MacCabe Corner

Tuesday, Apr 25, 2017 at 15:19

Stephen L (Clare) SA

MacCabe Corner is a mystery corner and one that is rarely visited for no other reason than its remote location. I like many other people had never heard of this corner before until questions were asked on the ExplorOz Forum and from that time, I made it a goal to visit this lonely spot when we returned to Renmark with our kayak.

Fiona and I are not Riverland locals, but have been spending 10 days in the Riverland every year for more than 20 years, so we feel that we know the area as well as the Riverland locals. One thing that has been very clear from the first replies on how to visit this location, is advise on how to get there from people that do not really know the area very well. Without local knowledge, many replies were to tackle the spot from further north, or further south from Lindsay Point, but we knew that this was incorrect.

The closest point to gain access to MacCabe Corner is through the Murray Sunset National Park and a local area known as Higgins Cutting. To get to this area, first hand knowledge of the area is critical, as none of the tracks into the area are signposted, so if you are not familiar with this area, you simply will not find the Higgins Cutting. As I write this Blog, I will give you first hand easy to follow instructions on how you can visit this area and become one of the very few people to tick this corner from your bucket list.

History of this Lonely Corner

Francis Peter MacCabe was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1817 and died in Bowral, New South Wales in 1897.

On arrival in Australia, MacCabe undertook surveys for the NSW Surveyor General, Sir Thomas Mitchell from 1841 until 1856. In 1856 MacCabe resigned as a Surveyor and worked until 1883 as Manager of the Mt Keira colliery near Wollongong. During his time in the area, he was on the first North Illawarra Council in 1869 and served as its Mayor in 1870.

MacCabe’s Surveys of Western New South Wales.

In 1848 MacCabe began his major surveying work on the rivers of western NSW. He first surveyed the Murrumbidgee River, from its junction with the Lachlan to its junction with the Murray River. From this point, MacCabe continued down the Murray River and reached the Murray-Darling Junction in early September.

Between May and June 1850, MacCabe proceeded to survey west of this Confluence around the northern side of Lake Victoria to Chowilla and returned east along the course of the Murray River.

MacCabe’s maps of the Murrumbidgee, Murray and Darling Rivers are notable for the numerous Indigenous place names that he recorded.

So how did this Corner get named.

On the 5 March 2008, a tri-State meeting was convened in Melbourne between Mr John Tulloch, Victorian Surveyor-General and Registrar of Geographic Names; Mr Warwick Watkins, New South Wales Surveyor-General and Director-General of Lands, Mr Peter Kentich, South Australian Surveyor-General, the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales; and a Victorian Geographic Place Names Committee.

The Members of the meeting resolved to name the south-west corner of New South Wales MacCabe Corner in honour of the Surveyor Francis Peter MacCabe for is significant field surveys in this area. On the 6 September 2008 the MacCabe Corner plaque was officially unveiled by Mr Warick Watkins, Surveyor-General of New South Wales and Mr Chris McRae, Executive Director Land Victoria. Also present at the unveiling were Michael MacCabe, grandson of Francis Peter MacCabe, John Tullock, Surveyor-General of Victoria and Paul Harcombe, Chief Surveyor of New South Wales.

From the time that I started to plan our visit to the corner, I did as much possible research that I could find, and studied both detailed topographical maps of the area as well as Google Earth. These studies showed vehicle tracks very close to the corner and it looked like we may able to drive very close and then just carry our kayak to the corner, so we could then paddle to the other side of the Murray and visit the other State Border Marker that I presumed would be on the opposite side of the Murray. Part of my planning was to have a back up plan in place, just in case that we could not drive to the corner.

Leaving Renmark, we crossed the historic Paringa Lift Span Bridge and then headed out on the Murtho Road that would take us out to the Higgins Cutting area. Upon reaching the junction of Cal-Lal Road, it was time to leave the bitumen and head northeast on this good quality all weather dirt road. Scenery along the early section of Cal-Lal Road is typical Mallee country and then it opens up to Bluebush country until it reaches the Border Track that runs north and south along the State Border of South Australia and Victoria. For future travellers that are unfamiliar with the area, there are no signs that tell you are actually crossing into Victoria, but a stock grid marks the actual crossing and the track still heads further east into Victoria, where you continue over the grid and just keep going east.

