You’d have to be deep down in a dry cave not to know that it’s been raining hard in Queensland. In the week ending 9 February 2012, parts of Central Queensland recorded between 150-20mm of rainfall. Beyond these concentrations, rainfall was widespread throughout the state, with many areas west of the Great Dividing Range receiving at least 25mm in that week. This follows widespread rains throughout January, with extensive areas of central and western Queensland reporting 100-200mm rainfalls.
Most of this water will end up in the Darling River. If the rain had fallen further to the west, it would have been another bumper year for Lake Eyre – after two successive years of high inflows, but right now, the lake is almost dry. Belt Bay, the deepest part of the lake, currently has less than 100mm of water and the level is dropping. The Warburton Groove, one of the major feeders for the lake, is dry, and only slight flood pulses have been recorded in the lake’s catchment. (however if further large rains fall on the western side of the great divide in the next 2 months the situation in Lake Eyre could change)
However at Innamincka, it’s another story. Located in north-eastern corner of South Australia, surrounded by the Strzelecki, Tirari and Sturt Stony Deserts, the settlement sits on the banks of Cooper Creek, and right now the creek is flowing, water is pouring over the settlement’s causeway and bringing with it an explosion of birdlife.
Innamincka is an Australian icon, set at the very heart of one of the most powerful and dramatic chapters in the annals of Australia’s exploration. It was here that the explorers Burke and Wills perished on the return leg of their journey between Melbourne and the Gulf of Carpentaria. East of the town, on Nappa Merrie Station, is the famous Dig Tree, site of the cache of food left for the starving members of the South-North Transcontinental Expedition.
Dick Smith, the well-known adventurer, aviator and a passionate Australian, has nominated Innamincka as one of our most exceptional places – right behind the Great Barrier Reef. According to Dick, Innamincka and Cooper Creek have been a life-changing experience for him.
“When I was growing my business I used to get on a jumbo jet and fly over Australia and we’d be sipping our cocktails and I thought that was desert below me,” says Dick. “Then one day I went to Cullyamurra waterhole where Cooper Creek runs from Queensland into South Australia, and I camped there with the beautiful river red gums and the corellas in the trees and it’s just the most magical place. The water is 30 metres deep, it’s 10 kilometres long and it’s always got water, even in the worst drought. It taught me that if you’re flying over something it might look like an empty desert but when you’re down there it can be a magnificent area. I love Cooper Creek. In fact that original Australian Geographic Expedition that I organised to Coongie Lakes on northern Cooper Creek ended up saving it. It was made into a national park after that.”
For anyone who wants to experience a slice of the real Australian Outback, there is no other place quite like Innamincka – and no better time than now.