23°S 144°E Darr River Downs – Queensland by Degrees

THE POINT 

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Degree confluence 23°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 in the flood plain of the Darr River 53kms north west of Longreach, and 8kms south-south-east of Darr River Downs Station. It was accessed from the unsealed road leading to the station. Walking (around 3 km) is required to reach the point due to the river channels. It falls within the Longreach Regional local government area. The nearest town is Longreach, about 56 km to the south-east.

The Landscape: The site is in the floodplain dominated by the many channels of the Darr River, which runs south at this point. It is evident that frequent flooding occurs, and the large waterholes nearby are populated by waterbirds, such as ducks and cormorants. The soil is of the heavy clay variety, known as 'black soil', some local sandstone is visible along the creeks. Vegetation consists of native grasses and trees along the watercourses. Fauna is prolific, mainly red and grey kangaroos, emu, bustards and wild pigs in profusion.

Point information and photos: Brian Mealey, 2008

WITHIN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: The district is part of the vast featureless Mitchell Grass Downs (open tussock grassland), with heavy black soil predominant. This soil is boggy when wet and tends to large cracks in dry periods. The few trees consist of Coolibah along the creek banks, with small stands of Gidgee, Wilga and Wild Bauhinia. The Darr River is a major tributary of the Thomson River, which in turn flows into Cooper Creek and eventually to Lake Eyre.

The geology of the area is largely Cretaceous age (141 to 65 million years) sediments of sandstone, siltstone and mudstone. The floodplains are mostly Quaternary silts, sands and gravels.

A number of cattle properties are scattered about the region, were carrying large numbers of cattle at the time of the visit.

LOC

The Climate: Semi-Arid, relying on mainly summer rainfall1, the Longreach Post Office Climate Station to the east is representative of the area. The variability of the rainfall and temperatures may be seen in the table.

Longreach Airport (site number 036031) 1949-2008 (elevation 192 m ASL)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

37.1

35.9

34.7

31.4

27.0

23.7

23.5

25.9

30.2

33.9

36.1

37.4

31.4

Mean min
(ºC)

23.1

22.6

20.3

16.4

12.0

8.2

7.0

8.5

12.4

16.9

19.9

22.0

15.8

Mean rain
(mm)

79.2

77.8

55.3

39.3

27.5

16.6

19.1

11.6

10.1

24.0

28.0

56.0

441.6

The highest temperature ever recorded in Longreach was 47.3°C in (January 1990) while the lowest temperature -2.9°C in both July 1982. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1026.5 mm was recorded in 1950 and the lowest total of 106.4 mm in 2002.

Cyclones tracked, BOM

Extremes of Nature: The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows 12 active or former cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point since 1906.These have all originated in the Coral Sea and include some of the most destructive and intense storms recorded in the Queensland Region. They have included TC Agnes (1956), TC Althea (1971), TC David (1976), TC Winifred (1986) and TC Aivu (1989). The earliest cyclone to have penetrated to the area was an unnamed storm in January 1913. Each of these storms brought heavy rain falls that produced flooding in both local and regional catchments. The area receives between 20 and 25 thunder days on average each year. The more severe thunderstorms can produce destructive winds, intense rainfall that may cause localised flash flooding, and lightning strikes may spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel for it to spread.

Records of large floods in the Thomson River system extend back to the later 1800s. Major floods at Longreach have occurred in 1893, 1906, 1949, 1955, 1963, 1974, 1990 and 2000. The highest flood in recent decades was that of February/March 2000 which reached a peak of 5.62 m on the Longreach gauge. A gauge height of 4.0 m is considered to be a major flood though a height of 5.4 m is needed for waters to enter the town.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains no event epicentres within the degree square. The event recorded nearest to the confluence point was a ML 5.0 event located 205 km to the west that happened on 22 May 1920. No damage was recorded within the degree square.

Drought and heatwave remain the most frequent and severe natural hazards.

