Looking Back: River crossing a dangerous challenge

THE Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless files on people and places. This history comes from its Tarraganda file.

Tough going: A dray driver packed with supplies trying to cross the river. Many times drivers found they were blocked by a river that was too high at Tarraganda.

Tough going: A dray driver packed with supplies trying to cross the river. Many times drivers found they were blocked by a river that was too high at Tarraganda.

TARRAGANDA Crossing, on the upstream side of  the bridge, was often too deep for safe crossing. It was a great annoyance to people from over the mountain, Tanja, Wapengo, the Murrah, Nelson etc, who had to travel long distances to Bega for provisions. Often they found they were blocked by a river that was too high at Tarraganda.

The first track over the mountain was Polack's Track and this came down to Brogo. Around 1859-60 Joseph Adams from the Murrah was the first man to bring a bullock dray over this track to obtain wheat at Angledale.

Other tracks led down on to Nelson's Flat where logs were dragged behind the drays to act as a brake on the steep incline. These logs piled up on the flat.

It was not until 1906 that the present road was constructed over Dr George Mountain. The Black Bottle Inn was a favourite stopover place at the top of the mountain, the round  trip from the Murrah taking too long to accomplish in one day.

In 1870 R R Bligh installed a punt at the Bega River, Tarraganda, to facilitate crossing  when the water was too deep for horse-drawn vehicles.

In 1883 D Sheehan wrote in the Bega Gazette: “Reaching Tarraganda Crossing I found two horse teams unable to pull a dray through the crossing.

Men and horses were perishing in the cold water at the time when the time was late. Presently a bullock team came along and by its aid the triply-banked dray was hauled out.”

On another occasion, Tom Kent, while crossing in his dray, had a horse drown, besides losing stores for the Nelson settlers. With two teams coupled up to a dray, one team could usually touch river bottom, while the other team swam. The dray itself would be half floating.

In 1887 people were again using the boat to cross to Tarraganda, and posts were set in the riverbed so the boat could be hauled across via a rope, to prevent it being swept downstream by the current.

The sawmill of Gowing and Kelly at Tanja cut most of the timber for Tarraganda Bridge, but some timber (turpentine for piles) came from the North Coast of NSW.

Three floods washed away the building work of the first contractor, and he went bankrupt, and Blomquist and Nybec, noted local bridge builders finally finished Tarraganda Bridge in 1894.

“Halby” Braine, the son of Tanja's first schoolteacher, supervised the piledriving, measuring the rate the pile sank with each monkey drop.