Big River Human History

  • Period: to

    40,000 years of Indigenous Use

    Prior to European settlement of the big river area, the area Taurgerong people of the Kulin nation inhabited the area. Their primary use for the area was to harvest the stones prevalent in the valley in order to make tools, axes and knifes as well as perform traditional ceremonies on its banks..
  • First European Settlement

    First European Settlement
    European settlement in the area started in 1839 when Hunter and Watson laid their claim to the area. They set up a 286,000 acre farm. This naturally initiated conflict between the indigenous and the settlers causing deaths on both sides. However, it ultimately resulted in mass devastation of the indigenous population whose numbers were decimated from an estimated 600 in 1841 to 95 in 1863, due to the superior numbers, weaponry and new diseases that the settlers possessed.
  • Eureka!! Gold in the Big

    Eureka!! Gold in the Big
    Gold was discovered by two men 'Dick the Liar' and Harry Monk who were disenchanted with the Buckland gold fields. Despite not being good bushmen they journeyed for 3 three months and became lost and needed to be rescued by a search party. However their Journey wasn't in vain as they had stumbled across gold in the big river. Word spread about the these new alluvial Gold fields and by October 1854 there were dozens of men searching through the banks of the river.
    Picture - is a map of the area
  • Period: to

    Mining Era

    Over this period the primary use of the Big River was for mining. it provided a large and often abundant source of gold, but proposed tough working conditions for the miners that had to endure the variable weather and the harsh ruggeder terrain.
  • The Birth of Darlingford

    The Birth of Darlingford
    The Town of Darlingford was born out of the need to provide the traveling miners with a place to stop and rest between Yea and the Big River gold fields. it was situated at the confluence of the Goulburn and the Big River. It became an important place in order for the miners to store their provisions and rations needed to stay on the gold fields, and in its prime it contained hotels pubs and a police station.
    Picture - is of the the main street in Darlingford in 1910
  • Enoch's Point

    Enoch's Point
    Enoch Hall was one of the first miners to have a claim on the big river, which was located at Chaffeys Creek. Despite being slightly dim witted and illiterate Enoch and his wife became popular figures on the gold fields, being know to always extend a hand of hospitality to fellow traveling miners. His popularity firstly earned himself the affectionate name 'little jim', it also resulted in the future town 3 to 4 miles up stream, being named 'Enoch's point' after him.
  • Start of Reef Mining

    Start of Reef Mining
    Around 1860 there was a shift from using the alluvial technique, towards moving away from the river and venturing out to find the quartz reefs instead.
    Picture - An example of a reef mine opposed to the previous river based alluvial techniques.
  • Life on the Gold Fields

    Life on the Gold Fields
    life on the big river gold fields although often fruitful was tough. the weather was extremely variable, either being scorching hot in summer but snowing in winter. Also the route between Enoch's Point and Darlingford was not defined and passed over steep undulating terrain and through thick Bushland.
    Picture - of a miner in front of his small wooden hut, showing the tough life that they lived.
  • The Decline of Mining

    Towards the end of the 19th century mining around the Big River began to wain.. By 1873 there was only 147 miners registered on the gold fields compared to the 700+ in 1864.
  • The end of the gold era

    The end of the gold era
    Despite the decreasing popularity of mining, a dredging company from Melbourne thought that there was still more gold to be found and so transported their dredging machinery to the big river. However, the venture failed due to the large stones that were on the base of the river blocking the pipe. This basically spelled the end of major mining operations in the Big River. Picture - an example of an old dredging machine left abandoned from the gold rush. (note this was not taken at the big river)
  • Period: to

    Post Gold era

    Post 1900 there was still mining occurring. However, the extent of mining was far less and the number of people living along the river was far less also. This then birthed the very start of using the Big River for recreational activities, with it becoming a popular destination for the most determined of fishermen seeking rainbow trout.
  • Sugarloaf Reservoir

    Sugarloaf Reservoir
    The start of the construction of the Sugarloaf Reservoir.
    Picture - depicts the initial construction of the Sugarloaf Reservoir in 1918
  • Completion of the Sugarloaf Reservoir

    Completion of the Sugarloaf Reservoir
    The completion of the Sugarloaf reservoir, resulted in the town of Darlingford being flooded and abandoned. It also resulted in the mouth of the big river becoming wider and deeper, and consequently flooding the original road between Darlingford and Enoch's Point. This made Enoch's Point even more isolated and difficult to get to.
    Picture - of the completed Sugarloaf Reservoir in 1929.
  • The construction of Lake Eildon

    The construction of Lake Eildon
    The construction of Lake Eildon, took five years and 4000 people worked on the dam. The dam itself was 10 times the capacity of the previous Sugarloaf Reservoir. The construction of Lake had the same impact on the Big River as the Sugarloaf Reservoir did which was that it just widened the mouth of the river and pushed water further up the valley changing the original route of the river and flooding the vegetation on the banks of the river.
    Picture - an image of the completed Lake Eildon
  • Period: to

    The Age of Recreation

    In the more recent years the Big River has become a popular destination for recreation. these recreation activities include white water kayaking, 4WD, fishing. camping bush-walking, and hunting. Its convenient location near lake Eildon and only two and a half hours drive from Melbourne make it an appealing destination for many a bush lover..