AT THE POINT
At the point
Location: The confluence is located on Bannockburn Station , about 100kms NNW of Aramac. And 150kms SE of Hughenden, and is accessed from a sealed road leading to the Station, and on station roads for 25kms within the property. Finally, walking is required to reach the point, due to the scrubby nature of the surroundings.
Bannockburn has been leased by the Dart Family for three generations, and was originally part of Uanda Station . We are indebted to Mr. and Mrs Dart for permission to access the site and for much valuable information about the property and district. The property is operated as a cattle property running Brahman, Droughtmaster and Charolais cattle. Bannockburn is also a Quarter Horse Stud supplying a market for these animals.
The Landscape: The site has an elevation of 270 metres, and is drained by small creeks and gullies to Torrens Creek in a SE direction. It is surrounded by low scrub with a variety of vegetation, but sparse in some places. The property has few permanent waterholes or creeks, although Boggy Creek to the South holds water for some months after rain. Water requirements are supplied by deep bores with solar and windmill powered pumps.
Point information and photos: Brian & Margaret Mealey
WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The majority of the degree square falls within the Barcaldine Regional Council area, but the northern section is included in the Flinders Shire Council.
The district forms part of the Desert Uplands Region which is the area between the Great Dividing Range 100kms to the East, and the Thomson River catchment 50 kms to the West. The Desert Uplands are typified by red sandy soils,and abundant Spinifex (Triodia spp).The soils are generally deficient in essential minerals and trace elements, particularly phosphorous. The Desert Uplands represents remnants of ancient plateaus, and comprises plains with low hills and ridgelines; the Great Dividing Range is simply a low watershed in most of the region. The country within the degree square however is mainly flat tableland with an elevation of about 270 metres. An unusual feature of the area is the numerous small dry lakes, which are merely shallow depressions in the red sandy soil, but with a clay base holding water after rain, they soon dry out.3
There are no towns or settlements in the degree square, but a number of cattle properties are scattered about the region, and good numbers of cattle were noted at the time of our visit.
Vegetation: Vegetation in the degree square is similar to that at the confluence but River Red Gums and Coolibahs are common along the waterlines. Gidgee, Box and Narrow Leaf Ironbark dominate, with some Wilga and heavy growth of Wattles and Acacias. Grass types noted are mainly native species such as Kangaroo Grass, Mitchell Grass and Spinifex, at the time of our visit a good body of grass was evident due to good rains earlier in the year. Other species of grass includes White Speargrass, Star Grass and Flinders Grass.
Native Animals /Birds: Large numbers of Kangaroos were seen near the watercourses, as well as feral goats. Birds were prolific, Brolgas, Spoonbills, Kookaburras, Galahs and many varieties of Parrots were in evidence, around the many waterholes from the recent rains.
The Climate: The climate is semi-arid, with a highly variable, mainly summer rainfall, with the average about 480mm. The region lies between two major pressure systems that affect Australia's climate. This means that it is too far North to receive reliable winter rainfall, and too far South to be able to rely on the monsoonal 'wets' of the northern regions, thus it is prone to frequent droughts. Temperatures range from 36°C during Summer months to lows of 8°C in the winter months. Temperatures and Rainfall are highly variable as can be seen by the following figures and the table taken from weather records.
The Barcaldine Weather Station is seen to be representative of the area.
The highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded at Barcaldine Weather Station are : Highest 45.1°C on 30th November 2006, Lowest -1.6°C in June /July 1976 and July 1974. Highest Annual Rainfall 1191.5mm in 1950, Lowest Annual Rainfall 146.0mm in 1946.
Extremes of Nature: Floods in the Thomson River and its tributaries are very common, some covering wide areas, but causing very little damage, although towns and properties are often inconvenienced for many weeks. Very large floods occurred in the years 1883,1906,1949,1955,1963,1974,1990 and 2000, the latter reached a height in Longreach of 5.62m and entered the town's outskirts.4
A search of the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia, found no earthquakes in the area since 1900.
