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Hughenden, QLD

Known as "Dinosaur Country" it is home to the famous Muttaburrasaurus.

Hughenden is a classic Queensland outback town. It owes its existence to the railway line and the surrounding cattle grazing land. Its primary appeal is based on its position on the edge of Australia's ancient inland sea which existed between 95 and 120 million years ago and left a rich supply of fossils in the area. The most important fossil discovery has been that of a Muttaburrasaurus which is displayed prominently in the Flinders Discovery Centre. The skeleton was the first entire fossil to be found in Australia. Equally impressive is Mutt the Dinosaur, a recreated sculpture of the Murraburrasaurus, which is located outside the Grand Hotel.

Location

Hughenden is located 1,588 km north west of Brisbane via Emerald and Charters Towers. It is 385 km south west of Townsville and 325 m above sea level.

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Origin of Name

Ernest Henry, who settled in the area in 1863, named his property Hughenden Station after the English home of his maternal grandfather, Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire. When the town was surveyed in 1877 it took the name of the station.

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Things to See and Do

Australian Dinosaur Trail
There is a 332 km trail involving Hughenden, Richmond and Winton which has been named the Australian Dinosaur Trail and which includes four major attractions:
* Flinders Discovery Centre at Hughenden
* Kronosaurus Korner at Richmond
* Australian Age of Dinosaurs at Winton
* Dinosaur Stampede at Winton
It is a genuinely fascinating exploration of an unknown world of dinosaurs which existed in the area between 100 and 90 million years ago. The masterstroke is that each dinosaur experience is totally different.
* Kronosaurus Korner at Richmond is about the vast inland sea which stretched from the north coast of Queensland through the heart of the west and central west of the state and it focuses on the giant sea creatures which lived in the area.
* Australian Age of Dinosaurs at Winton is a working laboratory where visitors can watch dinosaur bones being slowly revealed out of the stones that have held them for millions of years and visitors go to a quarry where the bones are being found and unearthed.
* Dinosaur Stampede at Winton is located over 100 km from the town but is unique. It is a stampede of 150 chicken-sized dinosaurs being chased by a large theropod. The footprints in the mud are still visible after 95 million years.
* Flinders Discovery Centre at Hughenden is the oldest of the attractions. The skeleton of the Muttaburrasaurus has been held in the town for over 25 years and a new, revitalised approach has seen numerous dinosaur-related experiences placed around the town.
The highlights for Hughenden include:

Flinders Discovery Centre
In recent times the isolated life size skeletal replica of a Muttaburrasaurus, which was once housed in a huge shed, has become integral to the town's Visitor Information Centre. The centre is a celebration of the fact that Hughenden is located at a point experts consider to be the edge of Australia's ancient inland sea. The most important fossil discovery in the area is that of Muttaburrasaurus which has been nicknamed "Hughie". The skeleton was the first entire fossil to be found in Australia. The display of the dinosaur gives an insight into the nature of life on the edge of the 'inland sea' about 100 million years ago. The dinosaur is a cast of the original bones which now are located in the Brisbane Museum. There are explanatory boards which tell of the discovery of the skeleton. The board provide information which allows the visitor to place the dinosaur in a larger historical context.
One of the boards explains: 'The Hughenden area 100 million years ago, was on the edge of a shallow inland sea that extended from what is now the Gulf of Carpentaria through to South Australia. Australia was joined to Antarctica, but there were no polar ice caps at this time and the world's climate was quite warm. Large marine reptiles called Icthyosaurus and Plesiosaurs swam in the inland sea while on land dinosaurs such as Muttaburrasaurus and the long necked Austrosaurus browsed on the vegetation amongst conifers, cycads and ferns." Most of the remains of Muttaburrasaurus came from two individual specimens. The first was found in 1962 near Muttaburra and the other in 1987 near Hughenden. Their bones were preserved because the carcasses had been washed into the sea and been buried in the mud which protected them from destruction.
Apart from the impressive Muttaburrasaurus the Discovery Centre has a light and sound show which explores the history of the area over a period of 500 million years ago; it looks at the creation of the Porcupine Gorge and has extensive collections of local and international fossils. There is also "Shearing the Stragglers" which tells the story of the sheep industry in the district.

* Sculptures Around the Town
The streets of Hughenden have a number of sculptures by local artists. All depict fossils and dinosaurs. There is a sheet describing each one and its location which is available at the Discovery Centre. They are:
* Darby the Dinosaur – This large wall sculpture depicting the Muttaburrasaurus is made from scrap metal to a design by Sam Brown and Terry Lindsay. It is located on a wall of the town library.
* Leanneosaur – Life sized flying metal sculpture of a Queensland Pterosaur. Created by Terry Lindsay and constructed by Shane Rogers it is located in Discovery Park next to the library in Brodie Street.
* Fish sculptures – Metal fish made from hundreds of washers and scrap metal. They were created by Sam Brown and are all located in the Robert Gray Memorial Park across the river from the town.
* Pterosaurs – Three metal sculptures on the roof of the Flinders Discovery Centre. Created by Terry Lindsay and constructed by Shane Rogers.
* Ammonite Sculpture – An Ammonite fossil made from windmill parts, is located beside the town library and was designed by Sam Brown and Terry Lindsay.
* Window panel sculptures – Creative window sculptures, depicting the rural culture (a windmill) and fish fossils was designed by Terry Lindsay and constructed by Daniel Carroll of Carter Welding.

