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Springsure, QLD

Small rural town which is an access point to the Carnarvon National Park.

Springsure is a pleasant rural service centre nestled below the Capricorn Highlands with the local landmark Mount Zamia, of which Virgin Rock is the most prominent feature, looming above the town. The area around Springsure is characterised by a rich black clay soil which, in recent times, due to extensive irrigation, has produced a range of crops including sunflowers, sorghum, wheat and chickpeas. The area is also known for its cattle.

Location

Springsure is located 67 km south of Emerald and 813 km north-west of Brisbane via the Dawson Highway.

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Origin of Name

The town was named after a local property which, in turn, was named Springsure for the unsurprising reason that it had a reliable, permanent spring.

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Things to See and Do

Old Rainworth Station
Located 10 km out of Springsure on the Wealwandangie Road, Old Rainworth Station was built in 1862. The Fort is a stone storehouse which was built to store food for the staff and families of Rainworth Station, a 100,000-acre cattle property at a time when the closest source of food was Rockhampton, which was a 4 month return trip away. The  property now includes both the Cairdbeign School (dating from 1896) and the Cairdbeign Homestead (a superb seven roomed slab homestead dating from the 1870s) which were transferred from Archibald Buchanan's Cairdbeign property which lies to the south of Rainworth. Since its construction the "fort" has served as a magistrate's office and a post office. For more detailed information check out Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/oldrainworthfort) or call 0455 379 065. It is open every day from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm except Thursdays.

Springsure Hospital Museum
Located at 13 Woodbine Street, the Springsure Hospital was built between 1868-1879 and is now used as the town's Museum. The Queensland Heritage Register notes of the building that "In 1868, the hospital was opened. Its feature characteristics were those of the pavilion plan, a plan first designed and implemented in France in the mid 19th century. The Lariboisiere Hospital had opened in Paris in 1854. Following promotion of the pavilion plan by Florence Nightingale who recognised its advantages for the recovery of soldiers suffering from the effects of the Crimean War, almost all hospitals constructed in Queensland in the 1860-1880 period were built to incorporate the features of the pavilion plan. The principal design characteristics of the pavilion plan were to provide good ventilation and sanitation for the benefit and recovery of patients. The Springsure Hospital was no exception and today is the oldest surviving hospital constructed on the pavilion plan in Queensland and is the first hospital constructed in inland Queensland ... The former Springsure Hospital is significant as a rare surviving example of a hospital complex erected in the 19th century. Of more than 90 public hospitals erected in Queensland in the 19th century, only ten buildings are known to survive. Within this group, the former Springsure Hospital complex is the only example of a small cottage type hospital that combined a small pavilion ward with other facilities in the one main building." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600025. It was opened as a museum in 1989. It is open by appointment only.

Pattern Comet Windmill
In the park on the Dawson Highway at the southern end of town is a huge Pattern Comet Windmill built by the Sidney Williams Company of Rockhampton in 1935. The windmill has a diameter of 24 feet (just under 7.5 m) and the head weighs 2.4 tonnes. It was originally erected at Johnnies Bore on Cungellela Station, near Springsure.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Virgin Rock and Minerva Hills National Park
Located 4 km west of Springsure on the Tambo Road (turn right at Dendle Drive) is Virgin Rock. The excellent park notes (https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/minerva-hills/about.html) invite visitors to "Visit the iconic Virgin Rock situated on Mount Zamia. Its name is derived from the figure appearing in the town-facing side of the rock that looks like the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus. See if you can spot these figures at night time when Virgin Rock is floodlit for all to see. In the grassy open woodlands mountain coolibahs, silver-leaved ironbarks and gum-topped bloodwoods tower over macrozamias and grasstrees. Dry rainforest featuring figs, stinging trees, pittosporums and vines flourishes in sheltered gorges and at the base of the sheer cliffs."

Mt Zamia and the Lookouts
From the Car Park within the Minerva Hills National Park there are a number of accessible walks offering panoramic views across the countryside. 

Skyline Lookout—1.6 km return, around 40–55 minutes
A fairly level track from the Car Park leads to two viewing platforms that look south to Virgin Rock on Mount Zamia and the Springsure township, and north to the farming country beyond Eclipse Gap.

Fred’s Gorge Lookout
Continue on Dendle Drive up Mount Zamia to Fred’s Gorge day-use area. There is a good view from the top of the mountain and the day use area is ideal for picnics.

Eclipse Gap Lookout
Continue to the end of Dendle Drive and there is a short walk from the Eclipse Gap car park which leads to a lookout with views across Dillies Knob, a remnant basalt column from the area's volcanic past.

Springsure Lookout
Located off Dendle Drive is Springsure Lookout with a view of the south-eastern section of Springsure township. 

