Blanchetown is a small country town with a population of 150 (2004), built on top of the cliffs which overlook the Murray River. It lies 130 kilometres from Adelaide by road, and 274 kilometres along the river from the mouth of the Murray River. However, at this point the river is still only 3.6 metres above sea level!! The town is situated just north of the Goyder’s Line, a demarcation point between non-irrigated and irrigated farming, which dictates farming methods in the area.
Blanchetown was first surveyed in October 1855, and is now considered to be the entrance to the Riverland, a region of South Australia that lies within the central-eastern section of the state. The town was a major transportation hub in the 19th century, as local produce was brought to town to be distributed by the riverboat system. The town grew when the customs house was built, which dealt with the produce being shipped to Victoria and New South Wales. In 1922, the first lock was built at Blanchetown, part of the 13 lock and weir water control system, developed to improve the use of the river for commercial transport and irrigation. Unfortunately, although the infrastructure was in place for Blanchetown to grow, the railway line which was laid to Morgan, took much of the business and Blanchetown gradually slowed economically, to its present level.
Today Blanchetown is a small service centre, relying on a little tourism from the river and highway traffic on the Sturt Highway (National Route A20).
For your information.
There are a number of historic buildings in Blanchetown built in the 1850’ and 1860’s, these can be discovered with the aid of a locally compiled booklet entitled ‘Blanchetown Historical Walk’, which can be purchased for $3 at the local tourist information centre.
The Goyder’s Line was the discovery of George W. Goyder, who in 1865 discovered that Mallee scrub grew to the south, while Saltbush grew to the north of the line, which actually reflected rainfall. It was determined that north of the line rainfall was not adequate or consistent enough for agriculture, and this has been proven many times, as can be seen by the deserted farm buildings.
It seems strange to say Blanchetown had a Customs House, however pre Federation, each state was actually an independent entity, responsible for border control and passage of goods.
Blanchetown was named after Lady Blanche, wife of the sixth Governor of South Australia, Sir Richard Mac Donnell.