AT THE POINT
Location: This confluence point is located on Oakleigh Station. It was reached by public road then on station tracks before the final 96 m on foot. The point was accurately located using GPS.
Landscape: The area comprises low undulating plains, much of which has been cleared of the native vegetation of Mulga woodlands and planted with improved pasture grasses. The land was once the floor of an inland sea. The soils are red sandy interspersed with black clayey soils. The latter become very boggy when wet. The geology is sand plain of Cainozoic age (less than 65 million years).
Woodland trees on the pulled country of cracking clay soil flats at the point included suckers of Poplar box (Eucalyptus populnea), Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) and False Sandlewood (Eremophilia mitchelli), with yellow-flowering Cassia-shrub (Senna artemisiodes). Grasses present were Kangaroo (Themeda trandra), Native couch (Brachyachne leucocephola), Panicum and Katoora species. Some improved pasture clumps of Buffel (Cenchrus ciliaris) were noted under the suckers. Smooth-coated Paddy-melons (Citrullus coldncynthis) were drying out amongst Galvanized burr (Sclerolaenabirchii), Bush tomato (Solanum quadrilculatum) and Noogoora burr (Xanthium occidentale). Nearby red sand mulga country grew Mulga (Acacia aneura), Sticky Charleville turkey-bush (Eremophilia freelingii), Square-headed foxtail (Ptilotus macrocephalus), Mulga fern and Mulga oats (Monachather paradoxa).
Grey kangaroos were seen, as well as crutched sheep, cattle, feral goats and a bearded dragon sunning itself on a fence-post. There was also an abundant bird life including Emu, Bustard, Little Grassbird and Zebra Finches. Land use around the point is cattle and sheep grazing.
Point information and photos: Brian and Heather McGrath, 2008
IN THE DEGREE SQUARE
The Country: The landscape is mainly flat to gently undulating with a general slope from north to south. Elevations range from around 400 m ASL in the north to 250 m ASL in the south. Soils are generally red very fine grained with patches of black more clayey soils. The area was in geologic times the bed of a vast inland sea, the undulations probably relics of undersea ridges. There are several stony ridges of low elevation. Much of the area is composed of sand plain of Cainozoic age, however in the north sedimentary rocks including sandstone, mudstone and siltstone of Cretaceous age (100 million years).
The Warrego River is the significant drainage stream in the degree square and runs north to south in the eastern portion of the degree square. Its tributaries, the Langlo and the Ward Rivers drain the major portion of the degree square. They are not continual running streams, but do feature long waterholes which are a source of native fish and yabbies.
A major natural feature of this area is the Great Artesian Basin. The degree square lies in the Warrego East Management Area of the Eromanga Section of the Basin. It is tapped to provide water for stock on grazing properties, but equally importantly, provides water for travelling stock along the stock routes which traverse the area.
The mulga trees are a significant natural feature providing as they do an excellent drought feed crop for stock when fed with mineral/salt licks. The mulga trees can be harvested (pulled) every 15 to 20 years from regrowth; properly managed, they are one of Nature's most sustainable drought feed crops.
Cattle and sheep grazing is the main industry for this area. A former wool scour situated east of Charleville ceased operation many years ago; its "ruins" sit beside the Warrego Highway, a few kilometres east of the town. In the area around the town of Charleville, attempts have been made in recent years to develop other rural industries, including ostrich farming, redclaw crayfish production and eucalypt plantations for flower production. These attempts have met with varied success. There are two meat processing abattoirs in Charleville, one for sheep and goats and the other for kangaroos. The meat produced is for export overseas. Of interest is that much of the labour for these enterprises comes from Vietnam, entering Australia under the 457 Visa scheme.
There is a considerable forestry industry, logging and milling of cypress pine trees, in this degree square.
Climate: The climate of the area is classified as hot and persistently dry grassland. The Bureau of Meteorology climate station at Charleville Airport provides representative statistics, and is located 50 km south-east of the confluence, and has an elevation of 302 m. The station has been recording data since 1942.
The highest temperature recorded was 46.4°C in January 1973, and the lowest was -5.2°C in June 1951. The greatest rainfall recorded in a year was 1 025.2 mm in 1950, and the lowest was 206.4 mm in 1946. These and other climate statistics for Charleville can be found on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website at, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_044021_All.shtml.
