Echuca is a town located on the banks of the Murray River and Campaspe River in Victoria, Australia, 214 km North of Melbourne. The border town of Moama is adjacent on the northern side of the Murray River in New South Wales. Echuca is the administrative centre and largest settlement in the Shire of Campaspe. At the time of the 2016 census, Echuca had a population of 12,906. The population of the combined Echuca and Moama townships was estimated to be 20,660 at June 2016.
Echuca lies within traditional Yorta Yorta country. The town's name is an Aboriginal word meaning "meeting of the waters". Echuca is situated close to the junction of the Goulburn, Campaspe, and Murray Rivers. Its position at the closest point of the Murray to Melbourne contributed to its development as a thriving river port city during the 19th century.
By the 1870s Echuca had risen to prominence as Australia's largest inland port. Echuca was both a key river port and railway junction. Steam-driven paddleboats would arrive at the 400-metre long redgum Echuca Wharf, unloading it to be transported by rail to Melbourne. Wool, wheat, other grains, livestock and timber were the most common cargoes. The wharf has been listed as a Heritage Place on the Australian National Heritage List. This industrial boom led to a rapidly expanding population, at one stage in excess of 15,000, with more than a hundred hotels rumoured to exist in the Echuca district at one time. An iron bridge was constructed over the Murray River in 1878 by the NSW Railways Department.
The expansion of the railways from Melbourne to most parts of Victoria, as well as improvements to roads and fickle river conditions all combined to lessen Echuca's importance, and by the 1890s the paddlesteamer fleet was in decline. An economic depression and the collapse of several banks virtually ended Echuca's role as a major economic centre, and its population began to disperse.
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