26°S 142°E Cooper Creek – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

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Degree confluence 26°S 142°E, Google Earth

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fl1

Looking south

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Looking west

 

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Location: The site is located within the braided channels of Cooper Creek 93 km south-west of Windorah. It lies within Barcoo Shire. It was not visited on the ground but was directly flown over.

The Landscape: Riparian landscape with shallow drainage channels and levee banks. It has an elevation of about 100m above sea level. The country around the Cooper is dominated by black soils, with sand and gravel in the river channels. All are of Quaternary origin (less than 1.8 million years). The drainage channels are flanked by woodlands dominated by River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Black Box (E. largiflorens) and Coolibah (E. coolabah). The vegetation of the land away from the channels is largely native grasses.

Point information and photos: Stuart Watt 2008

 

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

The Country: Much of the degree square is occupied by the channels of Cooper Creek. The north-west of the square is dominated by dune fields that flank the Beal Range and the south-east by low foothills of the McGregor Range. Elevations range from 200m on the eastern border to 50m on the southern border.The oldest rocks in the degree square are the Cretaceous (141 to 65 million years) sediments of the McGregor Range. The greater proportion of the area is made up of Cainozoic era (65 to 5 million years) dune fields and Quaternary sands and gravels of the channel country.

 

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The Climate: The area has a hot and persistently dry desert climate. The nearest climate station is Windorah Post Office. It has been recording data since 1887.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

38.1

36.6

34.6

30.2

25.3

21.6

21.4

24.0

28.4

32.5

35.5

37.8

30.5

Mean min
(ºC)

24.1

23.5

21.1

16.1

11.3

7.6

6.5

8.1

12.0

16.5

19.8

22.5

15.8

Mean rain
(mm)

42.1

49.3

38.5

19.9

18.8

16.4

15.0

9.9

10.3

17.8

21.1

29.8

289.5

The highest temperature ever recorded in Windorah was 47.1°C in (December 1990) while the lowest temperature was -1.8°C in (July 1977). Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 990.0 mm was recorded in 1950 and the lowest total of 66.8 mm in 2002.

Extremes of Nature: Category 1 cyclone David passed over the area covered by the square in January 1976 after crossing the coast near St Lawrence. It produced major levels of flooding at Windorah and elsewhere across the Thompson-Barcoo-Cooper catchment. Even though the area itself receives very little rainfall, the extensive catchment to the north (Queensland's largest) can receive significant rainfall from decaying tropical cyclones or monsoonal storms. That rainfall can produce significant floods within the degree square. They can extend over a width of almost 100km and inundation can last for many weeks. The biggest floods on record occurred in 1893, 1906, 1949, 1963, 1974, 1990 and 2000. Of the recent floods that of 1974 was the most severe, with a height of 8.48 on the Windorah gauge.

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Cyclone tracks within 200 km of the confluence, 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

The area averages between 15 and 20 'thunder days' each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring local flash flooding, destructive winds and lightning can spark bushfires where there is sufficient fuels.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia records a ML 2.3 event on 23 September 2002 with an epicentre about 45 km south of the confluence point.

The Indigenous Story: The Cooper Creek channel country is the traditional home of the Birria people. Windorah is said to mean 'place of big fish' in the Birria language.

European Exploration and Settlement: The area was first settled in the 1870s when a teamster became trapped on a low stony island in the middle of the flooded channels of Cooper Creek. He sold his supplies to other stranded travellers and a settlement originally called Stony Point was formed. That settlement was later re-named Windorah and a store was built by James and William Whitman to service the expanding pastoral industry.

Today: 

The degree square had a population of around 70 in 2006 and probably less than 50 at the 2011 National census. This has been in decline for many years, largely due to the drought conditions that have placed the grazing industry under great stress.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

82

175

70

<50?

Total males

48

129

36

?

Total females

34

46

34

?

Under 5 years

3

3

0

?

65 years and over

0

19

13

?

Indigenous

11

10

3

?

Cattle grazing is the dominant industry.

There are no National Parks in the degree square.

Site Summary:

Location

In the channels of Cooper Creek

Nearest town

Windorah

Access

Difficult cross country from seasonally accessible roads

Terrain

Riparian channels and levees

Catchment

Cooper Creek - Lake Eyre

Geology & soils

Quaternary sand and gravel

Vegetation

Riparian River Red Gum, Coolibah and Black Box

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Hot and persistently dry desert

Population in degree square

70 in 2006

Infrastructure

A few roads only

National Parks

Nil

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

Compilers: Stuart Watt and Ken Granger

References still to come