Brewarrina: Ancient Fish Traps

Culgoa National Park


Culgoa is a remote national park offering scenic views, free camping, birdwatching, picnicking, and a number of enjoyable day walks through the varied landscape.

Some landscapes are iconic, like a scenic view ready-made for a postcard, or something out of legend. Culgoa is outback colours: ochre and brown and yellow, scorched by the sun. It’s also majestic river red gums and wide grassy floodplains, with wildflowers blooming after the wet season. And it’s the coolabah tree, a native species made famous by the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda. Indeed, Culgoa has more coolabah woodland than any other national park in NSW.

Visitors to Culgoa will find a fascinating park filled with Aboriginal history and the legacy of colonial pastoralists who once worked the land. And there’s plenty to do, too, from fishing in the river after the rains to birdwatching and spotting nocturnal animals – brushtail possums and little pied bats, for example, are most active at night.

Canoeing, Waterskiing and Boating

Whether you like it fast or slow on the water you’ll find some scenic and uncrowded spots to enjoy along the Barwon/ Darling River. Bring your gear to enjoy these great spots.

Less than four miles on a bitumen road from Brewarrina is a very popular spot known as the 4-Mile Reserve, providing locals and travelers with a scenic and uncrowded place to enjoy activities such as canoeing, boating and water skiing. There is a  boat ramp, jetty, bbq facilities, toilets and cold showers all available.

Kayak & Boat hire is also available by calling 0428247824.

Hospital Creek Massacre Site

The Hospital Creek Massacre site is located on the Goodooga Road. Many stories surround the story of the Hospital Creek Massacre. There are accounts that a white boundary rider from ‘Quantambone Station’ took an Aboriginal woman and then was attacked and killed by the native men. The whites, in retribution, rounded up the natives, chased them over the river and eventually slaughtered them at Hospital Creek.

It is said that 400 Aboriginal people were killed on that day. The Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council has erected a monument at this historical site, which can be viewed at Hospital Creek, 27km’s out on the Goodooga Road.

The Wandering Jew Wreck

The Wandering Jew was an iron paddle steamer originally called Riverina, built by J.Duncan and Partner in Echuca during 1866. With a tonnage of 87 tons and fitted with a 10 horse power engine, the steamer was registered in Sydney (British Register of Ships, 88 of 1866).

During a turbulent life, the vessel was burnt on three recorded occasions. Historian Ronald Parsons noted alterations to the steamer in 1875, when the tonnage was reduced to 66 tons gross. A significant event occurred on 2 April 1883 when the vessel was burnt to the waterline.

Subsequently rebuilt and re-registered by November 1890, the vessel was renamed Wandering Jew named after a former Jewish owner, Mr Burgher. The ‘Jew’ held the record from Brewarrina to Walgett and back, loaded both ways – 5 1/2 days. An average load of wool on the ‘Jew’ was 27 tons with barges sometimes carrying an additional 80 tons. After a survey in July 1897, the vessel was no longer allowed to carry wool on deck. Further fire damage occurred on 11 May 1898, but was repaired (Parsons, 1961). By 1903, the Wandering Jew was owned by a Mr George White and was recorded as the last steamer to reach Walgett in 1912.

On 15 December 1914 the Wandering Jew was again burnt, this time at Brewarrina, and became a total loss. The last known register entry for the vessel was in March 1914. The steamer appears to have had a strong association with this port and was photographed near the important Aboriginal fish traps in the river there (Phillipps, 1972, date of photograph unspecified).

The wreck site has been located within the Barwon River at Brewarrina. The Journal of the Bourke & District Historical Society refers to remains of the Wandering Jew exposed in the river during drought, presumably in the 1930’s. However, the construction of a weir just downstream of the site has ensured that only the highest part of the wreck, what appears to be a small boiler is exposed. The Wandering Jew had a length 72 feet (21.95 m), breadth 14.4 feet (4.4m) and depth 5 feet (1.5m). Its Official Number was ON38804.

Fishing and Camping

Brewarrina is famous for its fishing.  Renowned as the ‘Fishing Capital of the West’, it’s a mecca for many fisherman throughout Australia, who return each year to enjoy its peaceful tranquillity and reap the rich rewards from fishing this bountiful section of river to catch Murray Cod, Yellowbelly, Black Bream and Catfish.

