Menindee. The railway from Sydney reached here in 1919 and only crossed the River Darling in 1927. Used for the Indian Pacific, freight and Silver City Comet train these days.
Menindee Lakes. The town is surrounded by around 20 lakes which traditionally only filled with water from the Darling River in good seasons. A water storage system was begun in 1949 and completed in 1960. The storage capacity is three and a half times the capacity of Sydney harbour. Lake Menindee is the largest lake and is 16 kms by 14 kms. A system of weirs maintains water holding capacity and channels divert some water for local irrigation of vines and crops and some is piped to Broken Hill. Seven of the twenty lakes of the region are now controlled by the wirs. Because some lakes are almost permanently flooded many trees on their former edges have now died. The lakes region is a major world water bird breeding area. Irrigation is mainly used for early season table grapes, rock melons, apricots, oranges and tomatoes.
Menindee. The first white explorer to come along this stretch of the Darling River was Major Mitchell in 1835. Charles Sturt followed him in his 1844 explorations of central arid Australia. The white pastoralists came later as the River Darling usually has ample water for grazing and stock. Once Captains Cadell (Goolwa) and Randell (Mannum) of SA proved in 1854 that the Murray River was navigable to the junction with the Darling River the NSW government began to issue pastoral leases for runs along the Darling River in 1855. South Australians featured among these leaseholders. SA explorer John McKinley of Gawler took up Menindel run which was later renamed Kinchega; the Cudmores took up the Avoca run near Wentworth; and Captain Francis Cadell of Goolwa took up land where Menindee now stands. Thomas Pain is believed by some to be the first white man to settle in Menindee in 1852 and in 1853 he began a hotel. But who were the customers when land had not officially been leased to pastoralists? Francis Cadell built a store near the Menindee Hotel in 1856 to capture the river boat trade of supplies to the pastoralists on upstream journeys and wool bales on the downstream journeys. More growth occurred in the 1860s when more stations were taken up and after the notoriety of Burke staying in the Menindee Hotel whilst his men stayed in the camp at Pamamaroo Creek. George Urquhart purchased a 1,000 square mile run in December 1862 which had access to the shores of Lake Menindee. It became Kinchega station. In June 1863 Urquhart bought the 800 square miles of the Menindee run which included Lake Pamamaroo and added it to Kinchega. A South Australian pastoralist John Bristow Hughes of Booyoolie station at Gladstone SA bought Kinchega station from George Urquhart in 1870. Within a few years he had grown that run to two million acres from near Broken Hill to Kinchega. Hughes had his own paddle steamer on the Darling River.
In January 1859 Lieutenant Perry of the NSW Native Police took Aboriginal officers up the Darling River to the Menindee area to settle unrest with the local Aboriginals and to explore new areas of the region. This is probably why the town was first called Perry. Perry township began around 1861 when the first post office opened. Communications were vital to any new town. Perry was changed to Menindie (Menindee from 1918) when the town was officially surveyed and gazetted in 1863. By 1862 Menindee had a police station and lockup as well as the Post Office and hotel and a few shacks as the first land sales had taken place earlier in September 1862. The town grew very slowly and in a few years Wilcannia higher up the Darling River became the major port along the river rather than Menindee. Today Menindee has around 550 residents and town facilities include the hotel, Post Office/store, an Anglican church with services once a month and a Uniting Church, fire station, school and a caravan park and motel. 36% of the population are of Aboriginal descent. The Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth travels through the town twice a week and a weekly train from Sydney to Broken Hill also stops in Menindee. Menindee has an annual rainfall of about 250 mms (9 inches). A few kms outside the town the Menindee Aboriginal Mission was established by the NSW government in 1933 with people from as far away as Wilcannia, Pooncarie and Broken Hill sent there. Conditions were terrible and the mission closed in 1949. The main heritage structure in Menindee is Ah Chung’s bakery built around 1880 and still standing in the main street.