The inland NSW town of Deniliquin has a surprising amount to offer the visitor, primarily due to the Edward River that runs through town.

Story Terri Cowley  Photos Rob Mulally

An island dotted with river red gums sits at the heart of Deniliquin. On the Island Sanctuary, Tracy Hamilton, of the nearby Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre, is explaining how the old man weed growing at her feet was once used to treat cold and flu by the local Wamba Wamba people. “We used to take a bath in it,” Tracy says. “It was called ‘sneeze weed’.”

The Yarkuwa Centre, which opened 13 years ago, ensures that the knowledge of the small but significant Aboriginal population is passed on. Visitors can take walking tours with an Indigenous guide like Tracy, who explains that the island was a place of hunting and gathering for the Wamba Wamba, but not a camp, because it regularly flooded.

On a different part of the island, which is flanked by the Edward River, keen twitcher Tom Wheller points out brown treecreepers and superb parrots. The island harbours up to 160 bird species within sight of the town hall. White-plumed honeyeaters and sacred kingfishers are common, sharing this sanctuary with eastern grey kangaroos and black wallabies. 

Late in 2016, the river rose to 8.62 metres, the highest level since the 1970s. It is still the talk of the town and locals are keen to point out the high-water mark. But although river walkways were inundated, the flood did not breach the 9.82m town levee.

It is not surprising that the flood remains a topic of conversation. The Edward River, an anabranch of the mighty Murray, is the pride and joy of Deni, showcased through events such as the Deniliquin RSL Gold Fishing Classic, which is held every February. This year, its 20th, it had a $70,000 prize pool. Locals grow up on the river, swimming, skiing and boating. Older locals reminisce about the town baths that were once constructed in it.

This story excerpt is from Issue #113

Outback Magazine: June/July 2017