Hindmarsh Island - South Australia - Islands of Australia

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Hindmarsh Island (also known as Kumarangk in the Ngarrindjeri language) is a large, sparsely populated island that makes up part of the Murray Mouth, where the River Murray meets the sea in South Australia. The Murray Mouth is a changeable and sometimes treacherous gap between two long sandy peninsulas which drains the slow-moving river into the sea.

Hindmarsh Island and its neighbor Mundoo Island are behind the Mouth, separating the river from the freshwater Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert.

The island is unusual because the waters around it are divided into a salty southern coast and a freshwater northern coast by a series of barrages, or weirs. The island’s marina, on the western end, is said to be the largest freshwater harbor in the southern hemisphere. The upstream drainage of irrigation water from the River Murray has sometimes led the river to slow, allowing the mouth and the island area to become clogged with silt. Repairing the problem has required extensive ongoing dredging.

Much of the native plant life has been cleared at various times in the island’s history, but the vegetation is slowly recovering. Bushwalking, camping, bird watching, fishing, and other wilderness activities are popular on Hindmarsh Island.

The “Riverside complex” once catered to the steamship trade, and is now a State Heritage Place. The island is home to about 300 permanent residents.
 

Hindmarsh Island was first explored by the English Captain Charles Sturt in 1830, during the expedition in which he located the Murray Mouth which he had been seeking. The island was given its name in 1837, in honor of Sir John Hindmarsh, the first governor of South Australia. Settler Charles Price purchased a large swath of the island in 1854, and was responsible for the introduction of Hereford cattle and Shropshire sheep to the island, and from there to the rest of South Australia. In 1858, both a ferry service and a telegraph line were established on the island.

The barrages which help to keep freshwater and saltwater separate were built between 1935 and 1940, with the intent to maintain water levels in the riverport of Goolwa, just across the river’s mouth from the island. It also increased the amount of arable land, by reducing salt poisoning along the river’s banks. Residents gained mains electricity around 1965.

In the late 1990s, a proposal to build a bridge between the island and Goolwa became a huge legal controversy regarding the traditions of the Aboriginal inhabitants. After extensive debate the bridge was finally approved, and opened in 2001.

In 2001, the Wyndgate property which made up about a third of Hindmarsh Island was incorporated into the Coorong National Park, which also holds the saltwater Coorong Lagoon, a 100-kilometer long depression between tall sand dunes. The lagoon and the islands are home to numerous rare bird species.

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