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Before the locks were built the River  varied from very low flows to full flood levels. The paddle steamers couldn't navigate  a very low river, and so barges loaded with wool, wheat and other goods sometimes stood for months before being able to move. 

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After the locks were completed water levels could be maintained.  This is the same section of cliffs taken many many years later.

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Lock 5 after completion.  Regulated river levels meant irrigation pumps could operate year round, as could river steamers.

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Lock weir for regulation of water flow.  Lock chamber for allowing navigation.

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In the 1920 & 30s, it was common to go up river on picnic days and weekends.  Numerous pleasure launches from those years have now been replaced with houseboats