The town of Dargo, with a population of approximately 150, is an entry point for the Alpine National Park, Avon Wilderness Park and Mitchell River National Park. It is now a tourist hotspot, especially for 4WD’s, Motorbike Riders, Campers and Deer Hunters.
Although a minor gold rush was experienced in the mid 1800s, the town was primarily a resting place and later a supply town for miners on their way to the Grant, Talbotville and Crooked River goldfields nearby.
The Dargo High Plains, to the north, were first leased for grazing in the 1860s. With the development of mining, a number of accommodation houses catered to the miners travelling across the plains.
Hotels and stores were originally established at Dargo to supply the miners. The township was surveyed in 1864 and lots sold in 1866. A government school was established in 1870 and a Catholic school opened in 1897.
In 1959, a sawmill began operations south of the town.
This provided substantial employment until its closure in 1988. In 1994, the Old Timber Mill site was established into the ‘Dargo Mill Tavern’, to which its name was changed in 2004 to the ‘Dargo River Inn & Tourist Park’.
On the first night of his expedition to see ‘Dargo’ - Angus Mcmillan camped at Iguana Creek, so called for the following reason:- After pitching camp they went down the creek to have a look at the country. When they came back to the camp they found a huge iguana tearing away at the tucker bag, which they had left on the ground close to the camp fire. Mr McMillan shot it; hence the name.
Crooked River was known originally as Isaac's Shanty. A German of that name, opened a shanty there. Shortly after the discovery of gold at the Crooked River, in 1864, it certainly was a wild-looking shop, thick with scrub, and the ground covered with snow.
Grant was in the height of its glory in the years 1866 and 1867. There were about eighteen public houses in the township, three or four banks, half a dozen lawyers, two doctors, and stores out of number; in fact, every house in Grant was a business place of some sort.
Although a number of reefs were discovered about Grant and the Crooked River, none of them, with the exception of the Good Hope, ever paid a dividend. About £70,000 ($134,000) worth of quartz-crushing machinery at cost price in Melbourne was taken to Grant and the Crooked River, and it cost £40 ($80) a ton to cart it from Stratford to Grant.
There was never a goldfield discovered in Australia that broke so many mining speculators as the reefs about Grant and the Crooked River. By 1875, there were only 140 people at Grant and about 120 on the Crooked River. By the late 1880s, most settlements were deserted. The longest survivor, Talbotville, on the Crooked River, was abandoned in the 1940s.
Dargo survived because it developed as a stopping place and supply centre for the diggings. The broad river flats were suitable for agriculture so it was not dependent on mining. Walnut trees were planted, and tobacco and hops were tried in the 1880s. Cattle, sheep and pigs were raised.
Dargo River Inn
13 Lower Dargo Rd
Dargo VIC 3862
Hosts: Christian & Marissa Barrett.
+61 3 5140 1330