Burke and Wills passed through what is now the Boulia township on their ill-fated 1860 transcontinental expedition. Both explorers perished on the return leg but each left his name on a local river. Boulia sits alongside the Burke River with the town taking its name from a waterhole known to the local Pitta Pitta aborigines.
The township of Boulia came into existence after pioneers of this North-West Queensland district camped by the Boulia waterhole. Search parties looking for Burke and Wills reported the region had potential as grazing land. In 1877 Edmund Kennedy reported that Ernest Henry, the discoverer of Cloncurry's mineral wealth, had set up a canvas store at the Boulia waterhole with 2 wagon loads of supplies. 2 years later Kennedy signed the proclamation declaring Boulia a town.
A hotel was erected, huts sprang up and Boulia was away. In 1879 a mail service from Cloncurry was established - on horseback. By 1884 Boulia had its own telegraph office.
Today Boulia is home to 200 residents. It's a dusty dry environment with very little rainfall. Apart from servicing the local stations Boulia has nothing in the way of industry.
However tourism is making it's mark in a place where people come to experience the history and isolation of this small outback town and a 1.5 million dollar 'Min Min Light' centre has been established. Min Min lights are an unusual phenomenon that can be seen in various places in Australia with the Boulia occurrence being the most widely observed. This bizarre phenomenon is attached to aboriginal mythology and has been reported as various objects with different levels of luminescence that are capable of approaching or following the observer. They have been reported to hover or bounce and their occurrence is random and unpredictable. Whatever the case the Min Min are real and in other parts of the world are known as 'Fata Morgana' - named after the Morgan Fairy. Min Min lights can be scientifically explained as light refraction under certain atmospheric conditions but much like the tooth fairy, many people prefer to believe that they are attached to an ancient mystical spirit.
The town offers up some historic landmarks including the 1888 Stonehouse Museum, the last 'Corroboree' Tree of the Pitta Pitta and the chance to take a drink from the place Burke and Wills replenished their water supply. Annual events include the Boulia Races, Camp Draft and Rodeo and the famous Boulia Camel Races.
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