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Wilcannia Post Office

Located on the banks of the Darling River, and once known as the ‘Queen City of the West’, it is hard to image today, that this quiet town was once an important inland port from the 1880s onwards. With a rich pastoral history, its former grandeur can still be seen in some of the remaining architecture.

A self-guided heritage trail provides a glimpse of the town's former glory, taking in the beautiful sandstone buildings. There is also the historic Centre Lift Bridge.

Located between Broken Hill and Cobar, Wilcannia is where the Barrier Highway crosses the waterway of the Darling River. Being at the juncture of the major east-west highway and the Cobb Highway (promoted as the iconic ‘Long Paddock’) which ends at Moama on the border, continuing south into Victoria as the Northern Highway.

Indigenous People
The original inhabitants of NSW have lived here for at least 45,000 years, among which there are more than 38 Aboriginal language groups, many of which overlapped with each other.

There is a sizeable Aboriginal community living in Wilcannia, as their ancestors had, being the traditional home of the Barkindji people (‘barka’ meaning ‘river’) and Paakantji people of the Darling River (which they called the Paaka). Paakantji means ‘River People’.1, 2

Wilcannia, is thought to mean ‘a gap in the bank where flood waters escape’ in the local dialect.

European History
The Surveyor-General Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European to the area in 1835, who travelled along the banks of the Darling River from Bourke to what is now Menindee. Settlers soon moved into the region in the 1840s, establishing a village in the 1860s as a result of growing trade that travelled up and down the Darling. At this stage the village was known as Mount Murchison Station, a name chosen by Thomas Mitchell.

It was June 1886 that the town of Wilcannia was proclaimed, being incorporated as a municipality in 1881. During this decade Wilcannia became the third largest shipping port on the Darling River, servicing not only the river but the expanding coach and road transport travellers.

With the discovery of gold at Mount Browne, trade increase, but the larger deposit at Broken Hill and Silverton saw a decline in the town's importance. With the discovery of the opal fields at White Cliffs in the 1890s, trade to Wilcannia increased, being the central supply source for the opal miners, who came there to spend some of their wealth. With the decline in the steamer trade along the Darling, and the increase of road and rail, the town declined in importance.

In addition to our listed online travel guide information, contact the local tourism visitor centre for your destination for more attractions, tours, local maps and other information.

Information Centre

Wilcannia Telecentre and Visitor Information
37 Reid Street
Ph: 08 8083 8910

Broken Hill Visitor Information Centre

Menindee Visitors Information Centre

Wilcannia Attractions

Wilcannia Golf Club
• Ph: 08 8091 5902 • Fax: 08 8091 5965
Nine hole golf course, grass fairways, bowls green.
Centre Lift Bridge
Completed in 1896, this was the first bridge, crossing of the Darling River between Wentworth and Bourke. Prior to its construction, all stock and vehicular traffic crossed by punts, although on occasions large herds of cattle were swum across the river, led by a trained bullock.

The bridge is a classical example of the vertical lift span bridges that were built over western NSW rivers in that period. Designed by J.A. McDonald, its steel truss construction is supported by cylindrical piers founded on the river bed. The central span lifts vertically on wire ropes balanced by counterweights located at each corner town allowing river boats and their heavily laden barges to pass unhindered on the high river.

The bridge, now listed with the National Trust, is one of the few remaining examples of the 23 movable bridges built on the Murray-Darling river system.

With the construction of the New Highway Bridge, the historic lift span bridge is no longer in operation and serves as a pedestrian walkway.

Source: Heritage signage

To see the earliest example of a lift-up bridge, read our article with images about North Burke Bridge.
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• Wilcannia Images
Paddlesteamer passing under the Wilcannia Bridge at low river level, c. 1900.
Paddlesteamer passing under the Wilcannia Bridge
Centre Lift Bridge, Wilcannia, NSW, Australia.
Wilcannia Bridge
The River People - The Karkindji Tribe - Wilcannia
The River People
Bullock teams at the Darling River near Wilcannia, 1886.
Bullock teams at the Darling River near Wilcannia

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Wilcannia Distance

Distance to Wilcannia
• Following are some approximate distances by road to Wilcannia:
Bourke 421
• Brewarrina 518
Broken Hill 197
• Cobar 261
• Hay 392
Ivanhoe 182
Louth 238
Menindee 156
• Nyngan 392
Sydney 953
Wentworth 463
White Cliffs 94
Distances given are only approximation, they should be verified with the appropriate maps.
The Australian Automotive Motoring Associations also offer select access to travel trip planners.

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Wilcannia Other Links

• Wilcannia Community/Local Government Links
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