26°S 148°E Forest Vale – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

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Degree confluence 26°S 148°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 on Iwona Station and was reached by station tracks from the Mitchell-Forest Vale Road. It was accurately located by GPS. The point is located within the Maranoa Regional Council area and the nearest settlement is Mitchell, about 54 km to the south.

The Landscape: The point is located on low undulating country which drains via a series of local creeks west to the Maranoa River. The soils are red and sandy interspersed of black clay soil. The latter become very boggy when wet. The underlying geology is sandstone and coal of Middle Jurassic age (176 to 161 million years). Elevation at the point is 487 m ASL.

The native vegetation around the point has been 'pulled' and the land ploughed to produce grazing pasture. Around the point, Wait-a-while (Capparis sp), Roly-poly (Sclerolaena sp) and the white decaying trunk of a Bottle-tree (Brachychiton rupestris) about 200 metres to the west. Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) was short and dry surrounded by herbage including mintweed, four types of Salines, Sclerolaena, Sida species and Foxtail (Plilotus macrocephalus).

The birds noted around the point included crows, peewees, magpies, apostle birds, willy wagtails and brolga, with an eaglehawk seen on roadkill. Reptiles seen included sand goanna and a snake as roadkill were noted. The cattle breeds seen were Herefords, Black Angus and Brahman-Droughtmaster Cross. At the Turkey Nest dam near the point a pair of banded lapwings were observed walking along the fenceline, and at the house double-barred finches were heard and seen.

The kangaroos would be on the green grassed areas, where rain had fallen. Very little evidence of rabbits was noted. It is to be remembered that the Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), bandicoots, bettongs and the Burrowing Cockroach have roamed this area in previous times.

Land use around the point is cattle grazing.

Point information and photos: Brian and Heather McGrath, and Brian and Margaret Mealey, 2009.

The assistance and permission of the Iwona Station owners, Rolly and Jenny Walker is gratefully acknowledged.

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

 

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Mt Kennedy (Brian McGrath, 2009)

The Country: The land within the degree square ranges in elevation from 940 m ASL at the summit of Mt Hutton on the Great Dividing Range, to around 300 m ASL at Mitchell on the Maranoa River. Terrain is generally low and undulating for much of the area. The underlying geology is mostly sandstone and other sedimentary rocks such as mudstone and siltstone, generally ranging in age from the Early to Late Jurassic (200 to 146 million years). Some of this sandstone country has weathered to form rounded messas such as Mt Kennedy (704 m ASL), located 8 km east of the confluence point. The Mt Hutton high country, by comparison, is intruded basalt of Cainozoic age (less than 66 million years).

Much of the area has been cleared for grazing. Where remnant vegetation remains it is typically eucalypt-dominated woodland or open forest. Trees include Poplar Box (Eucalytpus populnea) sprouting new growth, Cypress Pine (Callitris glauca), Wilga (Geijera parviflora), Sandlewood (Eremohpolia sp), Casuarina river oaks, and insect affected Prickly Pear (Opuntia stricta). Foxtails (Plilotis) and Cottontails (Froelichia floridana) were seen on the invading sandhill ridges in the river channels, where Wild sunflower (Verbesia) was growing. Parthenium weed is also known to exist along the river. Along the road, Weeping Myall (Acacia pendula), Black wattle, Brigalow and Ironbark trees occurred in belts through the grasslands.

Fauna across the square is similar to that described around the confluence point.

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The Climate: The climate of the square is classified as being hot grassland that is persistently dry. The Bureau of Meteorology climate station at Mitchell Post office provides representative climate statistics.

Mitchell Post Office (043020) 1884 to 2009 (elevation 337 m ASL)

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

34.0

32.9

31.1

27.4

23.1

19.6

19.3

21.6

25.7

29.3

31.8

33.8

27.5

Mean min
(ºC)

20.0

19.5

16.7

11.5

7.1

4.2

2.8

3.9

7.5

12.3

16.0

18.5

11.7

Mean rain
(mm)

81.9

70.6

59.6

34.9

32.7

33.7

33.8

23.6

26.0

42.7

57.8

66.4

563.9

The highest temperature ever recorded at Mitchell Post Office was 46.8°C in January 1980 while the lowest temperature was -9.4°C in August 1979. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1 304.4 mm was recorded in 1950 and the lowest total of 236.4 mm in 1946. These and other climate statistics for Mitchell can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_043020_All.shtml.

Extremes of Nature: In spite of being so far inland the area has experienced the impact of at least nine cyclones that passed within 200 km of the confluence point. Only one of these, TC Althea in December 1971, passed within 50 km of the point. Each cyclone brings potentially destructive winds and torrential rains. 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.

