The inland River Port of Morgan was once one of the busiest inland ports in Australia. It is located on the North-West Bend of the River Murray in South Australia, about 320 kms by water to Lake Alexandrina.
Historically, the River Murray was the inland super highway. It saw the development of a thriving freight and passenger service to River towns on both the lower Darling and Murray Rivers.
Morgan became a freight and produce hub to the Port of Adelaide and was proclaimed a Town in 1878 when the railway line was opened. There were six trains a day to transfer freight, mostly wool, to Adelaide and provide supplies to a large upstream region surrounding both rivers.
Morgan was the busiest River Port in Australia from the 1880’s to 1910. Old Newspaper stories of the era refer to Paddle Steamers and Barges backed up half a mile waiting to get access to the three tiered Wharf of over 400 ft in length.
The inland River Port of Morgan
This was printed in the Australian Handbook in 1885 – “The inland River Port of Morgan…the river terminus of the Kapunda and North-West Bend Railway is an important Government township…A wharf nearly 400 feet in length with 4 steam cranes is provided for the shipment and discharge of goods to and from the interior. Morgan is the chief place for shipping goods an stores to stations on the river, and receiving their produce, particularly wool. During the season 1883-4 there were received 19,012 bales of wool and the exports during 1883 were valued at £238,453,
A goods and engine shed are here, a telegraph station, savings bank, and money-order office, an agency of the Bank of Adelaide, and a primitive Methodist chapel. Hotels; Terminus and Commercial. Steamers carrying mail and passengers leave weekly for Wentworth. Morgan is in daily communication with Adelaide by rail. Population 361.”
River trade had drastically declined by 1918 although Morgan saw a brief resurgence when the irrigation towns were established upstream.
The last paddle-wheelers to work out of Morgan, in the early 1950s, were the tourist vessels, PS Gem and PS Marion. The railway to Morgan finally closed in 1969.
Most of the historic building are still in good and original condition and there is a worthwhile walking trail around the town to explore them.
The town survives today because of the Houseboat holiday market with many based there, and day trippers from Adelaide.
All of the Murray River is a rewarding exploration trip, the former inland river port of Morgan is worth a few nights stay to enjoy the 1960’s hospitality and have the time to soak up its rich history.