Tag Archive | Cunnamulla

Over the Top

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #15

After recent rain in the Cunnamulla area the Warrego River was full.

Just outside town the muddy water flowed freely over the top of the weir before heading downstream towards New South Wales.

A single pelican cruised along on top of the water, riding the rapids in search of lunch.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Hills of Sand

Western Queensland Road Trip #14 Cunnamulla

In the heat of mid-morning there’s very little movement in the bush. Every now and then an unseen bird calls to its mate but it’s the constant hum of insects that dominates.

On the edge of town, a line of red sand hills rises up out of the trees. From a distance they don’t seem high, but the slope is steeper than it looks. Climbing up proves to be a challenge as the fine red sand moves constantly beneath our feet.

Once at the top our effort is rewarded. Cunnamulla’s buildings are just visible through the hardy mulga scrub and the Warrego River sparkles like a silver-backed serpent in the distance.

A small mob of kangaroos rests in a shady spot and they watch us watching them. They stop feeding on the sparse ground cover, lifting their heads to catch our scent. One seems to decide we’re no threat; he returns to his grazing and the others follow his lead.

For a while we copy the kangaroos, finding a cool place to sit and enjoy the view. And when it’s time to leave, the descent is much easier than going up.

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Where Water Flows

Western Queensland Road Trip #12 

In front of the visitor centre in Cunnamulla, crystal clear water sparkles in the sunlight as it tumbles from a pipe into a small storage pool. Drawn from an underground source far below the surface of the earth, the water first fell to earth as rainfall two million years ago.

The water comes from the Great Artesian Basin, the largest and deepest underground reservoir in the world. It covers one-fifth of subterranean Australia – 1,700,000 square kilometres beneath four Australian states and territories. In some places up to 3,000 metres deep, the basin has a capacity 130,000 times greater than Sydney Harbour. For people who live in inland Australia, this is often their only source of fresh water.

While it’s not possible to see the Great Artesian Basin, a journey through the Artesian Time Tunnel inside Cunnamulla’s visitor centre is a fascinating alternative. Going more than 100 million years back in time, the adventure begins in an old opal mine lift. The screen counts back through the centuries in a flash before the doors open to reveal an underground landscape of ancient sandstone, complete with fossils of dinosaurs and other creatures who lived in the area at that time.

Further along the tunnel sits an old opal miner, who comes alive to tell stories of life on the opal fields of western Queensland. Beyond the tunnel, displays explain how the Great Artesian Basin has enabled outback towns to flourish.

To access fresh water supply from the basin, most towns have a bore. Wells are drilled down into the earth until the aquifer is reached. Often the pressure of the water is enough to bring it to the surface, without the need for pumps. At first the water was allowed to flow freely, but now the supply is controlled. The bore at Eulo, 69 kilometres west of Cunnamulla, draws water from a depth of 223 metres. It’s hot and often smells of sulphur, but the residents are grateful to have a regular supply.

It’s not only outback towns who rely on the water. Farmers on the vast cattle properties of the west use the valuable resource for their stock. Bores like the one at Paddabilla provide welcome relief for cattle and other animals.

In some places, water from the Great Artesian Basin rises naturally to the earth’s surface. Where a weakness or fault occurs in the rock layers, the natural pressure of the trapped water forces it upwards, sometimes with tremendous energy.

In the Eulo region, a group of mud springs brings life to the desert. Even when no water flows, moisture in the soil allows plants and wildlife to flourish. A ring of flotsam around the spring shows how far the flow can extend.

In a landscape where every drop is precious, the water of the Great Artesian Basin is an asset treasured beyond measure.

River Walk

Western Queensland Road Trip #11 Cunnamulla

For much of the day, the harsh light of the outback is almost blinding, bleaching the landscape of its colour. A few hours later, in the softer light of late afternoon, nature’s hues become richer and more mellow.

When we first see the Warrego River at Cunnamulla late in the day, we can’t help noting the contrast with the Maranoa River in Mitchell. After recent heavy rainfall further north, the river flows deep and full. It’s the perfect time to enjoy Riverwalk, a 1.6 km track beside the Warrego.

Surprisingly, the path leads at first away from the river to the flood plains beyond its banks. Floodwater still pools in some gullies, but where it has evaporated thick dark mud is all that remains.

Baked hard by the relentless heat of the sun, the mud shrinks as it dries leaving deep crazy-paved cracks overlaid with the tracks left by passing animals. Tiny specks of green remind us that water is all that is needed for life to regenerate.

In the quiet of this afternoon, there’s not a lot of wildlife around. A long-necked turtle, secure inside his shell, refuses to greet us and even the meat ants are nowhere to be seen around their huge mounded nest. If we banged hard enough they would rush out in defence of the nest, but that would be asking for trouble so we leave them in peace.

In this flat landscape even the slightest elevation gives a sense of distance. From a raised viewing platform, it’s easy to see where the flood plain gives way to the mulga scrub native to this part of western Queensland.

Eventually we arrive at the river bank. With the sun behind us and much lower in the sky, the shadows of the majestic red river gums along the bank stretch out over the water.

A lone pelican drifts lazily with the current while a large egret stands motionless, probably on the lookout for his dinner. A whistling kite soars gracefully overhead and, although we can hear the raucous calls of cockatoos settling in the trees, we see only a feather fallen to the ground.

We reach the end of the path as the sun sets. The sky begins to fade from blue to gold, before turning that fiery red typical of the end of day in the outback.

The sun drops below the horizon in minutes, but its glow remains for a time. The last rays of light burnish the river gums and light our way back across the bridge into town.

The river puts on one last display, creating a mirror image of the sky above before all the colour of the outback is lost in complete darkness.

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