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Cyclone tracks that passed within 200 km of the point since 1906 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

Floods in the Maranoa can spread across a wide area though their depth and velocities are typically relatively low. They can lead to stock and fencing losses and properties can be isolated for more than a week due to flooded roads.

The area experiences, on average, between 20 and 25 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can bring destructive winds, intense rainfall that can produce flash flooding and lightning. Storms in the dry winter period can spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread.

Bushfires can pose a very significant threat to property and agricultural land as well as fire-sensitive native vegetation such as the rainforests in the gorges. In the late autumn and early summer bushfires can be especially dangerous given that fuels such as grass and forest litter is well cured and strong dry westerly to north-westerly winds are common.

The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Mitchell having an average of 51 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C and four days over 40°C. The hottest months are December to February. 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.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia records no earthquakes within the degree square.

The Indigenous Story: According to Tindale, the main family groups of indigenous persons living in the area were the Mandandanji in the southern areas of the Maranoa and the Nguri in the upper Maranoa and to the west of the degree square. They lived by hunting and fishing and gathering 'bush tucker'.

The Maranoa River lands would have provided a plentiful source of food for the original occupants of this area. The river would then have featured many waterholes, now completely silted due to sandy runoff from grazing properties.

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Heavily silted course of the Maranoa River (Brian McGrath, 2009)

Richards states that it is clear from the accounts of Leichhardt, Mitchell and other early visitors that there were substantial numbers of aboriginal people living in the Maranoa district; most had no contact with Europeans prior to 1850. By the mid-1860s, most had been cleared from the district, and some 300 only remained in the Mitchell area by 1874.

At the end of a long 'Federation' drought in 1903 so many indigenous persons died at the Mennadilla Spring on the Maranoa River, that the area is now thought to be haunted by departed ancestors.

The Aboriginal Community settlement or 'Yumba' was on the east side of Mitchell up to the late 1960s, and there are still occupied buildings there. Today about 150 people of indigenous heritage are resident in the Mitchell district.

European Exploration and Settlement: In 1846 Major Sir Thomas Mitchell was the first European to see the Maranoa River. On his fourth major expedition of exploration he established a major camp site, the second depot of that expedition, on the Maranoa River. The site, now known as Mitchell Water Reserve, is some 40 km north of Mitchell. Major Mitchell arrived there with an advance party on 18 May 1846, and the main party under Edmund Kennedy arrived on 1 June 1846. Mitchell left Kennedy in charge of the camp and departed northwards on 4 July 1846. He reached the Belyando River, then turned south-west and named the Victoria River in the mistaken idea that it ran to the north. Later Kennedy found the Victoria River was the Barcoo River. Mitchell arrived back at this camp on October 14 and on October 17 all departed to the south. During his time at this 'Moondi' camp, Kennedy and his party established gardens, constructed substantial shelters and consistently caught fish in the Maranoa waterholes adjacent to the camp. These waterholes are now completely silted, the result of grazing the catchment areas.

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Plaque at Mitchell depot site (Brian McGrath, 2009)

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Map of Mitchell's 1847 expedition (B McGrath, 2009)

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Tree blazed by Edmund Kennedy at depot (B. McGrath 2009)

The Maranoa Pastoral District was proclaimed in November 1848. It was one of the original 16 electorates proclaimed when the Queensland became a separate colony in 1859.

Many early squatters from Sydney took up runs in the area following Mitchell's reports of the area, including large colonial families like Tooth of brewing fame and politician Edward Flood. Mitchell Downs pastoral run was taken up and named by Edward Morey in 1854. Robert Douglas, an early pioneer arrived in the Maranoa district as a 16-year old in 1857. Gordon Long brought cattle to the area in the early 1850s, and Allan McPherson claimed the Mt Abundance run in 1847.

The history of Mitchell provides another item of interest to tourists; its connection to the Kenniff story. In the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century, the Kenniff brothers had a deserved reputation as horse duffers, operating from the Ralph Station block, near the Carnarvon area. In November 1902, Patrick and Jimmy Kenniff were convicted of the murder of Constable George Doyle and property manager Albert Dalke who had been shot while pursuing the Kenniffs. Patrick was hanged in 1903 and is buried in Dutton Park cemetery. Jimmy served 12 years and lived on until 1940. The court case had many interesting facets, not the least of which was that it was the first case where the testimony of an indigenous witness, Sam Johnson who had been Doyle's tracker, was crucial in securing a conviction in a death penalty case. The courthouse memorial to these events was opened in Mitchell in 1996; it contains storyboards with full details of the Kenniff happenings.

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 1869. The rebound in population over the last census period is probably associated with the recovery of the rural industries after a period of drought.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

1645

1648

1544

1869

Total males

888

878

780

969

Total females

757

770

764

900

Under 5 years

134

136

89

143

65 years and over

239

233

213

256

Indigenous

98

102

156

187

Of the total population, 916 people lived in Mitchell at the 2011 census. The remainder were spread across the rural properties and the small village of Mungallala.

