The district approaching Menindee is a surreal landscape of country just barely alive, of dead trees and sandy scrubland, red soil and saltbush. A sudden metamorphosis occurs as you confront the lake lands - some twenty freshwater lakes that fill from the Darling River and nourish paddocks of citrus and vegetables.
The origin of the name is unclear. Some report that the local aboriginal people, the Barkindji, called the region 'Minandichee' which translates in some way into Menindee. Another more unfathomable suggestion is that the word comes from the word 'milhthaka' meaning egg yolk.
It would seem that something sounding like 'Menindee' was the answer given to inquisitive explorers when confronting the local aboriginal people of the district. And confront the locals they did. In 1835 Major Thomas Mitchell and a party of 23 men set out to trace the course of the Darling River. An encounter with a group of aborigines led to an assault on one of the explorers followed by two deaths and a wounding to the aborigines. Conjecture exists that Mitchell, who had been an officer in the British Army, usually erred on the side of aggressiveness. Whatever the facts, this first encounter may have set the stage for the troubles that occurred between settlers, pastoralists and drovers in the following years.
Tom Pain built a hotel on the northern bank of the river which he named the Menindee Hotel and he and his family serviced the passing drover trade. The Police established a presence at the site to help the pastoralists quash the 'black problem' and a town was born.
Originally called Perry, then Menindie and finally Menindee the location was to become a vital river port.
Menindee is on the New South Wales outback tourism path which typically consists of dusty isolated towns in locations that hardly bear a second look. Menindee has much of this ambience but it also has vast lakes that form part of the Darling River system. This means the district has great inland fishing, prolific birdwatching opportunities and a wide open watery landscape with a bush backdrop.
The place is filled with Burke and Wills history who passed through in 1860 and the town streets form the Menindee Heritage Trail. To the north of town is Kinchega National Park, a 44,000 hectare reserve of sandhills and dirt flats, of lakes and stands of eucalypt and ancient indigenous quarries and cultural sites.
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