SATURDAY 23 JUNE KUNUNURRA
Today was grey, a little humid, and with showers through the day. It did not look like this nasty little low pressure system was going anywhere else, anytime soon. At least, the ongoing rain had saved face for me!
Whilst John was still sleeping in, M and I walked to the town shops, so I could buy a Weekend Australian paper. The town seemed even more crowded with disgruntled travellers.
After John was up and breakfasted (late), I packed some sandwiches and we drove out to the Diversion Dam, just on the western edge of town.
When the Ord River Irrigation Scheme was being established, the Diversion Dam was built across the Ord River, in 1963. This marked the start of the first stage of irrigated farming on the river’s rich flood plains. Before the dam, the absolutely huge Wet season flow of the Ord River – many millions of litres – flowed into the sea. Then, by the late Dry season, the river was almost dry. Successful farming would require regulation of the water flow, hence the dam, which created Lake Kununurra behind it – the stored water able to be released as needed for downstream irrigation.
One of the first crops tried in the new irrigated farmlands was rice – a logical enough product. The problem with this was that magpie geese love rice seedlings. Word quickly spread amongst the magpie goose population of the tropical north, about this new bonanza, and that spelled the end of rice cropping in the Ord. Cotton was another experiment. There seems to have been fairly consistent growing of some fruits and vegetables – melons, mangoes, beans, pumpkins and the like. But it is a long way from major Australian markets for that sort of produce. So the whole scheme sort of staggers on.
The Diversion Dam is an impressive structure, with its movable “gates” that can be lifted up and down to control the volume of water outflow. A bonus of the building of the Diversion Dam was putting a road across the top – the current highway. As we drove over the dam, could see the gate operating mechanisms, close up.
On the far side, a road goes down to a small picnic area, below the dam wall. From here, there were good views back to the wall and its gates, which were not letting out a great deal of water, it seemed. We kept a careful eye out for crocs. It was common to see people fishing below the dam wall, here, and where there are barra…….
Ate our sandwiches here, admiring the river and the nearby boabs.
After that, drove back across the dam wall, and north, out the Ivanhoe Road, to the Ivanhoe Crossing. Today seemed to be developing an Ord River theme!
Before the Diversion Dam was built, up to 1963, this cement causeway was the way for travellers to cross the Ord. This was built in 1953, improving on an older causeway that had been made where a large rock outcrop broke the river into two smaller channels. It was probably originally used as a crossing point by the pioneering Durack family, who established the Ivanhoe and Carlton Downs Stations, on opposite sides of the river.
In the Wet season, the Crossing was often impassable for months on end. These days, since the upstream dams control the river differently to Nature, the water was over the causeway for much more of the Dry season, and generally at a higher level all year.
We had previously seen it at a driveable level – just – for the adventurous or foolhardy – but too high for us to tackle it. Mostly, we have seen it closed, as it was now. It was one of the local tourist attractions, and some people came here to fish in the waters below the causeway – definitely croc territory!
Back to camp and a leisurely rest of the day, spent reading my newspaper.
The No Vacancy sign was a permanent fixture at the front of the caravan park!
At night, I phoned son, who was just back from his four day work trip to NZ, being Customer Service Manager for both Australia and NZ, for the motorhome rental company he worked for. He sounded alright – was minding the children while their mother was out socialising.