Swan Reach gained its name from the large number of black swans that once thrived in the area.
It was first settled in 1838 by German families in the Barossa Valley. In 1848, a party of stockman from Adelaide swam their horses across the river at the crossing which became Swan Reach. The essentials for life, food, raw materials, transport, easy river crossing and grassy plains also attracted European pastoralists with their livestock to the district. Among them, August Zadow took up 422 acres to become the first crop farmer in the district in 1878. Other farmers arrived in the 1890s to take up crop farming the in the Mallee country.
Perched on the banks of the Murray, the first half of the twentieth century saw the river fight a constant battle with flood, culminating in the massive washouts of 1917, 1931 and 1956. The most devastating was in 1956, when most of the businesses in the main street were washed away.
The Water Witch was a significant vessel in the early exploration and development of South Australia.
The Colony’s first Marine Surveyor, J.W. Pullen, employed it to support the survey parties based at Encounter Bay in 1839. It was the first vessel documented to navigate the River Murray Mouth in May 1841. Water Witch sank as a result of lack of maintenance while moored at Eyre’s Station at Moorundie (Moorundie is approximately 20 kilometers upstream from Swan Reach), in December 1842. The wreck-site was not discovered until August 1982