26°S 150°E Roche Creek – Queensland by Degrees

AT THE POINT

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Degree confluence 26°S 150°E, Google Earth

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n

Looking north

e

Looking east

s

Looking south

w

Looking west

Location: This confluence point is on private property close to Roche Creek. It is about 18 km north of Wandoan and lies within Dalby Regional Council area. It was accurately located by GPS. Access was facilitated by the property owner.

Landscape: The area around the Point comprises gently rolling hills, largely cleared of the original vine scrub and planted with improved pastures - predominantly buffel - for grazing, mainly by cattle. The hills are gently rolling and feature stands of timber and vine scrub on some isolated hilltops. The soil is fertile and supports improved buffel pastures. The underlying geology is sandstone of Jurassic age (205 to 141 million years). There are also seams of coal in the area.

Native vegetation in the vicinity of the point was originally soft vine scrub, with treed areas comprised of brigalow (Acacia harpophylla), belah (Casaurina cambagei), poplar box, wilga (Geijera parviflora), and sandalwood. It has been almost completely cleared and replaced with improved pastures of Gayndah, Biloela and American buffel and Euracloa. Established in the area is a tree legume from Mexico called Leucaena leucocephala. It is very palatable to stock and capable of high live-weight gains. Leucaena shrubs in rows about 5 m apart with grass sown between, produce fodder for cattle which keep it at a manageable height and to never let it seed. Leucaena produces nitrogen in deficient soils and helps bolster buffel pastures. These improved pastures with additional water facilities and fencing make this land more drought-resistant.

The area's rich black soil grew thickets of prickly pear in 1930s, now controlled by Cactoblastis insect, but other weeds such as Noogoora Burr, Parthenium and mother of millions (Bryophyllum delagoense) have become a problem.

Several zebra and double barred finches, fairy wrens, a rufous songlark and apostle birds were noted in the in the vicinity of the point.

Mice plagues have caused havoc destroying entire crops of wheat, sorghum and sunflower, especially in 1971-2 after three years of drought.

The principal land use in the vicinity of the point is cattle grazing.

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GPS reading

Point information and photos: Brian and Heather McGrath, 2008

 

IN THE DEGREE SQUARE

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The Country: The degree square is characterised by hills, creeks and depositional plains. The Auburn Range, running approximately north-south through the degree square east of Wandoan and with peaks to 450 m ASL, is a major watershed separating the Dawson River (part of the Fitzroy catchment) and Burnett River catchments. In the south of the square the Great Dividing Range separates these coast-flowing rivers from the Condamine River catchment, part of the Murray-Darling Basin. Elevations along this section of the Great Dividing Range are around 400 m ASL.

The geology o the Auburn Range is predominantly sandstone of Early Jurassic age (200 to 176 million years). The Great Dividing Range in this area is composed of sandstone and siltstone of late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous age (161 to 100 million years). The geology of the lower lands along the Dawson valley (including its tributaries of Juandah and Horse Creeks) is also predominantly sandstone and coal measures of Middle Jurassic age (176 to 161 million years).

The Great Artesian Basin underlies the degree square. Wandoan and Taroom districts are situated in the Surat North management area of the basin.

The vegetation across the area has been greatly modified by agriculture - mainly cattle grazing and grain growing. The native vegetation that remains is mainly low to medium height eucalypt and Brigalow scrub with belah and Cyprus pine in dense stands.

The dominant land use across the square is cattle grazing and grain growing.

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Hand feeding young cattle (Brian McGrath, 2008)

Climate: The climate of the area is classified as being sub tropical with a distinctly dry winter. The Bureau of Meteorology climate station at Taroom Post Office provides representative statistics. The station has an elevation of 199 m, and has been recording data since 1870.