The Indigenous Story: The area along the Thomson River between Stonehenge in the south and Muttaburra in the North was occupied by the Iningai Tribe, who are recognised as the traditional owners of the area.

A sub-tribe of Iningai, the Mootoburra (i.e. Muttaburra), is believed to have roamed the area of the Darr River, although Robert Christison who settled Lammermoor Station in 1866 and who drew a map of the tribal boundaries, is unsure of the actual location of the Mootoburra.2

European Exploration and Settlement: In 1846 Sir Thomas Mitchell found a river which he mistakenly assumed to flow into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Edmund Kennedy in 1847 identified the river correctly as the Barcoo, and reported its tributary the Thomson. It was not until 1858 that Augustus Gregory followed the Thomson further north, and in 1860 Nat Buchanan and William Landsborough further explored the area and identified the Landsborough River and other tributaries. All reported favourably on the region, although Gregory had to return in 1858 because of 'extreme dryness of the season'. 4 Landsborough and Buchanan joined with the Scottish Australia Company in founding Bowen Downs, the first pastoral holding in the district. In 1870 Harry Readford ('Captain Starlight') stole 1000 head of cattle from Bowen Downs and drove them into South Australia and sold them at the Adelaide markets.

 Darr River Downs was established in the early 1870s first as a cattle property and eventually to sheep. In 1888 Darr River Downs was described as having 70,400 acres and 135,000 sheep. The place was seen in the 1890s as a good example of sheep production with its own scour and major facilities. Substantial subdivision has occurred since then. The property has now become largely a cattle producer. 3

The town of Longreach (named for the long water hole in the Thomson River on which it stands), was gazetted in 1887 and owes its existence to the surveyors who marked the route for the rail link from Rockhampton as they selected the site for the crossing of the Thomson River.

Because of its better logistic location at the rail head from Brisbane, QANTAS relocated their operational base from Winton to Longreach in 1921. In 1926 QANTAS built the first of six DH 50 aircraft in their hangar at Longreach.

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 3630 with the population of Longreach making up 3138 of that total. The population had been in steady decline between 2001 and 2006, largely because of the prolonged drought and its impact on the pastoral industry, but that trend seems to have been arrested.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

4257

4242

3450

3630

Total males

2139

2170

1687

1756

Total females

2118

2072

1763

1874

Under 5 years

305

302

256

300

65 years and over

621

613

428

448

Indigenous

100

80

149

248

Cattle and sheep grazing remain the major pastoral industries in the district, though tourism and education are also important. The Stockman's Hall of Fame and the QANTAS Founders Museum in Longreach are popular tourist destinations. The School of Distance Education services primary school students across a massive area of western Queensland using telecommunications and computer technologies from its centre in Longreach.

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Longreach Stockman's Hall of Fame

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Longreach School of Distance Education

MORE INFORMATION WELCOME

Site Summary:

Location

Situated in the Darr River channel system

Access

Dry weather access , unsealed road, and by walking

Nearest town

Longreach 53 km to the south-east

Terrain

Mitchell Grass Downs, open grasslands

Catchment

Darr R heads in low north and east of Winton,
and flows into the Thomson R.

Geology & soils

Clay Type Black Soil

Vegetation

Coolabahs along the channels, sparse stands of
Acacia and Wild Bauhinia on the open Downs.

Land use

Cattle Grazing on unimproved pasture

Climate

Semi arid, variable rainfall, annual rainfall averages 441mm

Population in degree square

3450 at the 2006 census - 2620 of them in Longreach

Infrastructure

Rail line and major highway between Winton and Longreach,
is close to the point.
The area is connected to the electricity grid, with "single wire earth return"
to the properties. Telephone access is widely available. Longreach airport.

National Parks

No National Parks in the degree square

Compilers: Brian Mealey and Ken Granger 2008

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

Source Documents:

Ref 1 Longreach Regional Council Website www.longreach.qld.gov.au

Ref 2 S.A. Museum www.samuseum.sa.gov.au

Ref 3 Darr River Downs www.epa.qld.gov.au

Ref 4 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.