From its birthplace in the folds of the Great Dividing Range in southern New South Wales, the Mighty Murray winds 2,574 km (1,596 miles) northwest and then south before it empties into Lake Alexandrina, south of Adelaide. But it is not as mighty as it once was. Recent droughts and overreliance on—and exploitation of—the Murray and its tributaries by irrigators, river towns, and the city of Adelaide have threatened the river’s health and the livelihoods of the people who rely on it.
Water—its supply, collection, and use—is a subject on almost everyone's lips. A revamped but still controversial water-trading and buy-out system based on water access entitlements, which promises to reallocate precious Murray-Darling water, is one of a range of measures being implemented by Australia's federal and state governments to reduce the impact of climate change and improve and supplement existing water sources. Making the right decisions for the river and those dependent on it is a challenging balancing act.
Some farmers walked off the land during the most recent dry stretch, and the floods tested many more, but the Murray River still waters vast acreages of pastures, orchards, and vineyards.
Victoria exports more than A$200 million worth of wine annually, and Murray River Muscats and Ports are legendary. The Rutherglen area, in particular, produces the country’s finest fortified wine (dessert wine or "stickies").
Steeped in history and natural beauty, the eastern Murray River valley and High Country region is a gourmet foodies' heaven known for its fruit, olives, honey, and cheeses, as well as a renowned wine region. The lovely town of Beechworth is an ideal place to break the drive between Sydney and Melbourne.