20°S 141°E Middle Creek– Queensland by Degrees


AT THE POINT

Degree confluence 20°S 141°E, Google Earth

site

n

Looking north

e

Looking east

s

Looking south

w

Looking west

 

Location: This confluence point is on the property called Kalmeta Station close to Middle Creek which is a small tributary of the Cloncurry River. Getting to the site was on foot 2.5 Km from Clonagh Road. This point is located in the McKinlay Shire. The closest significant settlement is Cloncurry which is 95km to the south-west;  Julia Creek is 105km to the south-east.

The Landscape: The Cloncurry River is the main drainage catchment area for the point. The landscape is  an undulating grassy plain. The elevation is 103m ASL.  The soil is a reddish clay-based soil derived from the riverine alluvium of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years). Only some scattered Eucalypts, grassy areas and improved pasture can be found around the point. Fauna in the form of macropods is found in this region. The land use is mainly by beef cattle grazing.

gps

GPS

 

Point information and photos: T Hiller, N O' Connor and J & M Nowill  17/6/2010

WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: The area is generally low lying with major drainage channels including the Cloncurry River and its major tributaries including the Dugald, Williams and Gilliat Rivers and Julia Creek; and the Flinders River with its tributaries including the Saxby River. All of the drainage flows to the Gulf of Carpentaria and most streams have shallow and braided streams. Elevations range from around 100m ASL in the south to less than 50m ASL in the north.

 

riv

Cloncurry River (Mary Nowill, 2010)

suns

Sunset along the Cloncurry River (Mary Nowill, 2010

The geology of the area is composed largely of sandstone and siltstone of Cainozoic age (less than 66 million years) with a few small outcrops of sandstone and siltstone of Albian age (around 100 million years). The floodplains of the various rivers are alluvium of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years).

The area is dominated by grassland with the occasional Eucalypt or shrub. Riparian woodland is found along most drainage channels where River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and Coolibah (E. coolabah) dominate. Land use is dominated by cattle grazing.

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The Climate: The climate is classified as being grassland with a winter drought. The closest representative weather station to the confluence is at the Cloncurry Airport, which is 95 km to the south-west of the point and has an elevation of 186 m. The station has been recording data since 1978.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

36.1

36.0

36.0

33.7

29.4

26.4

26.2

28.6

33.1

26.5

37.9

38.8

33.2

Mean min
(ºC)

24.5

24.3

22.4

20.0

15.4

11.6

10.3

12.3

16.5

20.5

23.1

24.9

18.8

Mean rain
(mm)

193.0

112.6

75.2

20.9

5.4

6.3

1.0

2.3

5.7

24.4

28.6

81.4

534.9

The highest temperature to be recorded at Cloncurry Airport was 46.9°C in December 2006, and the lowest was 1.8°C in July 1979. The greatest rainfall recorded in any year was 996.8 mm in 1999, and the least was 117.4 mm in 2008.

 

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of tropical cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 18 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the confluence, two of which have passed within 50 km (TC Brownyn in 1972, and TC Ted in 1976). These cyclones bring with them potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall that will in turn produce extensive flooding that can isolate properties for several weeks.

 

cyc

Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

The area experiences between 30 and 40 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall causing localised flooding and lightning strikes that can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel available.

Drought and heatwave are probably the most potentially dangerous natural hazards across the area. Cloncurry averages around 150 days with temperatures that exceed 35oC each year and 35 days with temperatures in excess of 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 does not contain any earthquake epicentres located within the degree square.

The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Mayi-Thakurti, Ngawun and Wunumara peoples.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

 

European Exploration and Settlement:  The first Europeans to pass through or close to this square may have been Ludwig Leichhardt on his last expedition in 1848. Several trees marked with "L" were found in the area in 1864 by pastoralist Duncan McIntyre - they were typical of the blazes used by Leichhardt.  Burke and Wills passed through the area in 1861. The search party looking for these missing explorers led by John McKinlay also passed along the Cloncurry River and reported the extensive pasture land in the area. Pastoralists Donald and Duncan McIntyre (1864) established Dalgonally Station on Julia Creek in 1864. They were followed by Ernest Henry and his partner Robert Sheaffe (1866). While Henry went on to discovery of copper in the area to the west and south-west, Sheaffe established the Fort Constantine cattle run in 1866. The development of the mineral deposits in the area led to a rapid expansion of settlement and the take-up of land.

The south-western corner of the square falls within the Cloncurry-Mt Isa copper zone and exploration in the area eventually led to the establishing of the Ernest Henry open cut mine in 1997 within the boundaries of the Fort Constantine run. Most of the mine workers live in Cloncurry which is only 35km to the south-west.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was less than 50.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

136

147

106

<50

Total males

75

87

63

0

Total females

61

60

43

0

Under 5 years

6

9

12

0

65 years and over

6

6

0

0

Indigenous

3

7

3

0

The decline in the population over the three census periods is probably the result of the impact of drought on the pastoral industry. The pastoral industry remains dominant across the majority of the square with many properties such as Sedan Dip, which is close to the confluence point, typical of the industry.


race

Sedan Dip station and racecourse (Mary Nowill, 2010)

The Ernest Henry Mine in the south-west corner of the square, however, dominates the economy. It produces around 100,000 tonnes of copper and 125,000 ounces of gold each year! It is served by a water pipeline from Lake Julius, about 100km to the west.

 

Ernest Henry Mine with the open cut pit and tailings dam (Google Earth image)

There are around 1700km of public roads in the square including the Wills Developmental Road. In addition to the public roads there is an extensive network of private roads and tracks on the cattle stations. Most stations also have their own airstrips. The underground water supply to the Ernest Henry Mine is the only major water supply infrastructure in the square.

The square is divided between McKinlay Shire in the east and Cloncurry Shire in the west. There are no national parks in the square.

Site Summary:

Location

On Kalmeta Station close to Middle Creek

Access

By road to within 2.5km thence on foot to the point

Nearest settlement

Cloncurry is 95km to the south-west

Terrain

Flat flood plain

Catchment

Cloncurry River flows to the Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

Sandy clay alluvium of Quaternary age

Vegetation

Grassland with occasional gum trees

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Grassland with a winter drought

Population in degree square

106 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

1700km of public road, Ernest Henry mine infrastructure, private roads and airstrips

National Parks

None in the square

Compiler: Ken Granger, 2010

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

References: various web sites including local governments and Bureau of Meteorology.

EPA 2001: Heritage trails of the Queensland outback, Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Colin Hooper, 2006: Angor to Zillmanton - stories of North Queensland's deserted towns, Bolton Print 6th edition.

Google Earth