Charters Towers, Qld.

Leaving Carnarvon Gorge we headed north, our ultimate aim being Cooktown 1,500km away.

Our first stop was Lake Maraboon/Fairbairn Dam, just overnight for a rest and to give us an opportunity to get the growing mound of washing done. I am still not driving post retinal surgery due to some slight double vision, so Tim is having to do it all.

Lake Maraboon/Fairbairn Dam. Fairbairn Dam is located 25 kilometres southwest of Emerald, in Central Queensland, almost on top of the Tropic of Capricorn line. Fairbairn Dam was constructed in 1972 across the Nogoa River “Gap” creating Lake Maraboon and is Queensland’s second largest lake. Maraboon is the Aboriginal for “where the black ducks fly”. 

Regularly stocked with fish, it is a fisherman’s paradise, especially renown for catching ‘red claw’ a fresh water lobster. We stayed at Lake Maraboon Holiday Village on the banks of the lake and recommend it as a very well managed park, clean, well laid out and the staff are very friendly and helpful. All types of water sports are catered for and they hire boats and kayaks. It also has the most novel dump point we have ever seen. Due to the drought the lake is only half full but still looked massive.

The next day we headed to Charters Towers. The road was slow. Due the drought there were large numbers of kangaroos and herds of cattle on the side of the road or “long paddock” as its called by drovers (Not that there was much feed available)

Charters Towers was founded in the 1870s when gold was discovered by chance at Towers Hill on Christmas Eve 1871 by 12-year-old Aboriginal boy, Jupiter Mosman. Jupiter was with a small group of prospectors including Hugh Mosman, James Fraser and George Clarke. Such were the boom years, between 1872 and 1899, that Charters Towers hosted its own stock exchange. A railway between Charters Towers and the coastal port of Townsville was completed in December 1882. During this period, the population was approximately 30,000, (in 2011 it was 8,234) making Charters Towers Queensland’s largest city outside of Brisbane. The city was also affectionately known as ‘The World’, as it was said that anything one might desire could be had in the ‘Towers’, leaving no reason to travel elsewhere. The Charters Towers gold field produced over 200 tonnes (6.6 million troy ounces) of gold from 1871–1917  and was Australia’s richest major field with an average grade of 34 grams per tonne. The grade was almost double that of Victorian mines and almost 75% higher than the grades of Western Australian (Kalgoorlie) gold fields of that time. Gold  is still being extracted today. 

Around Town. There are many beautiful, heritage listed buildings in Charters Towers. Many of them old hotels now turned into various stores, accommodation, museums etc. Between 1864 and 1911 licensing records show there were 78 hotels in Charters Towers, 38 in the main street. There are now 3. Other interesting facts are that Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant was born in Charters Towers and married Daisy  O’Dwyer, later Bates. Daisy Bates, CBE, was the Irish Australian journalist who … devoted 40 years of her life to studying Aboriginal life, history, culture, rites, beliefs and customs. Living in a tent in small settlements from Western Australia to the edges of the Nullarbor Plain, notably at Ooldea in South Australia, she researched and wrote millions of words on the subject. 

The Civic Club, built in 1900 was originally known as  ‘The Londoners Club’, a gentleman only club until 1980 when women were invited in. The building is heritage listed, the ceilings are pressed metal and the two 100 year old snooker tables, (full sized, 8 legged) are so heavy the wooden floor couldn’t hold them, so concrete stumps were placed under each leg, through the floor and secured into the ground. We had a great time chatting with the locals at the bar.

Burdekin Weir was constructed in 1902, not to be confused with the much larger Burdekin Dam 170km south east.

Tower Hill where 12 year old aboriginal boy Jupiter Mosman first found gold. We attended a ‘Ghosts of Charters Towers’ film at the amphitheatre on the hill, a very informative evening which gave the history of Charters Towers.

Venus Gold Battery was built in 1872 and remained a working gold battery for 101 years.  more history here. It’s a very interesting and concerning history how mercury was used to extract the gold and then cyanide which is still used. The life expectancy of workers in the Battery was 4 years after starting. Today Australia is the worlds largest producer and exporter of cyanide with two plants, one in WA and one in Qld. more info here.

I got to have some puppy time with this little fellow, Echo. He spent the afternoon with me in our van while Tim helped his human family with some issues they had.

Heading North. Cheers for now

Helen and Tim