Mitchell is a pleasant western Queensland town sitting astride the Warrego Highway and western rail line. A reserve for the town of Mitchell was first gazetted on the site of Mitchell Downs Station in 1869, and the town became the administrative centre for the Division and later the Shire in 1879. It services the surrounding rural properties and is increasingly visited by tourists in the cooler months. There is an extensive Caravan Park on the left bank of the Maranoa River at the eastern entrance to the town and a less formal camping area at the Neil Turner Weir on the western outskirts of the town. There is a commercial centre astride the Warrego Highway which caters for all requirements. There is an all-weather airfield at Mitchell.

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Mitchell (Google Earth Image)

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Mitchell information centre (KG, 2005)

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Mitchell artesian spa (KG, 2005)

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Mitchell newsagent (B McGrath, 2009)

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Court House Hotel Mitchell (KG, 2005)

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Mitchell main street (KG, 2005)

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Street sculptures Mitchell (KG, 2005)

Mitchell is a southern access to the Mt Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park. Mungallala is a much smaller centre on the Warrego Highway, 45 km west of Mitchell. It has an hotel and a small store.

The Warrego Highway is on the southern boundary of the Degree Square and runs through Mitchell and Mungalalla eastwards to Brisbane and to the west to Charleville. The Mitchell to Forest Vale Road is sealed; it continues north and northeast to Mt Moffatt and Injune. There are other secondary gravel roads serving rural properties.

The water supply for Mitchell is from bores sunk into the Great Artesian Basin. The original bore was drilled in 1908 and deepened to almost 1 000m in 1921. In 1998, the Great Artesian Spa, Mitchell's Wellspring of Health was opened and has proved popular with tourists. The Neil Turner Weir on the Maranoa River is now largely silted up.

The main western rail line traverses the southern boundary of the Degree Square. The line, west to Charleville and east to Brisbane, is still used extensively for freight and the Westlander passenger train makes twice weekly return trips Brisbane-Charleville.

Early properties were established for sheep grazing, but sheep have been largely displaced by cattle since the 1950s.

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. Mitchell had a population of over 1 500 persons in 1959, now reduced to less than 1 000 persons. Drought and competition for and from overseas markets are the main factors influencing the financial well-being of the area.

The increase in tourism in recent years has provided a boost for rural towns such as Mitchell, where the Local Authority has encouraged with some success the establishment of a variety of tourism related businesses, many based on the indigenous heritage and the skills of local residents.

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'Mitchell Mud' kids clothing (KG, 2005)

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Quilt show by Mitchell artists (KG, 2005)

The square lies completely within the boundaries of the Maranoa Regional Council area. There are no national parks of conservation parks within the square though there are several State Forests.

Site Summary:

Location

On Iwona Station 11 km east of the Mitchell - Forest Vale Road

Access

By road and station tracks

Nearest town

Mitchell 54 km to the south

Terrain

Flat flood plain of the Maranoa River

Catchment

Maranoa River part of the Murray-Darling Basin

Geology & soils

Sandy clay soils on Sandstone of Middle Jurassic age

Vegetation

Mostly cleared for grazing and sewn to Buffel grass

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Persistently hot dry grassland

Population in degree square

1 544 at the 2006 census

Infrastructure

Warrego Highway and western rail line; extensive network
of public and station roads; all-weather airstrip at Mitchell; small station airstrips

National Parks

None in the square

Compilers: Brian McGrath, Heather McGrath, Brian Mealey and heather Mealey with additional material by Ken Granger, 2009

Edited by:  Hayley Freemantle

References:

Various web sites including EPA, local governments, tourist industry and Bureau of Meteorology.

CWA Queensland (Mitchell Branch) 1959: History of Mitchell.

Jonathon Richards, 2005 (Unpublished MS.): The Banks of the Sandy Maranoa; A History of Booringa Shire, South-west Queensland.

Booringa Shire: The Booringa Shire Story,"Farewell Good Friend". Booringa Shire Council, 1879 - 2008.

Booringa Shire 2006/07 Annual Report.

Mary A McManus, 1969: Reminiscenses of "Early settlement of the Maranoa District". reprint 1987.

Norman B Tindale, 1974: Aboriginal Tribes of Australia.

Rhondda Alexander, The Channel Country Landcare Group: A Field Guide to Plants of the Channel Country, Western Queensland.

D. R. Henry, et. al., 1995: Pasture Plants of Southern Inland Queensland. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.

P.S. Sattler & R.D. Williams (eds), 1999: The Conservation Status of Queensland's Bioregional Ecosystems. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Terrance and Rosemary Alick: Atlas of Queensland and Northern Territory Pastoral Stations etc, 5th edition.