Monday, April 6, 2009

For better, for worse, Dimboola

Immortalised in art and literature, this Wimmera town
doggedly keeps its heart and humour whatever the weather. Writer Erin O'Dwyer and photographer Frances Mocnik report from Dimboola, in north-western Victoria, for Australian Geographic.
Photo: Frances Mocnik

THE DRY RIVERBED that borders Riverside, Denis Elliott’s “host” farm, is sandy beneath our feet. It’s littered with driftwood and mussel shells. A bilious-green waterhole supports a few die-hard European carp. A family of wood ducks parades
among exposed tree roots.
“Water is only two-thirds of a river,” says farmer-turned-tourist operator Denis. “The big trees, the banks and all the nature…that makes up the rest. And while there are still some waterholes, it’s still bringing in the birds.”
The Wimmera River is the longest landlocked river in Victoria. It rises in Mount Cole State Forest, 30 km east of Ararat, and more than 200 km downstream cuts its swathe throughDimboola, and then drains into Lake Hindmarsh, Victoria’s largest freshwater lake. Currently the lake’s dry; the river too. At Riverside, the Wimmera in full flow is 100 m wide by 13 deep.
“It’s quite an expanse of water when it’s level,” says Denis’s wife, Cheryl. “A lot of people don’t realise the river is so close [to Dimboola] if they haven’t been before. But if they come for the desert, then the river doesn’t matter.”
Everyone in Dimboola has a picture of the good times. The Wimmera flowing; kids fishing off jetties, their dogs in tow; rowing boats gliding through the morning mist. The river has been dry for four years. For the past three, the 122nd Dimboola
Regatta has been cancelled. But this is Dimboola and nobody is counting.
Read more in issue No 94 of Australian Geographic

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