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The river fronted land just inland from the coast of northern New South Wales is part of the traditional land of the Birpai Aboriginal people. When colonial explorer John Oxley traversed the river systems inland from Port Macquarie in 1818, he named the main river Hastings in honour of Lord Warren Hasting, then governor of India.
Following Oxley's explorations, word of this densely forested riverside land would attract cedar cutters to the region who began a fledgling timber industry in the 1820s. These early successes saw Governor Lachlan Macquarie travel to the region and along with establishing a penal colony at Port Macquarie, the land alongside the Hastings River would be subdivided into large allotments. In 1836 Captain Robert Wauch would take up a piece of land he named Wauchope and from his property the village of Wauchope would develop.
Land clearing by the timber industry saw cattle and dairy farms established locally and even some experimental sugar cane crops were trialled in these early years. Yet the unstable valley climate would severely hinder development of the fledgling community as droughts and floods frequently decimated farm land and saw several of the pioneer farmers leave the region. Despite this, a local dairy industry would survive the hardship and by the 1890s a butter factory was opened.
Aided by a reliable river trade system the timber industry continued to thrive, with Wauchope one of the most successful timber towns in New South Wales history. With a railway line extended through the town in 1915, the industry continued to grow. The legacy of the input of timber getting to the town’s history is remembered in Timbertown and is today Wauchope's best known tourist attraction. Set on an 87 acre piece of forest, the town faithfully recreates the late 19th century timber town at its peak, depicting the industry as it once was with steam powered sawmills and bullock driven timber trains. Although the tourism industry in Wauchope does not compete in size with that of nearby coastal towns, the picturesque charm of Wauchope along with the Bago Bluff National Park just south of the town has also grown the local tourist economy.