Steam navigation of the Murray River began in 1853.
Renmark was not settled until 1887, so the early settlers in this area were dependent on the paddle steamers for everything from food and house goods to their religious requirements. The mission boat “Etona” used to travel up and down the river with a chaplain on board to perform weddings, baptisms and take services at stations along the way. One surviving daughter of the Critchells, who lived in the old cottage was married on the Etona in 1901.
There were also several passenger boats like the PS Gem, PS Marion and PS Ruby on the Murray, and these could be heard coming up river every Monday morning at 11am. Up until 1920 the Wilkinsons periodically ordered farm requisites all the way from Chicago, USA through a catalogue. The shipment, after arriving in Port Adelaide, would travel by rail to Morgan where it would be loaded onto a paddle steamer for the last leg of its journey to Murtho, sometimes arriving more than a year after it was ordered.
The PS Kookaburra, which traded from Morgan to Mildura would pull in and deliver necessities such as salt, tea and flour, and would stop overnight on the return journey. The movement of all paddle steamers was noted in a daily diary, and often four or five would pass in a day.