Our History PS Emmylou
The majestic PS Emmylou is one of the most recognisable and iconic Paddlesteamers in Australia, cruising the Murray River from Echuca, just 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne.
Named after the American country singer Emmylou Harris, PS Emmylou has been host to thousands of people, delighting even her namesake. PS Emmylou starred in the TV series All the Rivers Run in which she was renamed the PS Providence. Powered by a beautifully restored 1906 Marshall and Sons steam engine, Emmylou is now the only wood fired Paddlesteamer in the world offering regular scheduled accommodated river cruises.
The side wheel paddlesteamers are distinctly Australian having first plied the Murray river in 1853, they established a thriving industry which survived until rail and roads began to service the region near the turn of the century. By 1873 there were 240 boats trading along the Murray River. The inland prospered as trade and commence developed, and previously out of the way settlements were kept in touch with the cities. With the introduction of the railway, the paddlesteamers and their industrious crews progressively lost work until the riverboat industry was but a shadow of it’s illustrious past. The Murray River which includes the Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers is one of the longest river systems in the world. Although weirs have cut down the navigability of the river, the Murray alone still claims 2508 kilometres of meandering waters.
PS Emmylou, the world’s only wood-fired cruising paddlesteamer reminds us of the romantic days of the paddlesteamers and is now an Australian Icon of the River. Built locally during 1980-82 in the style of the 19th century paddlesteamers, she is perfectly at home at the Port of Echuca, residing with the last few remaining paddlesteamers of the past. She is 30 metres long and 10 metres wide, steel hulled and timber decked. During 2018 PS Emmylou underwent a specially designed luxury upgrade and fit out. The new contemporary cabins and ensuites include fine linens topped with silky duvets, with the boats’ premier cabin, the Emmylou Suite located on the front Upper Deck, with French Doors opening to a deck and 180 degree views of the river. Guests can enjoy small boat boutique cruising at it’s finest with just 16 guests comfortably accommodated in 8 deluxe cabins.
In March 2015 the business was purchased by brother’s Craig & Rohan Burgess together with local identity & Skipper Neil Hutchinson. The business continues to grow and expand on strong foundations which was acknowledged in July 2016 with the business winning Gold at the Regional Tourism Awards and Silver in the prestigious VTIC, Victorian Tourism Awards again in 2018. We are proud to continue the tradition of overnight cruising on Australia’s greatest waterway with our trademark level of country hospitality aboard an authentic paddlesteamer. We hope you can join us to connect you with Australia’s inland history, geography, culture and cuisine.
Echuca was founded by an ex-convict named Henry Hopwood, who, after serving time in Port Arthur, worked in a tallow plant on the New South Wales side of the Murray River. In 1850 he built a bark and slab hotel on the Victorian side of the Murray and purchased a small punt to ferry people back and forth from his hotel. In just 16 years, Hopwood helped build a town, known today as Echuca.
Much of Echuca’s history is linked to the river. Being the closest town on the river to Melbourne, the Port of Echuca, built in 1865, quickly became the largest inland port in Australia. With the riverboats able to reach inland settlements, the area prospered, and the Murray became a river highway for delivering wool, fruit, mail, other supplies and later passengers – and even towing barges filled with livestock. At the height of its trading days, the Port of Echuca had more than 240 boats traded from its docks.
In the early 1900s, as rail and road transport fastened, the slower river trade slowly declined. These days, a cruise on a paddle steamer or a visit to the historic Port of Echuca is the best way to get a glimpse into the river’s illustrious past.
Today, Echuca Moama, the twin towns on either side of the Murray, offers not only a glance into Australia’s colonial history and river trade history, but a great range of eateries and bars to indulge in, live music festivals, wineries, many outdoor activities and of course, our favourite, a beautiful sunset over the river.
The Murray River
It’s not difficult to understand how the Murray River got her moniker ‘the Mighty Murray’. She stretches over 2,000 kilometres from Kosciusko National Park in New South Wales, through Victoria, to Goolwa, South Australia. The Murray River is the world’s third-longest navigable river, behind the Nile and the Amazon.
Aboriginal communities lived alongside the river for more than 40,000 years, and you can still see evidence of Aboriginal habitation dating back thousands of years. Today, the Murray plays a significant role in the agricultural industry for much of inland Victoria and is a significant water supply for more than 1.5 million households.
The Murray offers a unique destination to discover one of Australia’s beautiful regions; the riverside towns, the wildlife, and of course, a cruise on an old paddle steamer.
Murray River Flag
The earliest recorded reference to the Murray River Flag was at Goolwa to honor the first paddlesteamer to go into service on the Murray. The Mary Ann, built by three brothers William, Thomas and Elliot Randell, began her voyage from Mannum downstream to Goolwa on 4 March 1853. The Murray River Flag was hoisted upon their arrival. The flag was described by a reporter of the Australian Register:
“The flag bears a red cross with four horizontal blue bars. The cross being charged with five stars as emblems of the Colonies while the upper corner, is taken up with British connections which is depicted by the Union Jack. It has been named, we understand, the Murray River Flag.”
It is believed that the blue bars represent the Murray River and the three major rivers that run into it: the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and the Darling. The design bears a strong resemblance to other Australian flags of the 19th Century, such as the Australian Federation Flag and the National Colonial Flag for Australia.