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Mean max
(ºC)

33.7

32.8

31.7

28.8

24.5

21.5

20.9

22.9

26.7

29.9

31.8

33.5

28.2

Mean min
(ºC)

20.6

20.4

18.1

14.1

9.7

6.3

5.1

6.4

10.3

14.7

17.5

19.6

13.6

Mean rain
(mm)

98.6

86.6

61.4

35.1

40.6

36.4

33.6

28.1

31.1

55.6

74.9

89.2

670.7

The highest temperature ever recorded in Taroom was 44.0°C in January 1994 while the lowest temperature was -5.6°C in July 1963. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1204.6 mm was recorded in 1890 and the lowest total of 243.0 in 1902. These and other climate statistics for Taroom can be found at: Australian Bureau of Meteorology, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_035070_All.shtml.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of tropical cyclones. The Bureau of Meteorology cyclone database shows that 19 cyclones tracked within 200 km of the point in the 101 years from 1906-7 to 2006-7. None of these came within 50 km of the point. Even distant cyclones can bring with them destructive winds and very heavy rain. 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)

The area experiences around 20 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. In most of the agricultural areas fires can be readily controlled because the fuels tend to be grass and pasture. In the scrublands, by contrast, fires can be very severe and spread very quickly under windy conditions.

The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Taroom having an average of 42 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C and two 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, Taroom also averages 21 days with temperatures of 2°C or less a year and nine days at 0°C or less.

Persistent drought is undoubtedly the most pervasive and economically damaging of all extreme climatic events. Judging by the 1902 rainfall record for Taroom the area suffered significantly during the Federation Drought. It has also been under significant drought stress since 2000.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains no earthquake epicentres within the degree square.

The Indigenous Story: Much of the land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Yiman tribal group.

There was conflict between the European and their shepherds and the indigenous inhabitants from very early on. In October 1857, the killing of the Fraser family at Hornet Bank station near Wandoan sparked fierce retribution, with many Aborigines killed in retaliation. The remaining Aborigines were rounded up soon after and brought into an Aboriginal settlement at Taroom. Later, in 1926-28, those remaining at Taroom were transferred to Woorabinda.

In 1883 another tragedy occurred with the attempted capture of "Wild Toby", at Juandah. He was well known and being athletic and colourful attracted attention. Probably he did steal the occasional sheep. He lived at Juandah with his woman. The police were instructed to arrest Toby and Sergeant Wright, Constable Dwyer and a black tracker were sent to his camp. Wright was talking to Toby while Dwyer dismounted to grab Toby but as he was strong and his body was greased and Dwyer lost his grip on Toby. Wright fired twice, wounding Toby in the jaw and right breast. Still Toby flicked his tomahawk with his toe splitting Constable Dwyer's skull. He was shot four more times, but managed to throw his nulla at Wright wounding him in the hip before falling to the ground dead. Dwyer later died and was buried near Juandah. Toby is buried where he died at Toby's corner.

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"LL44" tree blazed by Leichhardt (Brian McGrath, 2008)

European Exploration and Settlement: Whereas early European exploration of the degree squares to the east was carried out by persons seeking grazing lands, this degree square was first traversed by one of Queensland's most famous explorers, Ludwig Leichhardt, on his journey in 1844-45 to Port Essington. He departed from Jimbour on the Darling Downs on 1 October 1844 and entered the country of this degree square from south-east of Wandoan soon after. He and his party travelled north-west along Roche Creek (which Leichhardt had named the Dawson River), and his campsite on 7 November 1844, which he called Kangaroo Waterhole Campsite was on Roche Creek, near the bridge on Nathan Road, and very close to the confluence point.

Leichhardt and his companions, including the ornithologist John Gilbert, travelled northwards, camping on 11 November 1844 on Pelican Water Hole, at the site of present-day Taroom. Leichhardt and Gilbert climbed a nearby hill, known today as Bonner's Knob, (also as Gilbert's Lookout) from where they gained the first view on the Dawson Valley. There is a tree in the main street of Taroom blazed by Leichhardt to mark his campsite there.

Augustus Gregory explored the area in February and March 1858 searching for Leichhardt whose party had disappeared on his next journey, across Australia.

Although Leichhardt's journal of his expedition was not published until 1847, word of his most favourable descriptions of the pastures of the Dawson area had already led to pastoralists moving to the area. Indeed most of the pastoral runs in the Dawson area had been taken up by 1854. Taroom Station was licensed by William Turner by November 1845. Thomas Windeyer was the first European settler in the Wandoan district, managing Kinross, Salt Pan and Walliba stations in1847 for his uncle Charles Windeyer.

Salwey and Stephen were the first holders of Juandah run. They "officially" selected it in October 1853, but were probably there from 1849.

