Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Chowilla's many charms

Story Nigel Austin
Photos Leon Mead


Jock and Lis Robertson reckon Chowilla Station in the South Australian Riverland is the most beautiful property in the world. Their claim is backed by idyllic waterways with 46 kilometres of frontage to the mighty Murray River and a beautiful old sandstone homestead on its banks. With magnificent stands of old-man saltbush and bladder saltbush at its entrance, the historic sheep station is teeming with wildlife - it is home to more than 200 species of birds, including a number of rare or endangered species, as well as kangaroos, emus and mallee fowl.

The Robertson family's past is steeped in the history of the colourful Riverland. The family heritage can be traced to the early days of European history in this little pocket of Australia, which is a blank on the map to most people. But for all its remoteness, no other family has maintained land in the Riverland pastoral country north of the Murray River for as long, and Jock hopes there will be many more generations to come on Chowilla.

The Robertsons' home at Chowilla is a 40-kilometre drive north of Renmark, sandwiched between the NSW border to the east, Calperum Station to the west, Danggali Conservation Park to the north, and the Murray River in the south. The property stretches for about 60km from north to south through a tremendous mix of flood plain country and mallee and open bluebush plains in 213-millimetre rainfall country.

Jock and Lis jumped at the chance to move to Chowilla in 1994 when the opportunity was presented for them to manage the station and increase their financial interest in it. They had always silently harboured an ambition to move to Chowilla from their property at Naracoorte in the state's south-east.

Apart from the family's longevity, there are a number of other remarkable aspects about the 93,000-hectare run. One is that the station, originally part of Bookmark Station, was where, in 1887, the Chaffey brothers were granted 12,000 hectares by the South Australian Government to start the first commercial irrigation development in Australia at Renmark.

Full story: OUTBACK, December/January 2003

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