AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on Catumnal Station, about 86 km north-west of Muttaburra, and 90km south-south-west of Hughenden. It is accessed by unsealed roads from Muttaburra, Hughenden or Stamford railway siding, and about 800 metres NE from the road by walking. We approached the site from Muttaburra side. The point lies within Winton Shire. The site is in a grassy plain, and was accurately located using GPS.
Catumnal is a 20,000 acre property which was sub-divided from Lerida Station in 1912. The property is owned and operated by Mr and Mrs Drew Westcott, whose family selected the block originally, and whose permission to access the point is appreciated. The property was originally operated as a wool producer, but like most properties in the area it is now involved in cattle production, running Santa Gertrudis and Charolais cross cattle.
The Landscape: The site has an elevation of 278 metres, and is drained by a few small creeks and gullies into Culloden Creek in a southerly direction, which eventually flows into the Thomson River. The country near the site is Mitchell Grass Downs plains, with little or no trees or scrub cover. A large station water supply (Turkey Nest tank) can be seen nearby with cattle grazing in the vicinity. There are few permanent waterholes or creeks, and water requirements are met from artesian bores and dams.
The vegetation consists of extensive grasslands of Mitchell Grass and Flinders Grass, with some introduced Buffel and Rhodes Grasses, as well as Star Grass, lodged on fences. Scattered bushes of Prickly Mimosa are in the area but have the appearance of earlier eradication treatment.
22°S 144°E GPS reading
Point information and photos: Brian Mealey, 2009
WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The district forms part of the vast Mitchell Grass Downs (open tussock grassland) of Central Western Queensland. The soils of the area are typically of the clay based black soil, formed from alluvial deposits in the Tertiary period. These soils are noted for travelling difficulties on its unsealed surface after rain. The black soils are derived from the sandstone of Albian age (around 100 million years) that underlie much of the square. The river floodplains are made up of alluvial sediment of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years).
The few trees are mainly found along the waterlines, but stands of Gidgee and Ironbark are common. With Coolabahs and River Red Gums along the creek banks. Distant tree lines mark the main creeks, but apart from the small Mt. Cobcroft, Boundary Hill and the small Alma Range (304 m ASL) the landscape of the boundless plains is featureless. The creek bottoms are of sedimentary mudstone . At the time of the visit the country was in very good condition after good rains earlier, good numbers of cattle were grazing throughout.
The degree square is well drained with numerous creeks draining into the complex system of Landsborough Creek, which soon joins Tower Hill Creek to form the Thomson River, which eventually flows to Cooper Creek. The main creeks in the area are the Culloden and Bangall Creek Systems. The Alma Range to the south diverts Bangall Creek into the Landsborough channels south of Muttaburra.
In the western part of the square a low range of hills (about 300 m ASL) diverts some creeks to Jessamine Creek which flows into the Diamantina system to the west of Winton. Other flows in the southern part are to Darr River a tributary of the Thomson.
The geographic centre of Queensland (22°29'13"S 144°25'54"E) is located in the south-east corner of the square.
The Climate: The climate is classified as hot grassland with a winter drought. The Bureau of Meteorology climate station at Winton Post Office provides representative statistics.
Winton Post Office (037051) 1884 to 2009 (elevation 182m 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 in 2000 and the lowest total of 52.6 mm in 2002.
Extremes of Nature: In spite of its location at the geographic centre of Queensland the square is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology contains records of 12 cyclones that passed within 200 km of the point. Of these three came to within 50 km: an unnamed cyclone of January 1950; TC Agnes in March 1956 and TC Winifred in February 1986. All cyclones with 200 km can bring destructive winds and torrential rain that produce severe flooding.
Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
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.
Large floods in the Thomson River system have been recorded since the late 19th century. At Longreach to the south of this square there have been at least 12 major floods since 1893. Within the square floods are likely to isolate properties and dislocate the road network for many weeks. The main risk is to livestock and fencing.
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: The Iningai tribe covered most of the area bounded Longreach, Barcaldine, Aramac and Muttaburra, indeed, the name Muttaburra is derived from the Mootaburra sub- tribe. Another tribe roamed the northern area of the degree square, and it is likely that they too were present in the Catumnal area.
European views of the Aboriginals were coloured by instances of white people being killed at other places in Queensland, and early settlers took a hard line against the people. Mitchell and Gregory reported on the "numerous native camps", and it was believed there was a large population. Certainly the land provided plenty of water and other food, so it seems likely that this may have been the case. Conflict developed between the settlers and the Aboriginals over access to the waterholes, and the killing of cattle. By 1887 the superior firepower of the settlers and introduced diseases took a severe toll on the local people so that by 1887 only a few remained and settled on the fringes of Aramac and Muttaburra, others were moved to Government Reserves in other places.
European Exploration and Settlement: Early explorers from Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846, Edmund Kennedy 1847, and Buchanan in 1860, were very impressed with the quality of the country and its potential, although Gregory was forced back in 1858 because of "Extreme Dryness of the season". Based on these glowing reports and their own explorations Landsborough, Buchanan and Cornish took up a vast area of land (2000 sq.miles), at Bowen Downs on the Eastern side of the Landsborough/Thomson catchment. This was soon followed by Darr River Downs in 1870s (70,400 acres) on the western side. Vast numbers of sheep were produced and large volumes of wool were exported from properties with their own wool scours and major facilities. These properties and others were broken up into smaller holdings from the late 1880s until the 1950s, many of these smaller places still exist in the area, but are now mostly beef producers.
The total population of the degree square at the 201 national Census was less than 50. This total has been in decline for more than a decade due largely to drought and its impact on the cattle industry. Changes to census boundaries may also have affected the numbers deemed to be within the square.
Historically the land was settled mostly for wool growing, e.g. 1863 Bowen Downs and 1870 Darr River Downs, but a combination of droughts and low wool prices since 1960 forced pastoralists into cattle grazing. Very little wool growing is now practised, this in turn has contributed to the ongoing decline in population in the region, shearers and others involved in the wool industry are now few in number. The main industry involves raising cattle for the beef markets of the world. There is no real alternative industry in the degree square, although tourism is growing strongly in the bigger towns of Longreach and Winton, just outside the degree square. There is no mining or timber production.
The town of Muttaburra is just outside the degree square (10km),. It is a centre for the local properties. Whilst the town has declined considerably over recent years, it is still well known as the home of the fossilised dinosaur replica Muttaburrasaurus langdoni. The original fossil was unearthed in 1963.
Very little of the 1667 km of the road network in the square is sealed. The main road is the small section of the Kennedy Developmental Road that cuts across the north-west corner of the square. Power is supplied by "SWER" lines from the Townsville Electricity Board. Communication is provided via line of sight microwave radio systems and repeater towers are visible on the horizon. Both Voice and Broadband communication is provided, and seems adequate. A well maintained Racecourse (Tower Hill), not far from Hillview Station is a notable feature of the landscape.
The square is divided between Winton Shire through the centre, Flinders Shire in the north and Barcaldine Regional Council in the south. There are no national parks in the square.
Compilers: Brian Mealey, 2009 with additional material by Ken Granger, 2010
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
Sources: various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.
Anne Smith, 1994: This El Dorado of Australia, JCU (cites A.C. Gregory 1884)Queensland Museum, 2003: Discovery guide to outback Queensland, Queensland Museum Brisbane.