lizzie. It was completed in 1915. The machine had 2 wagons each 30 feet in length. Big Lizzie set out from Melbourne in 1916 intending to cart wool from outback stations in the Broken Hill area. However the crossing of the Murray River was too hazardous and as a result the machine and trailers were used for carting wheat in the Merbein area, with one such load consisting of 899 bags.

In 1920 Big Lizzie was commissioned by the Victorian Government to clear trees and scrub at the soldier settlement at Red Cliffs. In 1925 Big Lizzie headed to the Balmoral area. She lay on a station property ‘Glendenning’ for some 40 years before being purchased by the people of Red Cliffs and restored.

We then decided that we would activate the Karadoc Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2123. This was to be a first time activation of this park by myself and Marija.

The park is located at Iraak, about 41 km south-east of Mildura.

Above:- Map showing the location of the Karadoc Nature Conservation Reserve near Mildura. Map c/o Protected Planet.

The Karadoc Nature Conservation Reserve is about 1.08 km² in size and is located alongside of the Murray River, forming the Victoria and New South Wales State border.

Above:- Aerial view of the Karadoc Nature Conservation Reserve. Image c/o Protected Planet.

Karadoc Nature Conservation Reserve became a reserve as recommended by the River Red Gum Forests Investigation in 2008. The park contains a diverse range of flora and fauna species. There are several wetlands at Karadoc, but these were dry during our visit.

First in the log for this activation was Ron VK3AHR, followed by Dennis VK2HHA, and then Steve VK3MPR. Contact number ten was a QSO with Ken VK2KYO.

Band conditions seemed to be pretty good on 40m, however callers were quite slow here at Karadoc. Once I got 15 QSOs in the log and had qualified the park for VKFF, I swapped over with Marija.

Marija called CQ and very quickly had ten contacts in the log from VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK5. Her 10th QSO was with Stephen VK2STG.

After Marija had logged 12 contacts, I jumped back into the operator’s chair with the hope that I might be able to get 44 QSOs and qualify the park for the global WWFF program. However, based on my earlier go on 40m that was looking unlikely.

I called CQ once again on 7.144 and this was answered by Adrian VK5FANA with a good 5/9 signal, followed by Joe & Julie VK3SRC (VK3YSP & VK3FOWL).

A few QSOs later and I was called by Peter VK3TKK/p who was activating the Shire Dam Swamp Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2438. Marija also logged Peter for a Park to Park contact.

To my great pleasure the number of callers really picked up and after just a little over one hour into the activation I had contact number 44 in the log, a QSO with Stanley VK3BOT. With 51 QSOs in the log for me, and 13 for Marija, we lowered the squid pole.

I called CQ on 14.310 for about 5 minutes but had no takers. I was also competing against the Over the Horizon Radar which was strength 9.

To complete the activation Marija called CQ on 3.610 where she logged 5 stations from VK3 and VK5.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2VK
  2. VK2HHA
  3. VK3AHR
  4. VK3SRC
  5. VK3FOWL
  6. VK1DI
  7. VK5FANA
  8. VK3MPR
  9. VK3PF/m
  10. VK2STG
  11. VK5WG
  12. VK3HP
  13. VK3TKK/p (Shire Dam Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2438)

Marija worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5FANA
  2. VK3YV
  3. VK5LA
  4. VK5CZ
  5. VK3SQ

