24-Jul-2008 -- My wife and I spent five weeks in Queensland, Australia during June/July 2008 making a counter-clockwise journey around the state beginning and ending in Brisbane. Being a college geography instructor, and avid DCP website devotee, I noted that there were a number of unvisited confluences in the Outback of western Queensland. I was sure that between camping expeditions to the national parks of central western Queensland and visits to the pubs of various Outback hamlets, a successful confluence visit was possible. A list of candidate confluences was drawn up and marked on our map – the most likely of which (25° South; 144° E) appeared to lie just off the road between Welford and Idalia National Parks near the small town of Yaraka.
On July 22 we found ourselves stranded in Welford National Park due to a gearbox problem that left the vehicle permanently in 5th gear. Using the super-expensive rented satellite phone - no cell service in the Outback - we called the ranger and he agreed to come right over. Upon arrival of Ranger Chris we all decided the best course of action was to tow us out to the main road, attach tires to the bullbar/roobar of Ranger Chris’ Landcruiser, push us up to about 40 kph or so, and release the clutch and drive the 45 kilometers to the nearest town – Jundah (pop. 115).
It was looking increasingly unlikely that we were going to be able to hit the confluence near Yaraka. Not only were we now having to head back in the opposite direction, it was going to be a few days before our car problem could be solved; the logistics of the trip would not allow us to backtrack to Yaraka. Our rental car company was in the processes of trying to get us a new car driven out from Brisbane – over 1300 kilometers away, so were going to be stuck in Jundah (pop. 115) for at least two days. These two days were to be spent camping in our crippled Landcruiser in the Jundah Caravan Park, located immediately adjacent to the Barcoo Shire War Memorial Park.
It was time for a reassessment. After an examination of the confluence candidate map it was decided that the new target would be 25° S; 143° E, a confluence Liz and I had previously attempted and abandoned after some issues with the access road. Monique, the owner of the Jundah Hotel/Pub proved to be our saviour. Upon learning we car-less for a few days, she graciously volunteered the use of her 4-wheel drive Toyota that afternoon as she had no need for it that day. After lunch we set off south down the “old” Windorah road toward our target confluence. Along for the ride and for the experience was Jim Maddocks, a fellow camper in the Jundah Caravan Park. Jim was accompanying his buddy Bill, a travelling country singer and musician, who was performing a series of shows in a number of tiny, middle-of-nowhere, western Queensland towns. As he had nothing else to do that day Jim decided to come along on the confluence hunt and even brought Bill’s Australian flag for local colour.
Barcoo Shire Queensland is located in what Australians call “Channel Country,” an enormous 500,000 square mile, board-flat, low-lying area to the northeast of Lake Eyre. Lake Eyre, the lowest spot in Australia, is located in a large basin of interior drainage into which drains the runoff from approximatly 20% of the country. Channel Country consists of a flat clay plain across which hundreds of roughly parallel channels carry the heavy summer rains of Australia’s Great Dividing Range southwest toward the usually dry Lake Eyre. During the summer wet season intense monsoonal storms send enough water across Channel Country to not only fill the channels but to inundate the entire plain under a few millimeters, and occasionally centimeters, of water. The winter dry season brings a cessation of rain, the drying and cracking of the clay plains, and the drying out of all but the deepest channels - the billabongs that are so important to the wildlife and ecology of the region.
25° S; 143° E lies near the centre of Channel Country where two of the main channels, the Barcoo River and the Thomson River, join to form Cooper Creek. Due to circumstances beyond our control, Liz, Jim, and I set off from Jundah early in the afternoon with just enough time to bag the confluence and return to the car before dark. The “old” Windorah road got us within approximately 3 miles of the confluence. We parked Monique’s beautiful brand-new Toyota Prado alongside the empty dirt road and headed off southeast toward the confluence.
Walking across flat Channel Country in winter is easy. The vegetation on these clay plains, where it exists, consists of only small, dry, bunch-grasses, most commonly Mitchell grass. Much of the Channel Country clay plains are devoid of vegetation due to the frequent submergence during the wet season. After walking about two miles the going became a little more treacherous – numerous deep narrow channels, some filled with water and feral pigs, now began to cut through the plain. These channels were lined with various species of eucalypt and acacia.
After negotiating the steep slippery banks of a dozen or so channels we arrived at the confluence. The requisite photos were taken rather quickly as Channel Country is also home to great populations of flies. Although of plague-like populations during the rainy summer months, their numbers during this cool dry winter day was awful enough. We arrived back to the car about an hour before dark and were treated to sightings of kangaroos, emus, bustards, brolgas, and large flocks of emerald green budgies on the return drive to Jundah. We returned Monique’s vehicle – Thanks Monique! – and celebrated with lamb chops and beer at the Jundah Hotel.