AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on the working cattle property, Boolbie, after which the degree square is named. The site is in a mountainous area of north-west Queensland, and while the confluence itself is unmarked, a GPS was used to find the exact location. A dirt track following Cadell Creek came within 4-5 km of the point, and the remaining distance was travelled on foot. Elevation at the point is 231 m ASL. The closest settlement is Kynuna, which is 47 km north-north-west of the point. The site was visited in the early afternoon by a party of RGSQ members travelling in four 4WD vehicles from Brisbane, in June 2009. The point lies within Winton Shire.
The Landscape: While the terrain at the degree confluence is flat with an elevation of 234 m, there are numerous stony hills visible, and slightly elevated land to the east of the point. There was substantial vegetation, including sparse areas of Spinifex, along with some species of eucalypt, grevillea, gidgee and acacia (heights to 5 m). A few types of wildflowers such as Pink Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus exaltatus) re also present in the surrounding area. While no animals were seen at the confluence, there was evidence of cattle and kangaroos on the western side of Cadell Creek.
The ground surface is comprised of bare gravel and soil (red to dark brown in colour). The primary geological features of the area include Winton Formation sandstone of Albian age (100 million years). Along the various drainage lines the geology is alluvial sediments of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years). This landscape is typical of much of the surrounding country with sandstone ridges and low flat-top mesas creating a broken landscape.
The closest watercourse is Cadell Creek, just over 3 km to the west, although it was dry at the time of visiting. Cadell Creek is the area's main site of drainage, and continues to flow south to join the Diamantina River, which is part of the Lake Eyre Basin. There are also numerous active bores in the general vicinity.
GPS at the point
Point information and photos: Paul Feeney, Mary Comer, Jo Grant and Mary Nowill
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The landscape within the square is dominated by the great sweep of the Diamantina River's braided course through almost 180o. The Diamantina and its tributaries have cut down through sandstone, mudstone and siltstone of Albian age (100 million years) to produce a somewhat broken terrain. Maximum elevation in the square is around 300 m ASL to the west of the point, with the lowest being 100 m ASL where the Diamantina leaves the square to the south. The channel of the Diamantina is braided and for much of the time is reduced to a string of water holes like the Combo Waterhole (famous for its link to Waltzing Matilda).
Vegetation across the square is predominantly grassland, especially Spinifex. Riparian vegetation along the stream channels is dominated by Coolibah and River Red Gums. The area is abundant in wildlife especially birds, with many species of raptor such as Black Kite, water birds and parrots. Large flocks of Galah, Corella, Cockatiel and Budgerigar can be seen, especially close to the water holes. Larger birds such as Emu, Australian Bustard and Brolga are also present across the plains. Kangaroos and feral camels are also abundant. Termite nests are a common feature of the landscape.
The Climate: The climate of the area is classified as being persistently dry grassland. The Bureau of Meteorology climate station at Winton Post Office provides representative statistics.
Winton Post office (037051) 1884-2010 (elevation 182 m ASL)
The highest temperature ever recorded in Winton was 46.8oC in December 2006 while the lowest temperature was -1.7oC in June 1971 and July 1968. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1171.1 mm was recorded in2000 and the lowest total of 52.6 mm in 2002.
Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the confluence point 1906-2006 (BoM web site)
Extremes of Nature: Despite the area's inland location, it is still subject to the impact of some cyclones. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 11 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the confluence since 1906, only one of these passed within 50 km (TC Aivu in 1989). Even distant cyclones bring with them potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall.
The area experiences an average of between 20 and 25 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall that can produce flash flooding and occasional hail. Lightning strikes can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel for it to spread.
Floods in the Diamantina system are reasonably frequent though typically they tend to do little serious damage other than to fencing and roads. They can spread across wide areas but usually have little velocity or depth - they tend to do more good than harm by replenishing soil moisture that is depleted by frequent droughts.
Drought and heatwave are the two most severe natural hazards. Winton experiences 138 days with temperatures over 35oC and 31 days over 40oC. Heatwaves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.
The earthquake database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains details of no events within the degree square.
The Indigenous Story: Most of the land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Guwa people.
There was considerable conflict between the Aboriginals and the early European settlers, most because of cattle spearing and stealing. A force of close to 30 Aboriginal troopers was stationed at Winton in the early 1870s and major clashes with the local people occasionally resulted in numerous deaths.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: It is thought that Ludwig Leichhardt passed through the area on his attempt to cross the continent in 1848. Augustus Gregory followed 10 years later searching for Leichhardt. Explorers John McKinlay, William Landsborough and Frederick Walker also passed through the area in 1861-62, looking for Burke and Wills.
European settlers took up land in the area from around 1865 but the settlers were forced out by severe drought. When the drought broke in the early 1870s a new wave of settlers took up runs such as Dagworth.
Cobb and Co established a route from Winton to Boulia by 1865 with Middleton being one of their staging posts. Middleton was eventually gazetted as a town in 1908 with a population of around 20.
Stations in the area became the focus for strife during the second shearer's strike of 1894. Several sheering sheds were torched by striking shearers and a gun battle broke out between police and striking shearers at Dagworth Station. One shearer, by the name of Haffmeister, later died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds at the Combo Waterhole near Kynuna Station. His death is said by some to have been the inspiration for Banjo Patterson's poem Waltzing Matilda, written at Dagworth Station in 1895 and first performed as a song in the North Gregory Hotel in Winton that year.
Testament to the difficult lives led by many of the early settlers and travellers are the many lonely grave sites such as those at the site of the Dagworth Hotel and along some of the bush tracks.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was less than 50. The decline in the cattle industry and changes to census boundaries would both have contributed to the apparent reduction.
Tourist numbers during the winter, however, can more than double the population at times.
Land use across the square is dominated by cattle grazing. Boolbie is typical of the cattle stations in the square.
Kynuna and Middleton are the two settlements within the square. Both are essentially way-stations with a pub and limited retail and accommodation services.
There are 870 km of public roads within the square including a section of the Landsborough Highway and the Kennedy Developmental Road. These roads carry a variety of traffic ranging from caravanning ‘grey nomads' in the winter to road trains carting cattle to markets. Most cattle stations have an airstrip.
Most of the square falls within Winton Shire. There is a small section of McKinlay Shire in the north-west (that takes in Kynuna) and an even smaller section of Richmond Shire in the north-east corner. The Combo Conservation Park is the only heritage area within the square.
Compiler: Ken Granger 2010
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
References: various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.