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Goolwa is a historic river port on the Murray River near the Murray Mouth in South Australia, and joined by a bridge to Hindmarsh Island. The name "Goolwa" means "elbow" in Ngarrindjeri, the local Aboriginal language.
Goolwa is approximately 100 km south of Adelaide, and is the seat of the Alexandrina Council. It is in the state electoral district of Finniss and the federal Division of Mayo. Goolwa has a population of approximately 6,000.
Before 1837 the area was briefly considered for the site of the colony's capital; a 'special survey' was undertaken in 1839–40 with a sizeable township laid out at Currency Creek and land for a port with substantial warehousing on the river where Goolwa now stands; however, the treacherous waters of the Murray Mouth for shipping made it unsuitable as a major port. Goolwa was Australia's first inland port (1853). Australia's first railway was built to connect Goolwa to Port Elliot and later extended to Victor Harbor, allowing goods to move from river boats to sea boats, so that neither had to negotiate the Murray Mouth. The spread of railways to inland Australia put an end to the river trade and Goolwa's importance as a port. With the decline of the river trade Goolwa became dependent on local farming and fishing, as well as becoming a popular destination for holidaymakers from Adelaide.
Every odd-numbered year, Goolwa hosts the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival.
The town is a popular holiday destination and home to the PS Oscar W, a paddle steamer.
Goolwa, along with its neighbouring towns of Middleton and Port Elliot and the city of Victor Harbor have in the 2000s enjoyed a nationally recognised "sea change" boom, with people moving there from more metropolitan areas for an improved lifestyle on the coast. The local councils are left with the dilemma of how to provide sufficient services for the influx of new residents, while at the same time not spoiling the character and appeal of the area that attracts newcomers.
In March 2007, Goolwa was declared a Cittaslow by visiting Cittaslow representatives. Goolwa was the first non-European town to gain Cittaslow status.
Goolwa has been suffering from one of the worst droughts in Australian history and the river which has sustained the town throughout its history has been reduced to nothing much more than a channel and mudflats. Ongoing discussions with state and federal governments aim to release more water from upstream to ensure the survival of the river.
For photographs of Goolwa see:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Goolwa, South Australia
The construction of a levy (called a temporary regulator) in 2009 at Clayton, a few kilometres above Goolwa briefly returned the levels of the River Murray to usable levels for boat users and water skiiers. At April 2010 the River was around -0.05 metres below sea level.