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Goyders Line

Line of drought

  • In the middle of the great 1860s drought, Goyder was sent out again to the northern areas. His task this time was to ‘lay down as nearly as practicable, the line of demarcation between the portion of the state where rainfall has extended and where the drought prevails’ (quoted in Mincham 1983:111).
  • Goyder used the vegetation zones as guides for rainfall zones. Saltbush was the main marker. http://www.history.sa.gov.au/chu/programs/sa_history/sa_dry/map_goyders.htm
  • The line Goyder drew is a rule of thumb for land use. Land south of the line is generally suitable for growing crops. Land above the line is generally suitable for grazing – not crops.

Line of rainfall

  • Now we know that the ranges push the 25cm (10 inch) annual rainfall line (isohyet) far into areas where rainfall is often less than half that.
  • At several places in the Southern Flinders, there are pockets of higher rainfall like Mt Remarkable (60 cm/25 inches).
  • The rainfall quickly drops off to the east – on the Willochra Plain it is only 25cm again, the same as Port Augusta on the more arid western side.

Surveying land for farming and towns

  • At first, people who wanted land north of Melrose saw Goyder’s Line as a nuisance. Many believed that rain followed the plough.
  • Their pressure led to more pastoral land being resumed by the government and surveyed into smaller blocks for farmers.
  • As the wheat farms pushed north in the 1870s, new land was surveyed into neat rectangles, called Hundreds. The size of Hundreds varied. Within the Hundreds, the shape of sections varied according to the best routes for travel, and therefore with terrain.
  • Surveyors choosing sites for towns had to consider ‘convenience for water, stone, drainage, communication with the metropolis and access to the seaboard’ (Mincham 1980:40).
  • Although Goyder had recommended against farming north of his Line, he now had to organise surveys to cut up the pastoral lease land for agricultural settlement.
  • In the late 1870s, Goyder’s surveyors were instructed to lay out a continuous stock route 400 metres wide, so that stock could be moved north and south through the lands that would soon be fenced. Cradock and Chapmanton townships were laid out within this route. You can see the surveyed stock route on the western side of the Cradock- Orroroo Road.

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