JOHN OXLEY DISCOVERS
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.
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
noted in his
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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
the following year Oxley was instructed by Governor Macquarie to
explore the course of the Macquarie River:
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
waters, would be discovered by following its course.
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.