Extremes of Nature: In spite of its location well inland the area is subject to the impact of tropical cyclones. The Bureau of Meteorology cyclone database shows that seven cyclones tracked within 200 km of the point in the 101 years from 1906-7 to 2006-7. Of these only one - TC Cliff of February 1981 - tracked within 50 km of the point. Cyclone information for this area and all of Australia can be found at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi.
Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
Flood levees at Charleville under construction in 2005 (KG, 2005)
The rivers in the square have a long history of flooding. Records of floods in the Warrego River go back to 1910 and since then there have been 11 major floods at Charleville. The flood of record was in 1990 when significant flooding of Charleville forced evacuation of large numbers of people. That flood was recorded at 8.54 m on the Charleville gauge. Two more recent floods in 1997 (7.39 m) and 2008 (6.02 m) greatly tested the levees that were constructed after the 1990 floods. In 2008 gaps in the levee were successfully bridged by flying in temporary barriers of metal and plastic from NSW. A flood level of 5.5 m has the potential to put water into low-lying houses in Charleville.
Floods in rural areas can isolate properties for several weeks because of road closures. Stock losses and damage to fences are the most costly impacts of floods. The warning system for floods in the area generally allows residents and property owners plenty of time to move stock and other assets to areas above the likely flood level.
The area experiences between 25 and 30 thunder days a year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall and lightning strike over a limited area. The intense rainfall can trigger flash flooding and lightning strike can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel for fire to spread.
Bushfires are a potential hazard during the late winter and early autumn but the numbers of properties likely to be threatened are very few.
The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Charleville having an average of 63 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C and 6 days with over 40°C. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.
By contrast, Charleville also averages 28 days with temperatures of 2°C or less a year and 12 days at 0°C or less.
Persistent drought is undoubtedly the most pervasive and economically damaging of all extreme climatic events. In an area that is persistently dry such as that in the degree square 'good' seasons are the exception rather than drought years. Other extreme events include snow falling in Charleville in 1936, and on more than one occasion, large hailtorms have damaged the town.
The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains one earthquake epicentre within the degree square. This was a ML 3.1 event on 3 August 1990 located about 18 km north of Charleville. No damage was reported from this event.
The Indigenous Story: The country within the degree square is the traditional country of the Dharawala and Gunggari people. These major language groups were divided into several smaller groups of which the Bidjara, with the main family groups being the Kunja and Wadjalang tribes were prominant. They lived by hunting and fishing and gathering "bush tucker". The Langlo and Ward River lands would have provided a plentiful source of food for the original occupants of this area.
MORE INFORMATION WELCOME
European Exploration and Settlement: In 1845 Major Sir Thomas Mitchell was the first recorded European to see the Warrego River, but he was more in the area of its headwaters, above Charleville. He named also the Nive River, a tributary of the Warrego, north of Charleville. The reports of Mitchell and his assistant Edmund Kennedy prompted further exploration by Augustus Gregory (1858) and William Landsborough (1862).
Pastoralists began selecting country in the Warrego area in late 1861. The first party into the area comprised J. T. Allan, Oscar de Satge and a Mr Missing. Missing selected the Upper Nive and Burenda Station areas, de Satge took up the Ward country and Allan the Upper Langlo. Louis and Mary Janetzky opened a store in the fledgling settlement of Charleville in 1865 and in 1868 the Government Surveyor William Adcock Tully gazetted the town and named it for his Irish home. By the early 1880s Charleville had a population of 1470. The Murweh Divisional Board, later to become the Murweh Shire, was established in 1879 and in the same year the Charleville hospital was opened. In 1886 Cobb and Co established a factory in Charleville and the railway reached the town in the same year.
Two of the Stiger Vortex Guns remain as a monument in Charleville (KG, 2005)
In 1902 the government meteorologist Clement Wragg installed six Stiger Vortex Guns in Charleville in a failed attempt at rain-making. The principle was that the firing of about 250 g of gunpowder would produce a ring of gas and the vibration of this gas would make clouds release rain. This was never proved conclusively. When Wragg first fired a Stiger gun at Mount Morgan in Central Queensland in 1901 the gun broke injuring onlookers with flying metal and rivets. The firing of the guns at Charleville met with a similar outcome and produced no rain.
