In ancient times the area around what is now the city of Albury was the hunting and food-gathering land of Aboriginal tribes such as the Wiradjuri.
Ancient scars on river red gums indicate that Aboriginal people carved out bark canoes here for fishing on the river. The area, known to tribes as Mungabareena, was also an important tribal meeting place.
Although nothing remains of the campsites that once existed here, a Wiradjuri campsite has been reconstructed at Wonga Wetlands by local Wiradjuri people. The campsite is set out according to tradition, with areas for cooking, sleeping, tool making and rock art, as well as a ceremony/dancing circle.
In October 1824 the explorers Hamilton Hume and Captain William Hovell led an expedition to find new grazing land and map New South Wales's western rivers. They were the first Europeans to set eyes on our great inland waterway, the Murray River. They crossed the Murray River on 17 November 1824 and Hovell carved the words 'Hovell NovR17/24' into the trunk of a tree to mark the crossing place.
Within a few years of its discovery by Hume and Hovell, the crossing place near the Hovell Tree had become very popular. A police station and general store had opened, and squatters began to move into the district. From 1855 until the railway arrived in 1880, paddlesteamers transported the region's wool, wheat and wine downstream along the Murray all the way to Adelaide.
A walk along Albury's Heritage Trail can tell you much about how Albury flourished through the 1800s and early 1900s. At the far end of Hume Street is the Hovell Tree Park, the location of the tree inscribed by Hovell in 1824. This was also where the town's first general store and wharf were located. Just south of the park, on Wodonga Place, you can see the Turks Head Hotel, the first pub and inn in Albury and once the most popular place in town.
While the new lands the explorers found were fertile, they were also susceptible to drought. To unlock the inland areas for irrigation farming, in 1919 work began on constructing the Hume Dam at the junction of the Mitta Mitta and Murray rivers. The dam wall took 17 years to complete and was constructed using steam engines and rock moved by horse-drawn carts and by hand. Some original pieces of machinery are on display at the wall.