Early sketch of the Grant area, as extracted from publication “G12988_285M2” from Geological Survey of Victoria, Earth Resources Policy and Programs
Dargo Crooked River and the Goldfields Gippsland
The Crooked River is a perennial river of the Mitchell River catchment, located in the Alpine region of the Australian state of Victoria.
Formed by the confluence of the Twenty Five Mile Creek and Thirty Mile Creek, the Crooked River rises below The Tablelands, the fourth highest mountain pass in Victoria, within the Great Dividing Range, south of Dinner Plain. The river flows in a highly meandering course, generally south by west, joined by two minor tributaries before reaching its confluence with the Wongungarra River between the small settlements of Howittville and Winchester, within the Alpine National Park in the Shire of Wellington. The river descends 366 metres over its 26 kilometre course.
Aboriginal Brabralung dialect of the Gunai/Kuani language, two variant names for the Crooked River are given as Dow-wirra, meaning “dry tree” and Nirlung, meaning “plenty of water-hens”.
The Dargo pastoral run covered the river valley but a township of Dargo did not develop until gold was discovered in the rivers of the district.
In 1860, a government prospecting party, led by A.W. Howitt, explored the tributaries of the Mitchell River, being the Dargo, Wonnangatta, Wongungarra and Crooked Rivers north and north-west of Dargo. Evidence of mining was found on the Dargo River. However, better prospects were found on the Crooked River and a rush quickly ensued. Hotels and stores were established at Dargo to supply the miners. In 1863, payable gold was discovered in the Upper Dargo River and several small settlements sprang up there.
The terrain was rugged and access to the diggings difficult, so in 1864 government parties cut a dray road from Dargo to the Crooked River field and tracks linking the diggings with Omeo and with Harrietville across the Dargo High Plains. In 1864, quartz reefs were discovered on the ridges in the course of cutting a track between the Crooked and Dargo Rivers. However, another settlement on top of the ridge, finally known as Grant, quickly became the principal town on the goldfield. By the end of 1864 there were approximately 1000 people in the area.
Despite its promise, the Crooked River field quickly waned. By 1875, there were only 140 people at Grant and about 120 on the Crooked River. By the late 1880s, most settlements were deserted. The longest survivor, Talbotville, on the Crooked River, was abandoned in the 1940s.
The information below and images are snippets taken from High Country History, there is a series of documents aimed at pinpointing important mines of the Crooked River and surrounding goldfields, well worth a visit to their site if this is off interest to you.
The 2007 bush fires that swept the High country provided opportunity to re-discover the past of
the Dargo – Crooked River goldfield. Although now a Heritage Area, this great resource lies untapped as far as those really interested in a personal discovery of Grant’s mining history is concerned. Whilst the road infrastructure is enjoyed by the Four Wheel Drive, and Trail Ride community, and wonderful mountain views abound, most will drive right by the finer detail, as the mines and structures of the park are nowhere fully or accurately mapped. Most are inaccessible, located in the most inhospitable places.
These notes and pictures in this set were produced in a “window of opportunity” that may not be
repeated in the author’s lifetime. They are a result of extensive exploration following the fires of the
summer of 2006-7. A wonderful opportunity presented, with the forest floor being cleaned in most places to bare ash, and access unencumbered by scrub or blackberries.
Unfortunately, in the years since those fires, not only has the bush re-grown, but large downpours of
100 mm during a storm in Feb 2007, followed by 325 mm in the downpours of July 2007, washed great amounts of topsoil into the rivers and gullies, leaving many slopes covered in loose rock, “scree”, that makes walking extremely difficult. Because the fires “crowned” in many areas, the extra sunlight reaching the forest floor has enabled the shrub, blackberries, and wattles to grow more profusely than previously. Access is now becoming impossible in areas that were previously an easy walk. In many places, tracks that had been visible for over one hundred years have become almost untraceable.
Of particular disappointment, immense mud and rock slides have covered the once exposed remains
of the Good Hope battery site, and items of great historical importance are no longer visible. The
Mountaineer battery has, since our first visit, been undermined, and toppled into Good Luck Creek.
The assistance of Beechworth historian, mapper and researcher, Fred Savage is greatly appreciated,
and his thorough work on checking leases and correspondence has resulted in some revision of mine
names and locations as shown on several popular maps. (Mines in the Grant Historic Area originally fell within the Beechworth Mining District) Andrew Swift, who was employed by Heritage Victoria to map sites following the 2003 fires, has been of invaluable assistance. His sharp eye and knowledge of early mining process’ has enabled us to find and identify sites and objects most would walk right past.
Cattle on the way to the Dargo High Plains