AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is approximately 300m east of the Qld-NT border on the Barkly Tableland. At this location the border is marked by a vermin-proof fence. The closest settlement is the town of Camooweal, approximately 15 km north-east of the confluence. There is no direct access to the location, although the Barkly Highway runs less than 10km to the north. An RGSQ expedition visited the site in May 2008, travelling the final part of the trip on two quad bikes across country.
The Landscape: The point is located on the Barkly Tableland. The view from the confluence shows a predominately flat surface with an elevation of approximately 200m. The ground surface is largely covered with Mitchell Grass and little other vegetation. Extensive grazing occurs at the confluence and surrounding area. The closest watercourse is Western Creek. It is found to the west of the confluence in the Northern Territory, flowing south to eventually reach the Georgina River approximately 50 kilometres distant. The Georgina River is part of the Eyre Basin. The geology is described as a black soil plain of Cainozoic origin (less than 66 million years).
Vegetation at the point is Mitchell Grass. The area has a good bird life with many raptors, finches and parrots. Land use is dominated by cattle grazing.
Point Photo Credits: Paul Feeney, Mary Comer
Poin Information By: Ken Granger and Jo Grant
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The terrain within the square ranges from the black soil plains of the Barkly tableland that occupies the north-west quadrant of the square and extends many hundreds of kilometres into the Northern Territory; patches of lateritic duricrust along the western boundary of Cainozoic origin; and plains and riverine alluvium through much of the centre of the square; and dolomite limestone of Boomerangian origin (504 to 501 million years in the Camooweal Caves National Park.
The greatest elevations in the square are along the western boundary where heights of 300m ASL are found. Most of the square is between 200 and 300m ASL.
The square straddles the divide between the waters that flow to the Gulf of Carpentaria and those that flow to the Lake Eyre Basin. Most of the square is drained by the Buckley and Georgina Rivers which are part of the Lake Eyre Basin catchment. The two main drainage lines have braided streams. In the north-west corner of the square, the O'Shannassy River flows to the Nicholson River and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Most of the vegetation is Mitchell Grass grassland similar to that at the point. The area has a very good bird life with Zebra Finches being a numerous and frequent sighting, especially around bores. Of the raptors, Wedge-tail Eagles are the largest while the ubiquitous Blake Kites are also common throughout, especially around settlements and homesteads.
The Camooweal Caves National Park is an important bat habitat. The Kalkadoon Cave supports the only known breeding population of the rare orange horseshoe bat.
The Climate: The climate of the area is classified as grassland with a winter drought. The nearest climate station operated by the Bureau of Meteorology is at Camooweal Township 14km north-east of the point.
Camooweal Township (037310) 1891 to the present (elevation 231m ASL)
The highest temperature ever recorded in Camooweal was 46.6oC in December 1990 while the lowest temperature was -2.2oC in June 1971. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest rainfall total recorded was 592.8mm in 1974 and the lowest was a total of 80.2mm in 1947.
Extremes of Nature: The area is not highly prone to the impact of cyclones in spite of its tropical location however since 1906 nine such storms have passed within 200km of the point. No cyclones have passed within 50km. Even distant cyclones can produce destructive winds and intense rainfall that can lead to localised flooding. Some properties may be isolated for periods of a week or more by flood waters.
The area experiences between 30 and 40 thunder days per year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall that can produce flash flooding and lightning. Storms in the dry winter period can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread.
Extreme heat is also a serious issue. The climate records for Camooweal show that on average (over 71 years of records) the area experiences 155 days a year with temperatures over 35oC and 36 days a year with temperatures over 40oC. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.
The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains a record of one earthquake within the degree square. No magnitude is recorded for that event which occurred on 15 August 1995. No reports of damage are recorded.
The Indigenous Story: Much of the land within the square is the traditional country of the Wakaya people.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: The Barkly Tableland was named by William Landsborough during his search for the missing Burke and Wills party in 1861. Following Landsborough's favourable description of the Mitchell Grass pastures available, in 1864 John Sutherland (from near Rockhampton) took a mob of 8000 sheep to stock the new run of Rocklands which is a few kilometres north of present-day Camooweal. The venture failed when stock and wool prices crashed. Rocklands was reoccupied in 1876 by Crosthwaite and Tetley assisted by the legendary drover Mat Buchanan who brought in cattle from Mount Cornish. Rocklands was also the terminus of the last great government-funded exploration survey of western Queensland, that by William Hodgkinson in 1876. A coolabah tree at the Rocklands homestead carries the blaze made by Hodgkinson.
Camooweal developed as a supply centre and was surveyed in 1883 and formally gazetted the following year. It was a customs collection point in the pre-Federation period and became a mail coach terminus and teamster's centre with services extending to Burketown, Borroloola and Cloncurry. In the 1930s it became a refuelling stop for QANTAS flights on the England to Australia link and during WWII was an important staging point for military aircraft transiting to and from Darwin. It was also an important centre for cattle movements and features in many tales of the droving days.
During the Great Depression some enterprising stockmen, Jack Freckleton and Paddy Fraser bough horses from stations across the Barkly Tableland and brought them to Camooweal where they broke them in before droving the mob to Birdsville and then on to Adelaide where they sold them as re-mounts for the Indian Army. Their exploits are portrayed in a mural in the Camooweal main street.
Camooweal commemorative mural (KG, 2010)
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 187, all of them recorded as living in Camooweal. It is likely that a small population is resident on various cattle stations with the square.
Camooweal is a service centre for a large area of the Barkly Tableland extending into the Northern Territory. It is also a major stopping point for travellers heading west into the Territory or coming west back into Queensland. It has a basic range of both commercial and public services. The pub and the post office/general store are key facilities in the town. The town has a sealed airstrip suitable for Royal Flying Doctor services.
Google Image: Camooweal (Qld), on the Georgina River, 15km north-east of Degree Confluence 20°S 138°E
The Barkley Highway is shown running east-west through town; racecourse and landing ground also visible
The square falls completely within Mt Isa City. At one time Mt Isa City claimed to have the longest main street of any city in the world - the 204km of the Barkly Highway from Mt Isa to the border is all within ‘Mt Isa City"! The Camooweal Caves National Park of 137 sq km is to the south of the town. It was gazetted in 1988 though the caves were first explored in the early 1900s and the first maps of the caves were published (in German) in 1916.
The square contains almost 500 km of public roads including the Barkly Highway. There is also an extensive network of private roads and tracks on the various cattle stations. In addition to the airstrip that services Camooweal there are several private airstrips on the station properties.
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
Compiler: Ken Granger, 2010
References: various web sites including local governments, QPWS and Bureau of Meteorology.
EPA 2001: Heritage trails of the Queensland outback, Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.