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3AHR
  2. VK2HHA
  3. VK3MPR
  4. VK4FDJL
  5. VK1DI
  6. VK7KT
  7. VK2VEX/m
  8. VK3EJ
  9. Vk3PF/m
  10. VK2KYO
  11. VK3TKK/m
  12. VK7DM
  13. VK2VK
  14. VK2IO/m
  15. VK4VCE
  16. VK5FANA
  17. VK3SRC/m
  18. VK3FOWL/m
  19. VK3YSP/m
  20. VK5CLN
  21. VK2VH
  22. VK4AAC/2
  23. VK3TKK/p (Shire Dam Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2438)
  24. VK4CZ
  25. VK7VZ
  26. VK4KC
  27. VK4MAD
  28. VK4DOG
  29. VK4HNS
  30. VK3CAT
  31. VK2WB
  32. VK6WF
  33. VK2EAC
  34. VK2YK/5
  35. VK5GA
  36. VK5PL
  37. VK1MDP
  38. VK3MCK
  39. VK5ATN
  40. VK2PBC
  41. VK3KZ
  42. VK7ZGK
  43. VK2MOR
  44. VK3BOT
  45. VK2QK
  46. VK3GMC
  47. VK3SQ
  48. VK2MOP
  49. VK3YV
  50. VK5AV/m
  51. VK3CM

It had been another fun activation, with 69 QSOs in the log from VK1, VK2, VK4, VK4, VK5 and VK7.

After packing up we headed down to the Murray River within the park to enjoy the view. There was one solitary guy fishing on the banks of the Murray enjoying the beautiful sunny afternoon.

We then drove back into Red Cliffs to get a coffee. Along the way we stopped at the Red Cliffs Scenic Reserve where we enjoyed some brilliant views of the Murray River. This area was considered by the Chaffey Brothers as a possible site for the township for their irrigation colony. The area is on a high bank above the cliffs from which the settlement of Red Cliffs got its name. It includes Snake Gully and Red Gum car parks.

The Chaffey Brothers developed large parts of California and also established the irrigation towns of Renmark in South Australia and Mildura in Victoria.

The Karadoc woolshed was originally atop the cliffs and was used as accomodation for the gangs of workers at the site. It was moved to Woodbine Avenue beside the railway line as a recreation facility and the first school.

Snake Gully was created during the ‘big fill’ of 26th October 1921. This was the first irrigation and all appeared to be going well until the channel wall broke. The resulting cascade of water eroded the cliffs to form Snake Gully.

From the viewing platform you can view the site of the pumping plant and power station.

Aboriginal shell middens dating back 12,000 years can be found in the area. You can also view the extent of the 1956 flood waters.

We then drove out to the Psyche Bend Pumping Station. As part of establishing an irrigation system for the region in the late 1800s, the Chaffey Brothers installed pumps at Psyche Bend. They commenced pumping water from the Murray River to Kings Billabong. Today you can view the original pump house which still stands at Psyche Bend, along with the pump which is still operational. It the oldest pump configuration of its type in the world. Unfortunately it was closed during our visit, but we were still able to walk around the building.

The Chaffey steam engine and pumps at Psyche Bend operated until 1959, when electric pumps were installed nearby and the pumping station was decommissioned. 

We then did a bit of 4WDing, travelling along the dirt tracks following the Murray River forming the State Border of Victoria and New South Wales.

We also stopped occasionally to view Kings Billabong which took its name from the aboriginal word for still water – billabong, and its European name from Captain James King. During the late 1800s he navigated the Murray River and its tributaries.

Kings Billabong is a Wildlife Reserve but is not yet included in the World Wide Flora Fauna program. I will liaise with Peter VK3ZPF and get this on the list soon as it is a beautiful spot.

It was then time for some birdwatching and photography. Unfortunately we took the wrong track, hoping to get to the Bird Hide, so we wasted a lot of time. The track is not well signposted.

Marija and I packed up and headed back into Mildura where we freshened up and then headed out for dinner.

References.

Discover Murray, 2021, <http://www.murrayriver.com.au/the-chaffey-trail/psyche-bend-pump-station/>, viewed 1st May 2021

Discover Murray, 2021, <http://www.murrayriver.com.au/parks/kings-billabong-mildura/>, viewed 1st May 2021

Karadoc (Inlet Creek) Environmental Water Management Plan, 2016, Mallee Catchment Management Authority

Visit Mildura, 2021, <https://visitmildura.com.au/Operators/History/Psyche-Bend-Pumps.aspx>, viewed 1st May 2021

Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Chaffey>, viewed 1st May 2021