From Mr Wills, Second in Command, Astronomer & Surveyor of the Party.
Forwarded from Torowotto, October 30th 1860
The country, Bilbarka and Tolarno, in the immediate vicinity of the eastern bank of the River Darling, presents the most barren and miserable appearance of any land that we have yet met with. It consists chiefly of mudflats, covered with polygonum bushes, box timber, and a few salsolaceous plants, of inferior quality. Above Tolarno there is a slight improvement, and between Kinchiga and Menindie there is some fair grazing country. All agree in saying that there is fine grazing land back from the river; but the want of water will probably prevent its being occupied, except in a very partial manner, for many years; and I fear that the high sand ridges, twenty to forty feet, and in some cases more than sixty feet above the level of the river banks, will form almost insuperable barriers in the way of any one who may attempt to conduct water from the river by means of canals. It appears to me, from the information that I have been able to obtain that the difficulties with which settlers have here to contend arise not so much from the absorbent nature of the soil as from the want of anything to absorb. This last season is said to have been the most rainy that they have had for several years; yet everything looked so parched up that I should have imagined it had been an exceedingly dry one.
I noticed that the forests for about 30 miles below Menindie had been subjected to severe gales from W.N.W. This was so striking, that I at first thought it was the effect of a hurricane; but I could find no indications of a whirling force, all the trees and branches lying in the same direction; besides which, they seemed to have been torn clown at various times, from the different stages of decay in which they were found; and Mr. Wright has subsequently informed me that almost every spring they have a gale from W.N.W., which lasts but a short time, but carries everything before it. It is this same strip of country, which is said to be more favoured with rain than that lower down.
One can perceive everywhere in the neighbourhood of Menindie the effect of the winds in shifting the sand by the numerous logs in various stages of inhumation.
Menindie to Scrope Ranges.
The country between Menindie and Kokriega, in the Scrope Ranges, a distance of thirty-six miles in a northerly direction, is a fine open tract of country, well grassed, but having no permanent water. At Kokriega there is a well which may be relied on for a small supply, but would be of no use in watering cattle in large numbers. The ranges are composed of ferruginous sandstone and quartz conglomerate, and as to vegetation are of a very uninviting aspect. The plain to the south is covered with quartz and sandstone pebbles. About five miles to the N.E. of the Kokriega is a spot where the schist rock crops out from under the sandstone, and the rises here have somewhat of an auriferous character.