Carnarvon Gorge National Park
Some 71 km south of Springsure is the town of Rolleston and from there it is 103 km south to the Carnarvon Gorge Visitor Area. One of the wonders of Australia, with its cabbage tree palms and ancient cycads, Carnarvon Gorge is the eternal Cinderella of Queensland’s National Parks. It offers one of the easiest 21 km walks imaginable which winds along the valley floor and criss-crosses the Carnarvon Creek on stepping stones which are so stable and well-placed you could dance across the water and never fall in.
This is unique countryside where the highlight is the huge Aboriginal art gallery which lies 5.5 km from the Information Centre, and which is notable for its large number of female vulva carved into the rock walls (no prizes for guessing that it was a sacred site) and the 2000 hand stencils, including tiny ones from children, and ochre images of boomerangs, white goannas, coolamons and fishing nets.
But it is not the Art Gallery that is the only impressive aspect of Carnarvon Gorge. The gorge contains ancient remnants of flora which, in the drier zones above the gorge, died out millions of years ago. Its hidden gorges include the Amphitheatre, a glorious hidden grotto with walls covered in moss, and the Moss Garden, a fairytale gorge where water constantly drips and mosses, tree ferns and liverworts provide a cool retreat on the hottest of central Queensland days.

Carnarvon National Park and a Rewarding Walk
Visitors wanting to explore the full complexity of Carnarvon National Park should go to https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/carnarvon-gorge which has detailed information about all aspects of the park.
This is not intended to be definitive. It is an account of a very pleasant day I spent walking up the gorge. It is unforgettable - as the photographs indicate - and definitely worth the effort because, for sheer distance from any major town, Carnarvon National Park is a labour of love but one which is rewarding for those who are interested in the beauty of the Australian bush, unique rainforest and flora, and some of the finest Aboriginal art in the country.
The Queensland Department of National Parks has described the area as a "tangle of peaks, gorges, and sandstone cliffs, it is one of the wildest regions of the central western section of Queensland." It is also one of the most unspoilt.
The gorge contains ancient remnants of flora which, in the drier zones above the gorge, died out millions of years ago. Its hidden gorges include the Amphitheatre, a glorious hidden grotto with walls covered in moss, and the Moss Garden, a fairytale gorge where water constantly drips and mosses, tree ferns and liverworts provide a cool retreat on the hottest of central Queensland days.
The main attraction in the park is the gorge itself. Extending for over 30 km it varies in width from 40-400 metres. The gorge has vast stands of spotted gum, cabbage palm and cycads as well as ferns, elkhorns, and lichens near the waterfalls.
The caves and cliff walls were a popular place for Aboriginal art and contain some of the finest examples of hands, axes, emu tracks and boomerangs to be seen anywhere in Australia. Using the technique of blowing pigment over a stencil the Aborigines painted on the walls in red ochre and white, black and yellow pigments. It is possible (as I did) to walk up the gorge on the main gorge walking track. It crosses Carnarvon Creek over and over again as it winds the 9.1 km from the visitor centre to Cathedral Cave. There are a number of tracks which lead away from the main gorge track to places of special interest. The track is mostly flat and genuinely pleasant because it is often shaded by the palms and edged by ferns and cycads. The ideal walk includes side tracks to the Moss Garden, Amphitheatre, Ward's Canyon and the Art Gallery sites. So this is the walk that I would recommend. It includes most of the key attractions in the park, is a pleasant walk along the floor of the gorge, and the crossings of the creek are easy because there are carefully placed stepping stones. (see the photos).

1. The Moss Garden - 3.5 km from the Visitor Centre - 7 km return (2–3 hours) 
One of the magical places in the gorge. Water drips from the sandstone walls and consequently the Moss Garden has a dense carpet of mosses, ferns and liverworts. In a tiny crevice on the side of the gorge tree ferns reach for sunlight and a small waterfall falls over a small rock ledge into a cool, dark pool.

2. Amphitheatre - 4.3 km from the Visitor Centre - 8.6 km return (3-4 hours)
An unusual and awe inspiring natural formation. Part of the walls of the gorge opens into a 60m deep chamber which has been cut from the gorge face by constantly running water. It is dark and cool. The acoustics are remarkable and the echoes are otherworldly.

3. Ward's Canyon - 4.6 km from the Visitor Centre - 9.2 km return (3-4 1/2 hours)
Ward's Canyon is home to the world's largest fern: the King Fern or Giant Fern (Angiopteris evecta). These impressive ferns have strong links with the ancient flora which dates from the time when Australia was part of the larger continent of Gondwana. The fronds, as can be seen in the photograph, are unforgettable and beautiful.
One expert report on the King Fern observed: "The eight-metre long fronds of Angiopteris evecta are the largest produced by any fern in the world and the King Fern (also known as Giant Fern or Mule's Foot Fern) can also have a trunk up to three metres high and one metre across ... Fossilised fronds very similar to those of the King Fern have been found in rocks about 300 million years old while ferns and their relatives, such as giant clubmosses, were the dominant vegetation before flowering plants evolved and ferns like the King Fern were among the earliest large plants to colonise the land. This is before the great southern land of Gondwana split away from other parts of Pangea, so what was to become Australia was still connected to Europe and North America." There is a brisk walk up the canyon through spotted gums. This leads to the lower falls and further on into the shaded canyon.

