Gold rush charm in EL DO­RADO

North East Living Magazine - - Gold Rush Charm In El Dorado - words Freyja Postleth­waite photos Mel Guy/ Marc Bongers

WHEN a drover called Wil­liam Baker gave his prop­erty the name Eldorado af­ter be­ing as­tounded by the val­ley’s rich land, he may not have known how apt it would be for the town­ship that would de­velop. It was not long be­fore gold was found in the hills and masses of peo­ple young and old flocked to the val­ley to try their luck at strik­ing the big time.

The rolling hills, open val­ley, and gold-filled creek made for a per­fectly wel­com­ing home to set­tlers seek­ing the per­fect home dur­ing the gold rush in Vic­to­ria. Al­though the old min­ing town shares a sim­i­lar ori­gin with many oth­ers, with those hop­ing to strike gold trav­el­ling to the area in the 1850s and set­tling due to the prime farm­ing land, it has its unique charms. Hopes of find­ing gold even today are not dull, with a few ded­i­cated gold-pan­ners still find­ing flecks and nuggets in the creek. The pop­u­la­tion has peaked and troughed along with in­clines and de­clines in lo­cal in­dus­try in the years since set­tlers first made the town­ship their home.

Frag­ments of its gold rush ori­gin re­main today. The his­toric dredge, the old school which now op­er­ates as the lo­cal mu­seum, the ceme­tery and the old churches serve as re­minders of the town’s charm­ing past in its pic­turesque scenery. At its most pop­u­lous, more than 7000 peo­ple called Eldorado home. Al­though the num­ber of res­i­dents in the town­ship has re­duced con­sid­er­ably since then, the phys­i­cal size of the town re­mains as large and strik­ing as ever.

The Eldorado dredge, which was as­sem­bled on site in June 1936 af­ter be­ing com­mis­sioned from Thompson’s En­gi­neer­ing and Pipe Com­pany, re­mains the largest arte­fact of its type in Aus­tralia. The her­itage-listed site pro­duced more than 70,000 ounces or $28 mil­lion in cur­rent value of gold in its years of op­er­a­tion. It at­tracted many fam­i­lies to the area, how­ever, most left to find work else­where af­ter it closed in 1954.

Now the his­toric build­ing and the large lake cre­ated in front of the dredge by its ac­tiv­i­ties are pop­u­lar sites for tourists and lo­cals to visit. It has be­come a pop­u­lar walk­ing, pic­nick­ing and fish­ing spot for many, with a walk from the dredge to the mu­seum a fea­ture at­trac­tion of the town. But pic­nic or walk­ing des­ti­na­tions in the town are by no means lim­ited to the his­toric dredge. In fact, there are a va­ri­ety of op­tions for ev­ery­one, whether one prefers to travel on foot, on bike or by car. Home-pre­pared treats and meals can be en­joyed at any spot along the creek or by the sus­pen­sion bridge. Fam­i­lies can stretch their legs and take their dogs for some scenic ex­er­cise along the walk on Mon­u­ment Hill or on the bike track. >>

Whether you travel by car, bike, or on foot, Eldorado is the per­fect place to ex­plore, as Joanne and Michael Wheeler have dis­cov­ered.

HIS­TORIC The old Eldorado school is now home to the town’s cen­tral mu­seum.

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