Charleville has important connexions with Australian aviation history. On their 1919 flight from England to Australia Ross and Keith Smith made a landing near the town to affect repairs to their aircraft. In 1922 the first commercial airflight in Australia took place when Qantas flew paying passengers from Charleville to Longreach.
During WWII the Charleville airport was taken over by the US forces as a strategic bomber base and the RAAF established the meteorological office at the airstrip. In 1943 the RFDS base was established.
The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national census was 3730.
The vast majority of the people in the degree square live in Charleville which had a population in 2011 of 3322. The fluctuations in population over the past decade probably reflects the fluctuating fortunes of the grazing industries.
Charleville is a key service centre for the large pastoral region that surrounds it. It has a good range of commercial and public services including a School of the Air that serves over 300 children across the southern areas of the State.
Charleville is also the home of the Cosmos Centre. This centre is located near the airport and has interactive displays on astronomy and Aboriginal cosmology. It also has four telescopes under a roll-back roof that can take advantage of the clear skies and lack of light pollution in the area. Another tourist attraction of note is the display of native bilbies, an endangered species, which has been bred successfully in Charleville for release into the wild, particularly into Currawinya National Park on the southern Queensland border.
Charleville is an important junction of major highways, including the Mitchell Highway (north-south) and the Warrego Highway running to the east to Brisbane, the Diamantina Development Road running to the west to Quilpie, Windorah and on to Bedourie, and the road northwest to Adavale. The Mitchell Highway is marketed for tourism purposes as the Matilda Highway and is an important route for tourists from southern states entering Queensland, particularly in the winter months. There are other secondary roads serving rural properties; most are gravel, or worse!
The water supply for Charleville is from bores sunk into the Great Artesian Basin. It is supplied at a natural temperature which makes hot water systems rather unnecessary!
A short section of the rail lines to Cunnamulla and Quilpie from Charleville traverse the southeast corner of the degree square. These lines are now used only for freight, mainly livestock. The rail from Charleville east to Brisbane is still used extensively for freight and the Westlander passenger train makes twice weekly return trips Brisbane-Charleville. There is an all weather rural aerodrome at Charleville, with daily direct flights to Brisbane, and to other country centres including Roma, Longreach, Quilpie and other smaller western towns.
Early properties were established for sheep grazing, but sheep have been largely displaced by cattle since the 1950s. However there are still important Merino sheep-stud operations in the area. The need for more efficient agricultural production has resulted in a great diminution in rural employment, with consequent loss of population in the towns and Degree Square generally. Drought and competition for and from overseas markets are the main factors influencing the financial well-being of the area.
Over the years, many industries have come and gone in the Charleville district. When established as a railhead, it was a major hub for transport to inland areas and coastal towns. From 1883 to 1920 Cobb & Co operated its major coach building works in Charleville; a plaque now marks its former location in Wills Street. Other industries to flourish intermittently in Charleville have included a tallow boiling-down works, a meat refrigeration plant and a wool scour. The increase in tourism in recent years has provided a boost for rural towns such as Charleville.
Most of the square lies with the Murweh Shire. There is a small section of the Blackall Tambo Regional Council in the north-west of the square. There are no National Parks in the square.
Compilers: Brian McGrath with additional material by Ken Granger, 2009.
Edited by: Hayley Freemantle
Various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.
100 Years 1847 - 1947 Charleville. Souvenir Booklet, November 1947.
Alexander, Rhondda. A Field Guide to Plants of the Channel Country, Western Queensland. The Channel Country Landcare Group.
Alick, Terrance and Rosemary. Atlas of Queensland and Northern Territory Pastoral Stations etc, 5th edition.
Discovery guide to outback Queensland, Brisbane: Queensland Museum Publishing, 2003.
Henry, D. R. et al. Pasture Plants of Southern Inland Queensland. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, 1995.
Lord, M. Murweh Shire 100 Years of Local Government 1880-1980. 1982
Wagner, Claire. Frontier Town Charleville 1865 - 1901.