Taroom was originally known as Bonner's Knob. The first mail service to that location commenced in 1856, and in 1902 the Taroom Shire Council was formed. The Taroom name appears to have come from the aboriginal name - daroom - for the native pomegranate or lime tree which had been noted to be widespread by Leichhardt.

The town of Wandoan was originally Juandah, which came again from local indigenous words for possum ('juan') and around about ('dah'). The town's name change to Wandoan occurred in 1926. The railway to Wandoan opened in 1914; very few trains - freight only, no passenger services - to Wandoan since the late 1990s.

The area on the head of the Great Dividing Range along the southern border of the square became a major munitions storage site during WWII with bunkers for the storage of aerial bombs constructed in the Gurrulmundi are. Gurrulmundi attracted some notoriety in 1991 when a former bentonite clay mine near the old RAAF wartime dump, was selected as the site for a secure landfill for to take treated low-level hazardous waste from the paint, pesticide and solvent industries in South-East Queensland. Local protesters fought the decision for several years but the site was inaugurated in 1993.

Today:

The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national census was 1926. Of the total 587 people lived in Taroom and 329 in Wandowan.

MEASURE

1996

2001

2006

2011

Total population

2532

2435

2216

1926

Total males

1308

1272

1103

993

Total females

1224

1163

1113

933

Under 5 years

207

179

146

118

65 years and over

305

324

350

337

Indigenous

18

15

30

42

Taroom is a small service centre located on the banks of the Dawson River. It has a range of commercial services including accommodation, supermarket and fuel.

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Taroom (Google Earth image)

Wandoan is a smaller centre and has fewer services available.

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Wandoan (Google Earth image)

Coal in the Wandoan district is high-quality steaming coal, suitable for conversion to synthetic oil. Gas discovered in 1983 is piped to Brisbane, south of the Brisbane River for Origin Energy. Santos Scotia gas field was commissioned in 2002 to supply methane gas to Swanbank power station.

The original selectors took up land for sheep grazing, but cattle have almost completely displaced sheep now. After World War II Wandoan become the largest soldier settlement area in Queensland. The Fitzroy Basin Brigalow Development Scheme was instrumental in increasing the beef-cattle/grain industry.

The area has a well established road infrastructure including the Leichhardt Highway. A major dam has been mooted for the last 100 years for Nathan Gorge, just downstream of the Glebe Weir on the Dawson River and just to the north of the degree square. Present planning is for an 880 000 ML impoundment. There have been expressed environmental concerns regarding the project.

Most of the degree square falls within the Dalby Regional Council area with the northern third falling within the Banana Shire. There is only one national/conservation park in the square - Carraba Conservation Park, an area of 44 ha near Taroom.

Site Summary:

Location

On private land close to Roche Creek

Access

By public road then by private road on the property

Nearest town

Wandoan is about 18 km to the south

Terrain

Low rolling hills

Catchment

Roche Creek flows to the Dawson River - part of the Fitzroy catchment

Geology & soils

Deep rich from sandstone of Jurassic age

Vegetation

Largely cleared for grazing with improved pasture

Land use

Cattle grazing

Climate

Sub tropical with a distinctly dry winter

Population

2 216 at the 2006 national census

Infrastructure

Well developed road network including the Leichhardt Highway; rail line to Wandoan

National Parks

One small conservation park

Compilers: Brian and Heather McGrath, 2008 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.

Fitzroy Basin Draft Water Resource Plan, Information Report. Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water, 2008.

Bahnisch, Lyn, Doris Stiller, and Keith Fraser. I Never Saw Such a Rum River: Leichhardt's Travels in Taroom Shire 1844. 2003.

Fox, Gwen (ed). Pioneers of the Taroom and Wandoan District.

Hardy, Eileen L. In Leichhardt's Country: a Pictorial History of Taroom and Wandoan. 1986.

Hardy, Eileen L. Taroom and Her People.

Rechner, Judy Gale. Taroom Shire: Pioneers, Magic Soil and Sandstone Gorges. Taroom Shire Council, 2003.

Tindale, Norman B. Aboriginal Tribes of Australia, 1974.

Woodside, Ian: Juandah, Wandoan.