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.
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.
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:-
- VK3TKK/p (Shire Dam Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2438)
Marija worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK3TKK/p (Shire Dam Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2438)
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.
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