Continuing east, you will come to a track junction that again is not signposted. It is at this junction that local knowledge is critical. Instinct will want you to follow the main dirt road around the bend, but it is at this junction that you veer left onto the two wheel sand track and a grove of Almond Trees will be on your right hand side as you follow the track. Within a short distance of following the track, you will now come to the first signs that you are in the right area, a Boundary sign for the Murray Sunset National park and an actual direction sign to Higgins Cutting Boat Ramp.

So far my plans were unfolding as planned but at a point along this track where I intended to head in a northerly direction to the corner, there is now a fence line without any open gates. We followed the track and fence line hoping that there may be an opportunity to get me on track, but unfortunately this was not the case, and the fence continues unbroken to the Murray River. We scouted a couple of possible launching spots, but conditions were not that great, so we retraced our tracks for a short distance and headed to our last resort and plan B of getting to the corner, and launched our kayak at the Higgins Cutting Boat Ramp.

The day was just perfect for our paddle and conditions were perfect on the Murray. Slowly heading downstream, we came to a future waypoint for future visitors, the Murray River Blue and White Marker “652” on the starboard side of the River. Every 2 kilometres from the Murray Mouth, these permanent markers are places on large River Red Gums and what this marker told me, was that we were intact 652 kilometres from the Murray mouth. Getting ever closer to our intended destination there was another permanent waypoint marker, again on the starboard side of the River and this time it is the Black and White “406” Liba Liba Marker. From this point on, we kept an ever vigilant eye out for the MacCabe Corner marker, but thick and dense growth on the Port side of the River had us thinking that we may have a hard job to find the marker.

Another marker that I knew was here and I presumed it might be on the opposite site of the River was the South Australian / New South Wales Border Mark. Then in the distance standing out like a large beacon, I spotted the South Australian / New South Wales Border marker, so we now headed straight for this point.

Finding the best possible spot to get out of our kayak, we climbed up the steep bank armed with my camera and GPS. High on the Bank and on a bend of the river, is the very large Border Marker and it stands out from a long way off. With the location marked on my GPS and lots of images taken with my camera, the last thing that I did was to zoom right in on my telephoto lens and scour the western bank of the Murray for any sign of the special MacCabe Corner marker. Things were not looking positive, so we got back into our kayak and crossed the river and hugged the western bank and were looking in vein for any signs of this special marker. We had now come quite some distance from the SA / NSW Border Marker and then sitting high on the bank and almost obscured by a large River Red Gum and lots of River Cooba’s, was a large white post that caught our attention.

Securing the kayak, we headed up the steep bank and in a very small clearing is this very special marker. The very first thing I did was to GPS mark the post and then took lots of photos. A large tree limb acted as our table and chairs as we had lunch before I again scouted the area. I did find an old single set of wheel tracks, but they were very old and looking back into the distance, they disappeared into a vey low depression and very think vegetation. Seeing these faint marks reassured me that it would have been a very fruitless attempt to try and drive to the corner, and if in fact it was private property or still part of the Murray Sunset National Park.

Back on the River conditions were still perfect and we ever slowly paddled our way back towards Higgins Cutting. During our return paddle, the perfect blue sky was slowly getting more and more cloud cover and it was a 100% dark sky and the occasional sound of distant thunder. Not wanting to be caught out on the water if the thunder was going to set in, we both put a little more muscle work into action and arrived back to the boat ramp just in time. With the car unlocked and in the process of loading things up, it started to rain heavy and the wind came up in vengeance. Then to top things off, the wind blew my Akubra off of my head and out into the River. As quick as the wind had struck, I was stripped off and swam out after my beloved hat. The rain now had set in and we had to get out as quick as possible, as anyone who knows these black soil plains will know just how quick they will turn to very sticky mud.

With mud flicking under our wheels, the odd part now was we were still kicking up dust as we made our way out of the National Park. Once back at the Border Track, we headed north up the as I knew this would be the quickest way to reach bitumen. We stopped for a few more photos and I could not believe the colour of the clouds and the area that we had just left looked like it was now getting a real drenching heavy rainfall. The drive back to Renmark was uneventful and it was great to visit this remote special corner that gets to see very few people. If you are ever in the area and want to enjoy a great paddle and visit this special corner, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to MacCabe Corner. The distance on the water was just over 11.4 kilometres for the complete return paddle, so it can be classed as a very enjoyable and easy paddle suitable for all ages and those with limited kayaking experience.

Stephen Langman

April 2017
Smile like a Crocodile
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