When the Pride of the Murray paddlewheeler mysteriously sank at her mooring on the Thomson River in Longreach in March 2023, few realised what a long and involved process it would be to salvage her. Then, in September 2023, she was finally brought back to the surface amid cheers and tears.
Some of the tears were at the news that she would not be able to cruise again as a passenger vessel.
But owner Richard Kinnon of Outback Pioneers wasn’t about to let the old lady end up as scrap. And so began the quest to restore her as a tribute to pioneer riverboats and as a signature tourist attraction for current and future generations.
Outback Pioneers plans to have the paddlewheeler restored on the riverbank in time to welcome guests to the top-deck for sunset viewing in 2024.
This will be an experience for a limited season for guests who book the 3pm Starlight’s Cruise Experience on designated days.
Phase 2 of the restoration will see the boat kitted out to tell the story of pioneer riverboats and potentially as a hospitality space as well.
Richard Kinnon said the riverboats were a vital part of the pioneer story. As the Pride of the Murray started life as a wool barge, she has a natural affinity with Longreach.
“She is not just a majestic boat but a treasure trove of stories of the people who worked and sailed aboard her at different phases of her life,” Richard said.
After investing in the Pride of the Murray initially, transporting her on an incredible overland journey from Echuca in Victoria to Longreach, and restoring her for what turned out to be just a few months of cruising, the Kinnon family has reluctantly had to ask for help to restore her a second time.
“We can make her a sustainable tourist attraction and maintain her but we do need to ask our mates, guests and philanthropists for help to restore her this time,” Richard Kinnon said.
Outback Pioneers has set up a Pride of the Murray Restoration Fund to take donations and sell merchandise in aid of the $1.5 million needed to bring her back to heritage condition.
Those booking Outback Pioneers experiences online also have the opportunity to add a donation to their selection.
Outback Pioneers is confident that the Pride of the Murray will become a signature Longreach landmark, as recognisable as the Qantas 747 at the Qantas Founders Museum.
People are already commenting that she can be seen approaching Longreach by air and is an imposing sight from the river.
She is destined to forever link the people of Echuca and Longreach and, having inspired so many on her journey, will be a legacy for all Australians.
If you want to get aboard her for a look around and to watch the sunset in 2024 season, watch the Outback Pioneers website for details.
For more tours offered by Outback Pioneers.