Small outback town in western Queensland
Thargomindah is located on the Bulloo River and, although tiny and quiet, it offers most services - a motel, caravan and hotel accommodation and a range of eating options. When it came into existence in the 1870s and 1880s the town's main activities were servicing the stations at Bulloo Downs and Durham Downs. Later it became an important stopover for carriers taking wool from Queensland to the steamers which travelled down the Darling River from Bourke to South Australia.
Thargomindah is located 1057 km west of Brisbane via Toowoomba and Cunnamulla, and 126 m above sea level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
No one knows what the word 'Thargomindah' means but the popular versions are that it comes from an Aboriginal word meaning either 'echidna' or 'cloud of dust'. It was originally the name of a pastoral run in the district.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
A Heritage Walk Around the Town
Thargomindah has a number of historic buildings:
Located in Dowling Street, Leahy House, built in 1885 of locally made mud brick, was owned by John and Patrick Leahy. It was sold to Sir Sydney Kidman in 1912. Kidman bought it, gave it to Jack Watts who worked for him as a manager, and the purchase entitled Kidman to become a member of the Bulloo Divisional Board.
The house was lived in until 1995 when the Bulloo Shire Council purchased it, restored it and gave it, in trust, to the Thargomindah Historical Society which opened it as a museum in 2001. The house contains exhibits relating to local history. For more detailed information check out https://www.explorebulloo.com.au/attractions/thargomindah/historical-leahy-house.
Thargomindah Post Office
Located at 17a Gilmour Street, the Thargomindah Post Office, which opened in 1870 and still standing, was originally built out of mud bricks. A storm in 1877 destroyed it and it was decided to build a solid construction which, subsequently, acquired a telegraph office (1881), locked boxes (1889) and was seriously damaged in 1952. It has been repaired and currently operates as a post office with a range of gifts and other services.
Old Thargomindah Hospital
The Old Thargomindah Hospital, located at 2 McGregor Street, opened in 1888 and built from mud bricks, is a reminder of the scarcity of materials on the edge of the desert. The bricks were made from the black soil taken from the banks of the Bulloo River. The bricks were left to dry and, amusingly, they were walked over (you can still see it) by local dogs and cats and even emus. It is now a museum with displays showing the harshness of the outback in the old days. You can do the tour at your own leisure, access is via a swipe card from the Visitor Information Centre. For more detailed information check out http://www.explorebulloo.com.au/old-thargomindah-hospital.
The Old Jail
Relive the horror of being locked in a small dark cell in the heat of the Outback. The Thargomindah cells were constructed in 1930 of cypress pine with a galvanised iron roof and line with hardwood.
The town's artesian bore, which lies 2 km out of town on the Noccundra road, was drilled in 1891 and by 1893, having drilled to a depth of 795 metres, the water came to the surface. Once the bore started delivering hot clean water, the town attempted a unique experiment. The pressure from the bore water was used drive a generator and this, in turn, was used to supply the town's electricity. This has been described (including on the sign at the entrance to the town) as Australia's first hydro-electricity scheme. The system operated until 1951. Today the bore still provides the town's water supply. The water reaches the surface at 84°C. The bore produces around 1,300 cubic metres of water a day.
Understanding the Great Artesian Basin
The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management has a useful explanation for the Great Artesian Basin which provides water to the town's Artesian Bore: "The Great Artesian Basin ... underlies an area of 1.7 million square kilometres, approximately 22 per cent of the continent. It is the only source of reliable water for human activity and water-dependent ecosystems in much of the arid and semi-arid landscape overlaying the Basin in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The deposits occurred in three major depressions; the Carpentaria, Eromanga and Surat basins, which together form the Great Artesian Basin. Across the basin, the average depth of bores is 500m, but some bores have been drilled to 2,000m depth. Formed between 100 and 250 million years ago, the Basin comprises alternating layers of water-bearing (permeable) sandstone aquifers and non-water-bearing (impermeable) siltstones and mudstones. The impermeable rocks confine the aquifers, causing the groundwater to become pressurized. In most areas the water is under sufficient pressure to provide a flowing source once it rises to the surface through artesian bores and natural springs."
Other Attractions in the Area
Located 142 km west of Thargomindah, on a sealed road, is the Noccundra Hotel. The hotel has been listed by the National Trust. It is one of the oldest buildings standing in south west Queensland and it has interesting stylistic similarities to buildings in South Australia. It is a single storey stone hotel with an iron clad roof and was built in 1882 although the first license was not granted until 1886. It was created to meet the needs of the local stockmen and to encourage them to stay in the area. The Queensland Heritage Register records that "Although the township [of Noccundra] failed, the hotel continued to be important in the area. Situated in a remote area between supply centres the hotel remained a link in outback communications, a service point for travellers and as a focus for community events. It has served as a venue for monthly medical and dental clinics by the Royal Flying Doctor service and for meetings of a social and racing club that raised funds for the RFDS. It is also a landmark place for tourists. In 1977 the National Trust listed the hotel." For more details check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600361. The publican has interesting photographs and books recalling the history of the area.
Located to the west of the hotel are the stone ruins of the Noccundra Store which was established in 1891 to supply the surrounding properties. Supplies were brought to the town by camel train.
The Dig Tree
Beyond Noccundra Hotel (218 km west of the hotel - it is strictly for 4WD only - just off the road to Innamincka) is the famous 'Dig Tree' where William Brahe, left in command of Camp LXV by Burke and Wills, buried supplies and carved 'Dig' on 21 April, 1861. The cruel irony was that Brahe, after waiting for months for Burke and Wills to return from their expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria, left the camp only seven hours before the starving and exhausted explorers returned. Although not as well known, there is the Face Tree not far from the Dig Tree. This is well worth the look as it is still very clear to see the image carved in the trunk of the tree. There is detailed information about the Dig Tree, which is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, at https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601073.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to Wongkumara and Kullilla Aborigines.
* Burke and Wills reached the 'Dig' tree on 21 April, 1861.
* Bulloo Downs pastoral run was taken up in 1864.
* A post office was established in the town in 1870.
* Thargomindah was gazetted as a town on 31 December 1874.
* By 1881 the town was connected by telegraph to Cunnamulla.
* In 1886 Noccandra Hotel got its first license.
* The Thargomindah Hospital was opened in 1888.
* By 1891 the town had a population of 338.
* In 1893 bore water became the town's source of water and electricity.
* By 1898 the bore was helping to generate electricity for the town. Street lights were powered by the water from the bore.
* The current bridge across the Bulloo River was opened in 1929.
* The hydro-electricity from the bore stopped in 1951.
* In the summer of 2012/2013, dubbed The Angry Summer by the Climate Commission, the temperature in Thargomindah reached a new recorded high of 48.8°C.
* In 2016 the town had a population of 270.^ TOP
Thargomindah Visitor Information Centre, 37 Dowling Street, (07) 4621 8095.^ TOP
The https://www.explorebulloo.com.au website has detailed information on the main historic sites around town.^ TOP