Wentworth Tourism

Pooncarie History

European settlement of the Pooncarie district is believed to have begun in the 1840’s when settlers headed west to illegally graze livestock on vacant Crown Land between the Murrumbidgee and Lower Darling Rivers.

The settlers were following in the footsteps of explorers like Burke and Wills, and the township is believed to have been the site of the “Bilbarka” camp for that ill-fated outback discovery expedition.

The pioneering settlers illegally took up the land as ‘runs’; essentially large, unfenced areas of land used to graze, or run, sheep and cattle.
Fencing did not become common until the 1860’s, when the leases were formalised by the Federal Government of the day to foster pastoral settlement and give the Government more control over the area. As more land was settled and the prospect of paddle steamer trade became reality, the need arose for a small service town on the Lower Darling. In 1862 a plan was drawn up for a village on the east bank of the river, almost midway between Menindee and Wentworth.

The village was gazetted ‘Pooncaira’ on December 17, 1863. By 1889, the town had a post office, police station, a school, two hotels and a number of houses. The ‘Port of Pooncarie’ was a vital link with the outside world for the district’s grazing properties, its wharf facilities having the unique advantage of being unaffected by flooding. Built on a series of sand hills, Pooncarie had a natural two-tier wharf, accommodating steamers when the Darling River was high or low.

You may have noticed the different spellings of the township/district. First it was Pooncaree when a pastoral run, then gazetted as the village Pooncaira and more recently Pooncarie. There is no definitive story to explain this anomaly, but the agreed spelling now is ‘Pooncarie’. Today, the town is still referred to by many locals as ‘The Port’. It remains an important hub for the surrounding grazing district and the annual Pooncarie Races are a highlight on district sporting and social calendars.