Taking a trip to Queensland’s Southern Outback is like stepping back in time to when Australia was part of the southern supercontinent of Gondwana, dinosaurs roamed the land, and the Great Artesian Basin was an inland sea.
The Eromanga Natural History Museum
The Eromanga Natural History Museum has been 95 million years in the making. The Museum’s internationally significant fossil discoveries include Australia’s largest dinosaur - a new genus and species that is a massive 30 metres long and 6.5 metres high – unique to others found in Australia and the world. You can also see the fossils of megafauna – giant marsupials like the massive Diprotodons that carried 70kg joeys in their pouches. They roamed Australia with the Aboriginal peoples.
A visit to the Eromanga Natural History Museum is an interactive experience where you learn to recognise dinosaur fossils from paddock to laboratory. Hands-on experiences include removing the rock using specialised tools to expose the fossilised bone and talking to locals who dig up the bones and prepare them for display. Learn more at the website.
Take a step back in time and visit Ooline Country around Morven between Mitchell and Charleville. The Ooline tree has rainforest origins and dates back as far as the Pleistocene Era (a period of 1.6 million to 10,000years ago). This relic of the Gondwanan rainforests which once covered inland Australia millions of years ago is an example of a tree once relatively common but now threatened as a result of human activities. The survival of these trees in this area make it even more unique, given that they are found in a hot dry climate - an environment in stark contrast to their rainforest origins.
The Tregole national park protects a small, almost pure stand of ooline Cadellia pentastylis, an attractive dry rainforest tree dating back to the Ice Ages. Ooline has been extensively cleared and is now uncommon and considered vulnerable to extinction. Tregole’s ooline forest survives in the less than ideal semi-arid conditions.
For more information visit the website.
Opals are a product of the ancient inland sea; their beautiful colours and patterns were formed by water. Opals are found in many places through Queensland’s Southern Outback following the shoreline pattern of the ancient Eromanga Sea that stretched from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Great Australian Bight. In Quilpie, you can visit the beautiful opal alter at St Finbarr’s Catholic Church and then go and try your hand at opal fossicking at the free Opal Fossicking area situated just two kilometres from town. The council provided attraction can be best described as Opal Mining - the easy way and no licence is required. Alternatively travel to the century old opal mines of Duck Creek and Sheep Station which are situated near the iconic Toompine Hotel. It was Duck Creek where the first ever registered opal lease in Australia was granted in 1871. These mines are designated fossicking areas and a Fossicking Licence is required.
Yowah is a ‘living gallery’ of the opal, Australia’s national gem, with 90% of the population being small scale miners.
Great Artesian basin
When Australia was Gondwana and the ocean levels rose, water became trapped in a natural dip in the centre of Australia and formed an inland sea. But when the ocean levels fell, the whole area became land again. The seas drained into the sandstone base leaving clay and silt deposits behind. These deposits hardened into impermeable stone, trapping the water underground. This artesian water bubbled up to the surface in spring systems that were critical to the survival of the Aboriginal people who lived here. The Europeans who followed the explorers into these interior regions drilled new springs to support their cattle and sheep.
Visit the Artesian Time Tunnel at the Cunnamulla Fella Centre to learn more about the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world. It underlies approximately 22 per cent of Australia — occupying an area of over 1.7 million square kilometres beneath the arid and semi-arid parts of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The water takes almost two million years to travel from its starting point at the Great Dividing Range to where it surfaces in the deserts of central Australia.
When the artesian water is pumped to the surface it is hot and under great pressure. Thargomindah harnessed this power to produce hydro-electric power for street lighting from bore water from the Great Artesian Basin. Visit the Thargomindah Hydro Power Plant to learn more about this feat.
You can still enjoy the restorative powers of this mineralised water and mud. Palm Grove Date Farm offers a relaxing Artesian Mud Bath experience. Soak in warm artesian water impregnated with artesian Mud, then pat on a milky grey mud pack to let your skin soak in the goodness from this mineral-rich product that is used by beauticians all over the world. Artesian mud mixed with minerals from shales deep below the earth's surface, rises to the surface near Eulo. The natural phenomenon is known as Mud Springs and they are release valves for the Great Artesian Basin. To learn more visit the website
Soaking in the mineralised waters of an artesian spa is great for the body and soul. Be sure to check out the Mitchell Great Artesian Spa Complex, Yowah Artesian Baths or Mungindi Artesian Pool.
Oil and Gas
Time and pressure produced opals and fossils but they also produced oil and gas. You can learn about the early oil and gas industry at the Big Rig at Roma. Enjoy the museum during daylight hours, but make sure you see the night show at the big rig that tells the story of early oil exploration in a spectacular show with a light show and explosions.
Natural Sciences Loop
To find out more options for exploring Queensland’s Southern Outback’s natural history, consider travelling the Natural Sciences Loop. The Natural Sciences Loop takes you through Charleville, Quilpie, Eromanga, Thargomindah, Eulo, Yowah, Cunnamulla, and Wyandra and is full of natural wonders for you to enjoy.