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The Murray Darling River system was first explored in 1824 by William H. Hovell and Hamilton H. Hume. Then in between 1829 Charles Sturt fully navigated the River system and confirmed that the Darling and Murray rivers both emptied into the present Murray-Darling Basin. The drainage pattern of the basin has remained mostly unchanged for millions of years. This is very rare compared to most major river systems since most of them were wiped out by the last Northern hemisphere ice age and have only been in their present form for less than 15,000 years. This outlet drains one seventh of Australia, which is very large, compared to the small basin.
Paddle steamers could be found from the beginning of the use of the river. These massive steamers would carry things like wool, wheat, and other good to and from the different settlements along the riverbanks. As time went on the railroads began to take over a lot of the business and the river never really made it as an actual highway of trade. Irrigation came into the picture around 1887 by a Canadian named George Chaffey. This helped to convert the north end of the river into what have become the thriving surroundings that are still evident today.