21°S 144°E Afton Downs – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

Degree confluence 21°S 144°E, Google Earth

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Looking north

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Looking east

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Looking south

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Looking west

Location: This confluence point is located on the property of Afton Downs Station, in the braded flood plain of Walker Creek. The nearest populated settlement to the confluence point is Hughenden, approximately 27 km to the north-east. The point was reached by vehicle from the Kennedy Developmental Road to within 40 m of the point. The point lies within Flinders Shire.

The Landscape: The point is on the flat flood plain of Walker Creek. Geology at the point is channel and flood plain alluvium of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years). Vegetation around the point is open tussock grassland with occasional Coolibah trees. Elevation at the point is around 250 m ASL. Walker Creek is a tributary of the Flinders River which flows to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Point information and photos: Cody Herrod and Billy Paine, 2009

 

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: The land in the square generally slopes from the north-east to the south-west. The greatest elevation is around 500 m ASL and the lowest is along the Flinders River at 200 m ASL. The southern two-thirds of the square is composed of sandstone, mudstone and siltstone of Early Cretaceous age (141 to 96 million years) with the drainage channels being alluvium of Quaternary age. The north-western third is of more complex structure but is dominated by basalt flows of Cainozoic age (less than 65 million years).

Much of the area is grassland with riparian forest along the drainage channels.

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Climate: The climate of the area is classified as hot grassland with a winter drought. The closest representative weather station to the confluence is at the Hughenden Post Office, which is approximately 27 km to the north-east of the degree confluence, and has an elevation of 324 m. The station has been collecting data since 1884.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

35.8

34.7

33.7

31.4

27.9

25.0

25.0

27.5

31.1

34.5

36.1

36.9

31.6

Mean min
(ºC)

22.5

22.1

20.5

17.0

13.2

9.8

8.8

10.4

14.0

18.0

20.5

22.0

16.6

Mean rain
(mm)

114.5

98.0

58.2

26.0

17.8

18.6

11.6

7.9

9.0

22.3

36.0

71.1

492.4

The highest temperature to be recorded was 44.0°C in December 1996, and the lowest was -2.0°C in July 1984. The greatest rainfall recorded in any year was 1 085.1 mm in 1891, and the least was 150 mm in 1926. These and other climate statistics for Hughenden can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_030024_All.shtml.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 12 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Of these, two tracked within 50 km of the point: an unnamed cyclone in April 1940; an unnamed cyclone in February 1956; TC Winifred in February 1986 and TC Aivu in April 1989. These cyclones bring with them potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall. Cyclone information for this area and all of Australia can be found at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi.

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Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

The Flinders River is very prone to flooding during the wet season. Several severe floods have impacted on Hughenden and the surrounding properties. There have been four major floods at Hughenden since 1946 with those in 1967and 1968 being the most severe. Bad flooding was again experienced in 1991 and 1996. These floods spread across wide areas and cut roads isolating properties and small towns for several weeks at a time.

On average the area experiences around 25 to 30 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms bring with them potentially destructive winds, intense rainfall and lightning strike. Two such storms, one in 1949 and the other in 1998, caused severe wind damage to Hughenden. The intense rainfall can lead to flash flooding and the lightning can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to sustain spread.

Bushfires can cover very large areas in this region in the dry winter and autumn months. Such fires may be deliberately lit to manage vegetation and to promote pasture growth or they may be wildfires.

Extreme heat is also a serious issue. The climate records for Hughenden show that on average the area experiences 101 days a year with temperatures over 35°C and nine days with temperatures of 40°C or more. 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.

There are no earthquake epicentres within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia.

The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Yirandali people.

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to pass through this area were in two of the parties searching for the missing Burke and Wills expedition in 1861-2. One was led by William Landsborough and the other by Frederick Walker. Both parties blazed the same Coolibah tree on Station Creek near present-day Hughenden. The first settlers in the area arrived in 1862 after reports of the fine grazing country along the Flinders River were reported by Landsborough and Walker. Ernest Henry established Hughenden Station in 1863.

The town of Hughenden was surveyed in 1877 and within five years the town had a bank, school and hospital and the first passenger train had arrived.

In 1865 two locals sent some fossils to Professor Frederick McCoy in Melbourne. These were identified as the first Cretaceous fossils from Australia and marked the beginning of an on-going study of fossils across the Great Artesian Basin. In 1934 a well preserved 5.1 m long ichthyosaur was found just west of Hughenden as were a number of skulls of the ferocious predator Kronosaurus. A skull of Muttaburrasaurus, the second specimen found, came to light in 1987 and in the 1990s more new fossil species were found.

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 1502.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

1764

1736

1437

1502

Total males

935

881

724

792

Total females

829

855

713

710

Under 5 years

158

158

111

99

65 years and over

187

192

150

230

Indigenous

144

148

146

114

The population of Hughenden in 2011 was 1151. The remainder of the population was spread across the rural areas. Hughenden is the service centre for the surrounding pastoral area and has a limited range of commercial and public services. It also has the tourist attraction of the life-sized model of a 7 m long Muttaburrasaurus outside the visitor information centre.

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Hughenden (Google Earth image)

Infrastructure in the square includes the Flinders Highway and the Kennedy Developmental Road as well as other public and station roads and tracks. The main rail link between Townsville and Mt Isa and the spur from Hughenden to Winton are within the square. Hughenden has an all-weather airfield.

The square falls almost entirely within the Flinders Shire. A very small sliver of Richmond Shire is in the north-west corner. There are no national parks within the square.

Site Summary:

Location

On the flood plain of Walker Creek on Afton Downs Station

Access

By public road then cross country to the point

Nearest town

Hughenden is 27 km NE of the point

Terrain

Flat flood plain

Catchment

Walker Creek is a tributary of the Flinders River which flows to the Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

River and channel alluvium of Quaternary age

Vegetation

Tussock grasslands

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Hot grassland with winter drought

Population

1437 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

Flinders Highway, Kennedy Developmental road, main rail links and all weather airfield at Hughenden

National Parks

None in the square

Compilers: Ken Granger, 2009

Edited by:  Hayley Freemantle

References: various web sites including EPA, tourist operators, local governments, mining industry and Bureau of Meteorology.