Tracing the history of Hunter River 

Tracing the journey of the Hunter River from its origins to today will be the focus of a talk at Maitland Gaol tonight.

Archeologist Sue Singleton will lead the discussion of the Bones of the River as part of Maitland City Council’s Look Who’s Talking local history program.

Rather than focus on the floods in Maitland, the talk will reveal the layers of history buried beneath the ebb and flow of the river’s tides.

“The focus of the river is often on the flooding and the effect that has had, as well as the mitigation works that have occurred as a result,” Ms Singleton said.

“[The council] instead came up with the idea of looking at the bones of the river, looking right back into its origins and how it was formed.

“It’s about understanding the dynamics of the river – it’s not static, it never has been and it never will be.”

The evolution of the river stretches millions of years back into history to the times of the original supercontinents, Ms Singleton said.

“In the early days of the Gondwana continent and its evolution there was no Great Dividing Range and the rivers ran east to west,” she said.

“When [the Great Dividing Range] formed it split the river systems and on one side they ran east to west and on the other they ran west to east.

“The Hunter River is one of those where there is good evidence to show it changed, it reversed and [now] runs west to east.”

More recent changes to the route of the river came to pass in 1951, when flooding altered its course at Pitnacree, with a range of old photographs and etches showing this evolution to be displayed by Ms Singleton tonight.

The talk will also focus on the history of some of the bridges spanning the Hunter River, including ones at Morpeth and Luskintyre, as well as the changing nature of the uses of the river, which once bore large trading ships up its length from Newcastle to the port of Morpeth.

Tickets to the event cost $15 including wine and canapes, with the talk to run from 6pm to 8pm. 

Bookings are essential and can be made by phoning any Maitland City Library branch or online at

Archeologist Sue Singleton will focus on the 'bones of the river' in the next Look Who's Talking to be held at Maitland Gaol.

Archeologist Sue Singleton will focus on the 'bones of the river' in the next Look Who's Talking to be held at Maitland Gaol.


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