Big River

Big River was an alluvial and reef gold mining area along a river valley of the same name, about 150 km north-east of Melbourne. The Big River rises north of the Great Dividing Range and flows into the Eildon Reservoir. Before the construction of the reservoir the Big River was a tributary of the Goulburn River.

Gold workings began in the Big River in 1854. Ten year later there were two main towns along it. At the place where it joined the Goulburn River there was Darlingford, and about half way back towards its headwaters there was Enoch's Point. Each of these towns had populations of about 300 in 1864, about half of whom were miners, and the others were engaged in farming and carriage of goods to miners on the Big River and elsewhere. Darlingford had four hotels, nine stores, a school (1863) and private dwellings. Enoch's Point had fewer commercial buildings and its school opened in 1870.

Darlingford was situated in an area of river flats and the inhabitants took up farming and grazing. The income was more regular, even if not as spectacular, as that from gold strikes. Enoch's Point did not have much farming land. Both towns suffered when the Eildon reservoir was constructed in 1922. Darlingford was inundated by the reservoir and Enoch's Point's access down the Big River valley was cut off. The school had closed in 1907 and another one between Darlingford and Enoch's Point, named Big River, closed in 1903. It had operated intermittently since opening in 1884.

During the 1930s Depression unemployed workers were encouraged to try gold mining and alluvial sluicing was undertaken along the Big River. Trout fishing has since become a more rewarding occupation, except when the fish are disturbed by modern-day miners using dredges in the river.

Further Reading

John Pilkington, Big River days: a history of the golden times of the Big River Valley and the long gone townships of Darlingford and Enoch's Point, The author, 1996