Just weeks after it was first built, McKillops Bridge was washed away by the Snowy River in January 1935. The replacement bridge had its deck raised by installing taller steel trusses on the reinforced concrete piers. It still stands as the wooden, steel and concrete structure we see today.
It’s difficult to imagine what the immense roar and rumble must have sounded and felt like as the Snowy River, juiced up by the melting snows of the New South Wales high country, swirled and ripped its way down the valley each spring. Luckily, the newer, taller bridge survived all subsequent spring-time thaws.
In the late 1960s, the once-mighty Snowy was dammed at Jindabyne in New South Wales as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, resulting in the diversion of most of the river’s legendary spring flows for power production and irrigation. The Snowy will never again see the natural spring/summer snow-melt floods of the past, but the recent deliberate release of water (known as environmental flows), and the removal of willows that have choked the river, has given the Snowy a new lease on life – compared to the pitiful one per cent of natural flow it previously received.
McKillops Bridge was Heritage listed due to its social and technological significance – the steel trusses’ arc-welded construction technique was a pretty big deal in the 1930s. It was once an important route for cattlemen, who used the ford across the Snowy in the years preceding the bridge’s existence. These days, the clip of cattle hoofs has been replaced by trekkers footsteps above and adventurous canoeists paddling below. This area, where the Little River meets the Snowy River, is steep and rugged and a terrific place to explore for a weekend away, or as part of a longer Alpine region trek.
It can be reached by travelling south along Barry Way via Jindabyne, New South Wales – which is mostly isolated wilderness. The Barry Way follows the Snowy River for about 60kms to the New South Wales and Victoria border. It’s a good graded road and there are plenty of river-side camp sites that quickly fill during peak times. South over the border in Victoria, the Barry Way becomes the Snowy River Road and eventually leads (via the farmlands around Suggan Buggan) to a considerably long, narrow, steep section of track (no caravans) that drops down to McKillops Bridge. From the south, access via Buchan on the Gelantipy Road and is a perfect place for a weekend escape for Victorians.
You can imagine the incredible toil of this area’s pioneers as they carved the stock route out of the steep terrain to allow droving of their cattle from New South Wales’ Monaro region to Victoria.
Little River accommodation
There are several campsites near the McKillops Bridge. Bull Flat and White Box sit close to the bridge’s northern approach and both spots offer easy access to the banks of the Snowy. The McKillops Bridge area is a popular kick-off point for adventurous canoeists to unload and explore.
Around six kilometres south of McKillops Bridge is the Little River Track (4WD only) that wanders five or six kilometres down to an established basic campground at the junction of the Little and Snowy Rivers.
Be warned, the high country’s clay is soapy and a little bit of drizzle can cause issues.
In this instance, abort the trek. It’s also important to ensure you are carrying the right gear for any emergency as the weather can turn quickly.
With so much to do and see, the area and its surrounds are definitely worth the trip.