In spite of its inland location the square is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology contains records of 16 cyclones that passed within 200 km of the point. None of the storms came to within 50 km of the point. All cyclones with 200 km can bring destructive winds and torrential rain that produce severe flooding.
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. Barcaldine experiences 88 days with temperatures over 35oC and 9 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: A number of tribes and subtribes occupied the Thomson watershed which in the northern areas was virtually waterless for most of the year. The Iningai Tribe inhabited most of the area, but the Mootoburra tribe2 also roamed the area of the degree square, hence the name of the Muttaburra township. However early writers held the view that the people lived well on the abundance of game and other foods, in the vicinity of the permanent waterholes. Indeed, competition for these waterholes was to become the cause of friction and open warfare between Aboriginals and early settlers. The explorer Gregory (1848) reported confrontations in which the Aboriginals suffered some casualties. Other explorers and settlers also were attacked, and retaliated with force. The tribes were eventually reduced in number by the force of arms of the settlers, and introduced diseases. Very few remained by 1887.1
European Settlement: The district was crossed by Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1846, and described a river which he mistakenly thought flowed into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Kennedy in 1847 reported the river as the Barcoo which flowed into the Cooper Ck system, and having a major tributary, the Thomson. Gregory while searching for Leichhardt further explored the region, and his reports were so favourable that in 1863 Landsborough, Buchanan and Cornish took up Bowen Downs, a massive run of 2000 square miles. It eventually stocked about 350000 sheep and 35000 cattle before being broken up into smaller runs in 1887. The infamous cattle theft of Harry Redford in 1872 was from Bowen Downs. 1
Today: Historically the land was settled mostly for wool growing, but a succession of droughts and low wool prices, forced pastoralists into cattle grazing over the last 50 to 60 years. Very little sheep farming is now practised, except for limited wool production in the western areas of the region. This in turn is/has contributed to the ongoing decline of the population in the district , shearers and others involved in the wool industry are now few in number. The main industry involves raising cattle for the beef market. There is no real alternative industry in the degree square, although small numbers of horses are produced. There is no mining or timber production.
National Parks: Forest Den National Park, is situated in the degree square, previously pastoral land, this 5890 hectares is now preserved for its plant diversity. The park runs along Torrens Creek and contains good waterholes lined with Coolibah and River Red Gums.
To the North, part of Moorinya National Park is within the area, also an old sheep station, where some of the buildings and infrastructure are retained.
Watershed: The degree square is well drained, to the West and South, Towerhill Creek,and Cornish Creek combine with the larger Landsborough Creek to form the Thomson River. On the Eastern side Torrens Creek also runs South, and joins this large complex of creeks and gullies, which eventually runs into Cooper creek.
Population: ABS Census Data indicates a decline in population since 1991 in the Aramac Statistical area , and about half the population lives in the Towns of Aramac and Muttaburra. The population of the degree square is estimated to be about 90 persons occupying about 20 inhabited stations. The decline is thought to be a result of years of drought and low prices for stock, and to some extent the slow down in wool production. This has resulted in amalgamations of properties and fewer work opportunities. A small increase in Indigenous person numbers has occurred, with most living in the towns.
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 328. The apparent increase in population is likely due to changes in census boundaries with the actual total population spread across a number of neighbouring squares.
The zero tally for 1996 is a reflection of changed census boundaries rather than an actual lack of population.
The square is divided between Flinders Shire in the north-west and Barcaldine regional Council in the south-east.
There are 1250 km of public roads within the square, the majority are natural surface.
Compiled By: B Mealey and additional material by Ken Granger
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
Ref 1 Anne Smith , This Eldorado of Australia, A centennial History of Aramac Shire, JCU, 1994.
Ref 2 S.A. Museum, www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/page/default.asp?site=1
Ref 3 Desert Uplands ,Land Series, Qld Government, Natural Resources and Water Dept., March 2006
Ref 4 Longreach Regional Council. www.longreach.qld.gov.au