Popular fishing spots include the Straight, Black Stump, Boomerang Island, Barwon Bridge Boat Ramp, 4-mile Camping Reserve and 6-mile Reserve up stream of Brewarrina.   Locals suggest floating bait near snags or from the sloping bank and trying imitation frog lures for Yellowbelly. Fresh shrimp is excellent bait. Bait is available at the Service Station and fishing licences can be obtained from the Brewarrina Court House.


Historical Brewarrina Barwon Bridge

The Brewarrina Barwon Bridge is one of only 2 remaining lift span bridges in NSW that allowed traffic to cross over the Barwon River. It lifted in the centre and allowed paddle steamers to continue up and down the river.

The Bridge was a technically sophisticated structure when built in 1889 and required two men to wind a pulley mechanism to lift the spans – this was latter modified in 1913 so that only one person was required to operate it.

The bridge is recognised as being of NSW State significance as it contributed significantly to the social and commercial development of north western New South Wales and opened up the ‘back country’ in the late 1800’s



Bird Watching

The Brewarrina Shire is a wonderful place to go birdwatching because seeing birds is easy, they are everywhere you look.

Wherever you go, there are birds. Not just along the river banks, but on farmlands, parks, on the tallest of trees and even in the driest areas of the shire.

Birdwatchers in Brewarrina are lucky because there are so many different birds to see, and many of them are charismatic and colourful, have beautiful songs, and many of them are easy to see.

The beauty of birdwatching is its free to be done anywhere and anytime you feel like it.Watching birds can take on many different forms. For most people it is a relaxing pastime which allows them to head out into the fresh air and visit places they may not usually go. Some enjoy the freedom of solitude it can provide while others see it as a social experience, meeting with people who share a common interest. For others it is the lure of the chase which ignites their passion. Still others look upon birds as environmental indicators and use them to understand how the natural world is faring.

Whatever drives birdwatchers, almost all agree — they like watching birds to appreciate their beauty and freedom, and because it’s enjoyable.

State Heritage Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission


The Mission at Brewarrina opened in 1886 on a site 14km upstream from the township of Brewarrina on the Barwon River. Aboriginal people from different tribes and family groups from outlaying stations and communities as far away as Tiboburra and Angledool were forcibly moved from their traditional homes and relocated to Brewarrina.

The Brewarrina Mission became home to people from the Ngemba, Murrawarri, Weilan, Gamilaraay, Wiradjuri, Yorta-Yorta, Barkindji, Wongaibon, Koamu and Burranbinja Tribes. Mission life caused tremendous disruption to the way Aboriginal people lived, as european influences were imposed.

It was generally forbidden for Aboriginal people to practice their traditional culture and use their traditional language resulting in the destruction of traditional social structures.

Permission must be obtained from the local Aboriginal Land Council to enter the Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission.

Aboriginal Cultural Museum

The Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum stands at a site which has been of great importance to Aboriginal people in the north west New South Wales for tens of thousands of years.

Brewarrina Aboriginal and Cultural Museum is a no holds barred, Indigenous account of Australia’s history from the beginning of time right through to today. It depicts an inspiring story. Indigenous Outback legends are shared via a blend of storytelling, guided tours, performance, audio visual technology and personal recollection.  The story through time is fraught with emotion – expect deep sadness, anger, wonder and laughter as well as a real sense of the persistent dignity and survival of Indigenous Australians.

Above all else expect to find hope for an Australian culture and indeed a world culture of true and mutual respect.  In the ancient tradition of storytelling the Ngemba, Ualarai, Weilwan and Baranbinja people trace the footsteps of their ancient ones, sharing stories that many thought long since forgotten. These are true stories, important stories. These stories belong to all Australians.

For more information:

Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps

The Brewarrina Fish Traps are a complex arrangement of stone walls situated in the Barwon River which feeds into the Darling River. Nearly half a kilometre in length, these fish traps are the largest known in Australia and were an ingenious invention long used by Aboriginal people to catch fish.

The age of these fish traps is unknown and they may be one of the oldest human constructions in the world. They have been listed on the State Heritage Register and the National Heritage List. Aboriginal legend explains that they are an ancient Dreamtime site built by Baiame and his two sons Booma-ooma-nowi and Ghinda-inda-mui.