Federation Rotunda
The Federal Rotunda is a creative use of huge 20 feet (6.1 metres) wide blades from windmills which have been operating on properties in the area since 1912 and 1916. The rotunda was completed in 2001 as a celebration of the centenary of federation. Check http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/government/federal/display/97985-federation-rotunda for more details. It is part of the town's collection of artworks and is one of the five sculptures which were erected to celebrate Federation. The work was designed and constructed by local artists Terry Lindsay and Sam Brown. Inside the rotunda are pieces of local bush furniture created by Toby Rogers, another local artist.

Wirilla Windmill
Located on the southern side of the Ernest Henry Bridge over the Flinders River, the huge Wirilla windmill was transferred to town and erected in 2008. It is one of only 15 windmills with blades of 35 feet (10.7 metres). "This mill could pump in excess 250,000 gallons or 1 million litres (a megalitre) of water per day with an average wind. This supplied water for stock, delivered along small water courses across the land known as bore drains, some up to 45 km long. Each stroke, if there was no slippage, would deliver 69 litres of water." It was manufactured in Sydney.

Eco Walk on Flinders
This pleasant walk starts at Little Avenue and continues for 1.5 km along the banks of the Flinders River. The path is an opportunity to inspect a number of local artworks - there are fossils of fish along the way at Robert Grey Memorial Park - as well as observing the changing ecosystems beside the river. The Flinders River, named after Matthew Flinders in 1841, is the longest river in Queensland. It travels for 1004 km and flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Mutt the Dinosaur
Located outside the Grand Hotel, "Mutt" (as he is called) is a full bodied replica of a Muttabuttasaurus which was created by the Tropical Museum of Queensland and brought to Richmond in 1999.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Hughenden Cemetery
Located 3 km west of Hughenden on the Flinders Highway. the Hughenden Cemetery has 24 specific headstones which are part of a self-guided tour (get the brochure from the Discovery Centre) which explores the symbolic nature of the stories they tell and describes the skills of the stonemasons who created these unusual monuments.

Historic Coolabah Tree
Located in Stansfield Street over the causeway leading to the showground, the Coolabah tree was blazed by Frederick Walker and William Landsborough as they passed through the area in 1861 looking for Burke and Wills. There is a cement sculpture of a surveyor's peg at the site.

Porcupine Gorge
The beautiful and dramatic Porcupine Gorge National Park is located 74 km north of Hughenden on the Kennedy Development Road. Covering a total of 5410 ha, it is sometimes known as the 'little Grand Canyon' as features a gorge which drops 120 metres from the surrounding countryside. The sides of the gorge reveal layers of basalt and coloured sandstone which are hundreds of millions of years old.
The southern boundary of the gorge is approximately 45 km north of Hughenden. The Gorge Lookout is 63 km north and the Pyramid Lookout is a further 11 km. It is identified by a small monolith known as the 'Pyramid'. 
The two walks from the Pyramid campground are:
Gorge Walk - 2.4 km return - which leads to the bottom of the gorge. The bottom of the gorge is notable for its deep pools (where it is possible to go swimming) which are inhabited by tortoises and its flora which includes paperbarks and casuarinas.
Rim Walk - 2.6 km return - which traverses the top of the gorge and goes to an impressive lookout.
The excellent and very detailed A4 sheets titled Porcupine Gorge National Park (available at the Discovery Centre) describe the geology of the gorge as "a unique area of the savanna plain with a dramatic sandstone gorge cut deep into the interior. A thin, hard, basalt cap, the product of geologically recent lava flows, has in most places protected the older underlying rock, but where this capping has been worn away, the scouring action of waterborne particles has excavated a deep chasm into the softer sandstone."
There is also an A4 sheet which nominates a number of graves and points of interest on the road from Hughenden to the gorge. It is also available at the Discovery Centre. A map of the park can be downloaded at https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/porcupine-gorge/pdf/porcupine-gorge-np-map.pdf.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Yirandali Aboriginal people.

* The area was first reached by Europeans when, in 1861-1862, the William Landsborough and Frederick Walker expeditions arrived looking for Burke and Wills.

* Europeans were in the area by 1863 only two years after the Burke and Wills expedition to the Gulf.

* The first settler was Ernest Henry. Henry reached the area in 1863 and named his property Hughenden Station.

* In 1865 the first fossil was found in the area.

* A town was surveyed in 1877. It was named after the station.

* In 1877 a hotel was built by William Mark. It was to become the basis of the town.

* By 1877 the town had a general store, a blacksmith and a butcher.

* A school was built in 1880.

* By 1882 it had a court house and two hotels.

* The town's first annual show was held in 1883.

* In 1884 'Breaker' Morant moved to Hughenden to work on the local newspaper. His stay was brief and he left after some trouble over a hotel bill.

* The railway from Townsville reached Hughenden in 1887. That same year it was proclaimed a municipality.

* By the early 1990s the artesian basin had been successfully tapped for water.

* In 1895 the railway was extended to Winton.

* A Catholic primary school was opened in 1900.

* A bore for town water was operating by 1904.

* In 1908 the Presbyterian Church was consecrated.

* A particularly damaging flood rushed down the Flinders River in 1917.

* The Olympia Theatre was opened in 1923.

* The town was connected to electricity in 1928.

* The town was hit by a tornado in 1949.

* An airport was opened in 1952.

* The first Muttaburrasaurus was found in the area in 1962. It was found near Muttaburra.

* A second Muttaburrasaurus was found near Hughenden in 1987.

* The Grand Hotel closed in 2004. It is listed on the National Register.

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Visitor Information

Flinders Discovery Centre, 37 Grey Street, Hughenden, tel: (07) 4741 2970. Open seven day 9.00 am - 5.00 pm.

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Useful Websites

There is an excellent local visitor information site. Check out http://www.visithughenden.com.au. There is also a useful guide to local attractions at http://m.visithughenden.com.au/attractions-in-hughenden.

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