Caravan parks and communities rebuild after River Murray flooding

Only four of the six caravan parks based in the Mid Murray region have managed to reopen after River Murray flooding devastated businesses.

Aug 29, 2023, updated Aug 29, 2023
Water flooded Blanchetown caravan park near Paisley during flooding. Photo: Belinda Willis/InDaily

Water flooded Blanchetown caravan park near Paisley during flooding. Photo: Belinda Willis/InDaily

Mid Murray Council Mayor Simone Bailey said the recovery of individual parks depends “mostly on how bad they were hit” – and for some the impact of record-breaking River Murray flood waters has been devastating.

Others are seeing tourists return with support from locals, Bailey saying the parks at Younghusband and Punyelroo near Swan Reach opened soon after River Murray water levels began to fall, followed by the Morgan Riverside Caravan Park.

All have been supported by locals after they were impacted by record levels of 175 gigalitres of water a day inundating businesses and homes along the River Murray during the peak of flooding in December.

Bailey points to Morgan as an example of the community pulling together to support the tourism businesses and that it “reminds you of how great it is to live in small communities”.

Seven ensuite cabins and four standard cabins were reinstated at the Morgan Riverside Caravan Park in March, with contaminated earth removed, new loam brought in and three semi-trailer loads of Kikuyu lawn rolled out with the help of locals.

Bailey said the council-owned park run by a private operator still needs funding for works on fixing its road infrastructure.

Mannum Caravan Park opened at 50 per cent capacity after having to shift its cabins to other caravan parks during the floods, and has gradually been rebuilding.

“And then there are another two in our area, Blanchetown and Swan Reach caravan park, they were literally underwater completely,” Bailey said.

“I did go past the Blanchetown one a couple of weeks back and it’s looking fabulous …. Swan Reach is literally just a blank, sad-looking canvas.

“It’s been devastating for a number of our caravan parks.”

In July, the Blanchetown Caravan Park at Paisley that was completely inundated at the height of flooding reported that it was rebuilding and it was “going to be like building a brand-new park”.

“Our aim is to try and get the park half up and running by Christmas, not sure if we can but we are going to try our damn hardest to,” its owners posted on Facebook.

Water levels are still high across the state’s River Murray regions, with the Environment and Water Department issuing high water advice.

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Its latest report said winter rains and releases from dams upstream are seeing flows over the South Australian border are forecast to stay around 50 to 55 GL a day until around early to mid-September 2023.

“The current expected peak flow is similar to flow observed in July to September 2022 however unlike last year, the forecast outlook is for a warmer and drier than average August to October period,” the latest report said.

Discovery Parks Chief Operations Officer Matt Lang said that the holiday park group “has witnessed first-hand the significant impacts of last year’s flood events on communities right across south-eastern Australia”.

“Across the region, we experienced flooding in eight parks, resulting in temporary closures and significant clean-up and recovery works,” he said.

But Lang is optimistic about the River Murray regions’ future.

“Pleasingly, we’ve seen a strong rebound, particularly here in SA,” he said. 

“Discovery Parks Lake Bonney is booking out fast for the upcoming school holidays with over 300 reservations on the books already, which will deliver over half a million dollars in economic benefit to the Riverland community.”

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