The 1956 Murray River flood involved the rising of waters in the Murray River and flooding of many towns in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The flood occurred due to higher than average rainfalls in Western Queensland and heavy rains in the proceeding three months in the Murray-Darling basin.[1] Flood waters moved down the Murray and Darling rivers for seven months and peaked between 11 and 14 August at Merbein in Victoria[2] and 12.3 metres (40 ft) at Morgan in South Australia.[1] Some areas were flooded up to 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the natural flow of the river. The flood was and still is considered the biggest flood in the recorded history of the Murray and described as "the greatest catastrophe in South Australia's history",[3] in spite of no lives being lost.

From upstream to downstream, flooding occurred in the towns of Wentworth in New South Wales; Colignan, Iraak, Mildura, Nangiloc, and Red Cliffs in Victoria; and Mannum, Murray Bridge, and Renmark to store high flows from the Darling River.[1]


Mannum, South Australia

1956 flood in Mannum

0 deaths, Hotels in the main street of Mannum operated their bars from the second floor with boats tying up to the balcony. The flood water broke the levee bank on 24 August, and had not fully receded until Christmas. To many locals it is common knowledge that the beginning of the roof on the Visitors' Centre in Main Street was the height in Main Street.[4]

Mildura, Victoria

Flood markers at Lock 11, Mildura. The second red marking from the top is where the river reached in 1956.

In 2006, historic flood markers were erected at Apex Park and the lawns of the Mildura Rowing Club at Mildura, indicating the height the river reached in 1956. Additional markers are to be erected at various locations along the river from Wentworth to Colignan.[5] Several towns in South Australia also have depth markers showing how high the floodwaters rose.

Wentworth, New South Wales

The town of Wentworth, located on the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers, erected a statue in 1959 in honour of the Fergie TE20 tractor, responsible for helping to erect a levee around the town which kept floodwaters at bay for months.[6] A tractor rally is also held every five years to celebrate the Fergie.[7]

In popular culture

Author Philip Pullman used his childhood memories of being taken to see the flood as a basis for his 2017 fantasy novel La Belle Sauvage.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Past droughts and floods". State Library of South Australia. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2007.
  2. ^ "1956 Murray River Floods". Discover Murray Mallee. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  3. ^ "The greatest River Murray flood eclipses 1956 levels" (Press release). University of South Australia. 13 September 2002. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  4. ^ Negus, George (7 June 2004). "1956 Murray Flood". George Negus Tonight. Australia: ABC TV. Archived from the original (transcript) on 11 August 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  5. ^ "1956 flood markers in place". ABC News. Australia. 25 October 2006.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Wentworth Walk". Wentworth Visitor Information Center. Number 10, "Tractor Monument". Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Wentworth Tractor Rally". Wentworth Visitor Information Center. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  8. ^ Ho, Olivia (24 October 2017). "His Dark Materials universe draws Philip Pullman back for new trilogy". The Straits Times. Singapore. Retrieved 27 January 2018.

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