John Oxley's route from Bathurst.

After the crossing of the Blue Mountains, Macquarie, encouraged by Evan's report, next decided that a road should be built to the plains which stretched away to the west from the Macquarie River. In 1816 he visited the district and on 7th May selected a site for a township which became Bathurst. But Macquarie was not content to let the matter rest there, and in the following year instructed John Oxley, Surveyor-General. to take charge of a party, whose task was to explore the land lying beyond Bathurst. Oxley, joined by Evans and the botanist, Allan Cunningham, was directed to ascertain the course of the river system and to note, in particular, whether it fell into the ocean or discharged its waters into a huge inland sea. Should the river enter the sea, the mouth should be carefully examined to find out whether it might provide a suitable site for a port from which the produce of the interior could be shipped.

The party left Sydney on 6th April and some fourteen days later arrived at Bathurst, where they were delayed for some days on account of bad weather.

The next stage, to the Lachlan River, was completed without incident and the party continued downstream until, striking marshes, Oxley decided to strike out in a south-westerly direction. He hoped that, should the river flow into Spencer's Gulf or thereabouts, he would be able to rejoin it further downstream. Passing through drought-stricken country, the party suffered from inadequate water supplies and were forced to retrace their steps. Returning to the Strangford Plains, they next proceeded in a north-westerly direction and, after passing through thickly wooded but barren country and open plains, crossed a number of small streams. On the evening of 18th August they camped in a "romantic glen" with the intention of pressing forward next day towards a "fine and spacious valley" which had been sighted earlier in the day.

Oxley noted in his journal:

The stream in the glen running north-easterly encouraged us to hope that we should ultimately be rewarded by finding a considerable stream in the valley ... The glen, which was to afford us access to it, we named Glenfinlass: it might, perhaps, be properly, termed the glen of many windings, as it was formed of several detached lofty hills, between each of which deep ravines were formed, communicating in times of rain these waters to their main one.

Next morning the party broke camp and followed the glen, until about a mile and a half further along they came into the valley which they had sighted on the previous day:

Imagination cannot fancy anything more beautifully picturesque,Oxley wrote, "than the scene which burst upon us. The breadth of the valley to the base of the opposite gently rising hills was between three and four miles, studded with fine trees, upon a soil which for richness can nowhere be excelled ... In the centre of this charming valley ran a strong and beautiful stream, its bright transparent waters dashing over a gravelly bottom, intermingled with large stones, forming at short intervals considerable pools, in which the rays of the sun were reflected with a brilliancy equal to that of the most polished mirror.

Crossing the stream, Oxley proceeded along its bank until his path was stopped by "a very fine river", the long sought Macquarie, which at this point equalled in size the Hawkesbury at Windsor and was much larger than the river at Bathurst.

The party decided to spend a couple of days in the valley, so that its location might be plotted and the northern banks of the Macquarie explored. The river running through the valIey was named in honour of Brevet Major Bell of the 48th Regiment; the stream by which the party had camped on the 18th would in future be known as Molle's Rivulet; whilst the valley was called the Wellngton Valley in honour of the Duke of Wellington. The days were filled in exploring the valley, of which Oxley wrote with some satisfaction:

Among the other agreeable consequences that have resulted from discovering the river in this second Vale of Tempe may be enumerated, as not the least, the abundance of fish and emus with which we have been supplied; swans, and ducks, were also within our reach, but we had no shot. Very large muscles were found growing among the reeds along some of the reaches; many exceeded six inches in length, and three and a half in breadth, Traces of cattle were found in various places ... which are now doubtless straying through the country.

On 20th August, accompanied by Evans and Cunning­ham, Oxley set out to explore the lower reaches of the Macquarie and was well satisfied with the rich and beautiful country that opened to our view in every direction.

Alternate fine grazing hills, fertile flats and valleys, formed its general outline; whilst the river, an object of peculiar interest, was sometimes contracted to a width of from sixty to eighty feet between rocky cliffs of vast perpendicular height, and again expanded into noble and magnificent reaches of the width of at least two hundred feet, washing some of the richest tracts of land that can be found in any country. . . We passed through this charming countryside for upwards of twelve miles, the course of the river during that time being nearly north, and from appearances we thought it must continue in that direction for a considerable distance farther.

Their horses rested and their meagre food supplies replenished with wild life and fish caught in the river, the party set out on their return journey to Bathurst, where they arrived on 29th August, after "nineteen harassing weeks" absence from that settlement.

In the following year Oxley was instructed by Governor Macquarie to explore the course of the Macquarie River:

The general appearance of the country of New South Wales and the magnitude of the Macquarie River .. , has caused the most sanguine expectation to be entertained. that either a communication with the ocean, or interior navigable waters, would be discovered by following its course.

However, the subsequent journey proved beyond doubt that the Macquarie entered neither the ocean nor an inland sea.

Within 6 years the peace of the valley would be shattered by the noises of a convict settlement.