4. Art Gallery - 5.4 km from the Visitor Centre - 10.8 km return (4 hours)
It is amazing and well worth the walk. It is 600 metres off the main track and here are over 2,000 engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings spread along a 62 m-long sandstone wall. It has been estimated that many of the works date back 3-4,000 years and some may date from 19,000 years ago. The Art Gallery, with its excellent boardwalk, contains some of the finest examples of stencil art in Australia. The National Parks website notes: "The fragile art on the gorge's sandstone walls reflects a rich culture. Ochre stencils of tools, weapons, ornaments and ceremonial objects provide an insight into the lives of the gorge's first people. The gorge is often described by today's Traditional Custodians as a place of learning - an area of great spirituality. This land still teaches, with many visitors to the park gaining a new understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture and history." In recent times many websites have been coy about the very obvious carved images of vaginas but the sign at the gallery points out "The most common engraving found here is of the human vulva. The significance of this motif is not known. Engravings of vulvas are common along the cliffs of the Great Dividing Range in this region. Nowhere else in Australia is this motif engraved in this way with such regularity." There is an excellent and detailed website. Check out http://donsmaps.com/carnarvon.html for descriptions of most of the styles of art in the Art Gallery.

5. Cathedral Cave- 9.1 km - 18.2 km return (5 hours)
The Cathedral Cave is a massive overhang sheltered Aboriginal people for thousands of years. While the local Aborigines sheltered from the weather they used the caves as an ideal place for their rock art which includes vast numbers of hand stencils, boomerangs, fishing nets, a wooden war club, an axe, some forearms, coolamons, stencils of shell pendants, kangaroo and emu prints - all of which reflect the rich cultural life of the people who sheltered in the cave.

Organised Tours
There are organised tours of the gorge for those who want to do more than walk up and down the valley. Check out https://www.carnarvongorge.info. The tours include a Lower Gorge Explorer (basically the same as I have described above); an "off the beaten track" tour; and a Carnarvon Night Safari Tour.

The Story of Cullin-la-Ringo
The Aboriginal resistance to the encroachment of Europeans in Queensland was courageous and violent. At Cullin-la-ringo (north-west of the town) a group of Kairi warriors killed nineteen people in the largest recorded massacre of whites in Australian history. It is likely that the massacre was prompted by a combination of frustration at the loss of land and as an act of revenge for the atrocities which were being committed with monotonous regularity by both the whites (who were eager to rid themselves of the Aborigines) and the dreaded native police who had stolen tribal women and, because they had not tribal allegiances in the local area, they killed without discrimination.
The mass grave in which the victims were buried still exists. It lies about 30 km north-west of Springsure. The local visitor information office has a map with precise instructions.
The massacre at Cullin-la-ringo occurred before any kind of permanent building could be constructed. All buildings on the site post-date the killings. It is therefore worth visiting Rainworth Fort, which is located 10 km south-west of Springsure near the Wealwandangie Road, which was constructed in 1862 - a year after the Cullin-la-Ringo massacre. It is not clear whether, as is suggested by the name 'fort', it was built to resist Aboriginal attack. Certainly it was designed as a storehouse, not a home. The diary of Jesse Gregson, part-owner and manager of the station, states that the building was designed as a store house. The name 'fort' has grown as a legend.
It is ironic that the massacre at Cullin-la-Ringo was probably as a result of an attack made on the local Aborigines by Jesse Gregson who was manager of Rainworth Station. The local Aborigines had 'stolen' 300 sheep (they probably thought they had a right to them as when Gregson arrived at their camp they invited him to share their meal) and Gregson responded by shooting a number of them. You can read a more detailed account in my book Blood on the Wattle.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to Aboriginal people from the Gayiri (Kairi) language group.

* The area around Springsure was first explored by Ludwig Leichhardt during his 1844-45 journey through central Queensland. 

* In 1846 Sir Thomas Mitchell passed through the area.

* The explorer, Willliam Landsborough, passed through the area in 1854.

* The Comet River station was taken up in the 1850s by the first European settlers in the area.

* There was a European settlement at Springsure as early as 1859. 

* In 1861 19 Europeans were killed at Cullin-la-Ringo station by Kairi warriors.

* In 1862 Old Rainworth Station was constructed in the district.

* The town was surveyed and gazetted in 1863.

* A police district was established around the settlement in 1864. A census that year revealed that the town's population was only 34 people although there 720 in the district.

* In 1866 a road from Springsure across the Exhibition Range was completed.

* By 1876 the town had a school, a Court House, a hospital, three hotels, a bank and Presbyterian and Catholic churches.

* In 1879 Springsure became the administrative centre of the Bauhinia Shire.

* The Kenniff brothers overlanded cattle to Springsure in 1891 after being convicted of stock stealing in northern New South Wales. 

* A primary school was built in 1964.

* The town was sewered in 1970.

* In 1989 the local hospital was converted into a museum.

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Visitor Information

Springsure Information Centre, Gregory Highway, tel: (07) 4984 1961. Open 9.00 am - 1.00 pm from March to October.

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Useful Websites

There is not a lot on Springsure. The local official website is https://centralhighlands.com.au/about/interactive-map/springsure-queensland.

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