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John Oxley - Moreton Bay - Governor Report 1823 - Brisbane River Discovery

Article Index
John Oxley - Moreton Bay - Governor Report 1823
Red Cliff Point
Brisbane River Discovery
Moreton Bay District
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Early on the second day (Decr. 2nd), in pursuing our examination, we had the satisfaction to find the tide sweeping us up a considerable inlet, opening between the first mangrove island and the mainland. The muddiness and taste of the water, together with the abundance of fresh water mollusca, assured us we were entering a large river, and a few hours ended our anxiety on that point by the water becoming perfectly fresh, while no diminution had taken place in the size of the river, after passing what I have called "Sea Reach."

Our progress up the river was necessarily retarded by the necessity we were under of making a running survey during our passage. At sunset we had proceeded about 20 miles by the river; the scenery was peculiarly beautiful; the country on the banks alternately hilly and level, but not flooded; the soil of the finest description of brushwood land, on which grew timber of great magnitude, and of various species, some of which were unknown to us, among others a magnificent species of pine was in great abundance. The timber on the hills was also good, and to the S.E. a little distance from the river were several brushes or forests of the Cupressus Australis of very large size.

Up to this point, the river was navigable for vessels not drawing more than 16 feet water; the tide rose about five feet, being the same as at the entrance. The next day, the examination was resumed and with increased satisfaction we proceeded about 30 miles further, no diminution having taken place either in the breadth or depth of the river, except in one place, for the extent of about 30 yards, a ridge of detached rocks extending across, having no more than 12 feet on them at high water. From this point to Termination Hill, the river continued of nearly uniform size, the country on either side of a very superior description and equally well adapted for cultivation or grazing, the timber abundant and fit for all the purposes of domestic use or exportation. The pine trees, if they should prove of good quality, were of a scantling, sufficient for the topmasts of large ships, some measured upwards of 30 inches in diameter, and from 50 to 80 feet without a branch.

The boat's crew were so exhausted by their continued exertions under a vertical sun, that I was reluctantly compelled to relinquish my intention of proceeding to the termination of tidewater at this time. At this place, the tide rose about 4 feet 6 inches, the force of the ebb tide and current united being little greater than the flood tide, a proof of its flowing through a very level country. Having concluded upon terminating at the point the examination of the river (being 70 miles from the vessel and out stock of provisions expended, not having anticipated such a discovery), I landed on the south shore for the purpose of examining the surrounding country. On ascending a low hill rising about 25 feet above the level of the river, we saw a distant mountain (which I conjectured to be the high peak of Captain Flinders) bearing S. 1 1/2 E., dis't from 25 to 30 miles. Round from this point; to the N.W. the country declined considerably in elevation, and had much the appearance of an immense extended plains, of low and undulating hills and vales, well but not heavily wooded, the only elevations of magnitude were some hills 700 or 800 feet high, which we had passed to the northward. The appearance and formation of the country, the slowness of the current even the ebb tide and depth of water, induce me to conclude that the river will be found navigable for vessels of burden to a much greater distance, probably not less than 50 miles. There was no appearance of the river being even occasionally flooded, no mark being found more than 7 feet above the level which is little more than would be cause be the flood tide at high water forcing back any unusual accumulation of water in rainy seasons.

A consideration of all the circumstances connected with the appearance of the river justify me in entertaining a strong belief that the sources of this river will not be found in a mountainous country, most probably from some large collection of interior waters, the reservoir of those streams crossed by me during an expedition of discovery in 1818, and which had a northerly course; whatever may be its origin, it is by far the largest fresh water river on the Eastern Coast of New South Wales, and promises to be of the utmost importance to the colony, as, besides affording a water communication with the Southern Countries bordering upon Liverpool Plains, it waters a vast extent of country, a great portion of which appeared to me capable of supporting the cultivation of the richest production of the tropics. I afterwards proceeded a few miles to the S.E. from the river through a gently broken country of good soil, declining in elevation towards the south, the High Peak before mentioned being the only remarkable eminence from N.E., to south.

As the position of the entrance of the river was still to be fixed and the channel examined, I lost no time returning down the river with the ebb tide, and I stopped for the night at the base of green hills, the highest of which was ascended the next morning and the view from it more extensive than I anticipated. The high coast range, of which Mt. Warning is the nucleus, appeared gradually to lose itself westward and with the exception of the peak before mentioned, and which appears to be the termination of the north extreme of the Mt. Warning Range, there was scarcely an elevation above the ordinary level of the country to be seen; if any such range of hills had place within 50 or 60 miles, it could not have escaped observation.

So much time was spent in the examination of the country about Sea Reach that it was quite dark when we got to the entrance of the river, which, out of respect to His Excellency the Governor under whose orders this bay was examined, was now honoured with the name of Brisbane River. The whole of the next day was spent in sounding the entrance and traversing the country in the vicinity of Red Cliff Point; and we did not reach the vessel until late in the night of the 5th Decr., amply gratified in the discovery of this important river, as we sanguinely anticipated the most beneficial consequences as likely to result to the colony by the formation of a settlement on its banks.



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