Gold rush charm in EL DORADO
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.