Not a Drop

Western Queensland Road Trip #4 Mitchell

There must have been good rainfall in western Queensland in the first half of 1846.

When the explorer Thomas Mitchell passed through that autumn on his fourth expedition, he found lush green pastures and bushland filled with wild life. The river flowing through the area was teeming with fish while birds were plentiful in the trees on its banks.

Mitchell named the river Maranoa, an aboriginal word meaning “duck egg”. His journal entries made much of the abundance of fresh food, which was a welcome addition to his expedition party’s diet.

When we visited Mitchell’s campsite on the Maranoa River 173 years later, the scene was very different. After six months with no rain, the bush was tinder dry and the river’s course was only recognisable by the wide expanse of water worn pebbles between the tree-lined banks.

The town of Mitchell, named after the explorer, is located downstream from where he set up camp. Where the bridge into town passed over the river, pools of water reflecting the bright blue sky were all that remained of the Maranoa.

The Neil Turner Weir, on the northern side of Mitchell, was built on the river in 1984 to store water for irrigation, aquatic sports and fishing.

With not a drop of water to be seen, there was no chance of a swim let alone a risk of flash flooding.

A local farmer we met summed it up in typically succinct outback style. “We’ve had no rain since November. It’s diabolical.”

Since our visit rain has fallen, but not enough to break the drought. Thomas Mitchell would not find fish on his dinner plate if he came to western Queensland now.


47 thoughts on “Not a Drop

  1. Carol I recently read a novel called ‘The Dry’ by an Australian author whose name escapes me just now – but it had evocative descriptions of the before and after effects of long drought on a small outback town. (Incidentally it is a really good who-dunnit and she is a really good writer and I don’t usually read who-dunnits πŸ™‚ )
    This post moves my recently gained knowledge of Australian drought from fiction to fact. It seems incredible that within just six months an entire river can disappear – but I live in a land where rain is a constant companion……. I want to hope that rain comes soon, but not in a huge downpour that would cause the flash flooding the sign warns about.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. We have a drought since April 2018, there is sometimes a little bit of rain but really not enough. Now many, many trees begin to die in vast areas of Germany, very disturbing. So waiting also for some real and continuously falling rain here in Berlin. Cheers @ Ulli

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always wondered why anyone would want to farm in the outback. It must be impossible when drought hits unless they have decent boreholes. I hope the situation eases soon and also that you do not have any nasty cyclones!

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. It’s such a sad state of affairs, these water shortages, and I see them getting even worse as time goes by. It really is frightening to think that places will become uninhabitable, if they aren’t already. I worry about that in the U.S. West and Southwest as well. Interesting post, Carol. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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