The Mighty Darling Moves On

North Bourke Bridge near the peak of the flood. Photo by former Bourke local, Harrison Fittler

The peak of the huge flow down the Darling River has swept past the township of Bourke, through Louth and Tilpa, and is flowing into Menindee Lakes, leaving widespread flooding.

At its highest point, on 14th January, the river at Bourke reached 12.29 metres, but it was the visible change to the landscape that had the most impact, with familiar landmarks, tracks, riverbanks, fencing and infrastructure underwater.

Although the flood has caused some damage across large parts of the catchment, it has been a relief to see the recent drought conditions swept away by rain and river flows.

For Bourke artist Jenny Greentree, the floods brought an opportunity to swap her palette from the colours of the dry red earth to crystal clear water.

“It’s just been glorious, especially if you are lying low because of COVID,” Jenny said.

“I’m sitting on my back deck with river views, watching the water restoring the countryside – it’s so peaceful and beautiful.”

Social media pages have been lit up with images of the Darling in flood, with a photo by local, Sam Rice, capturing Jenny’s eye.

“I saw that photo and had already been up with Ross Williams in his gyrocopter taking reference photos,” Jenny said.

“I had already been planning a painting based on my flight, and will use Sam’s photo as reference, to capture the river from May’s Bend to Gundabooka, with the water illuminated by that amazing sunset.

“I have been so inspired by the flood, and that will be what I base my exhibition on this year.

“The wonderful light makes it look like there’s a party on the river and I thought I’d call the exhibition ‘The Darling Celebrates’.

“When you think about the last couple of years - the pandemic, drought, and flood and the mice plague - this clear water is symbolic of a cleansing.

“The river is joyfully moving on after all its hard times and maybe it’s a time of healing and restoration and rejoicing for us too,” Jenny said.

For Dunlop Station owner and manager, Kim Chandler, the floods meant isolation – and renewal.

“There was water almost as far as you could see, all around the house and we couldn’t go very far,” Kim said.

“We were lucky to have plenty of warning and good supplies in because the tracks were all covered.

“It’s lucky we can tell from the trees where our tracks should be but looking at aerial shots it’s hard to find normality in the landscape.

“We couldn’t get access to parts of our property, so we’ll check the damage after the floods subside. {…}

Jenny Greentree with her river painting. Photo TWH

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