Innamincka
Collage of Innamincka.

Innamincka almost made the Outback Crossing 'Ghost Town' list rather than this one. In 1951 the hotel poured it's last beer and South Australia withdrew the police presence signalling the end of Innamincka as it was known.

Thankfully the 1960's saw an increase in outback tourism and the discovery of oil and gas created an opportunity for the establishment of the Innamincka Hotel and Trading Post.

Cooper or Cooper's Creek was first discovered by Charles Sturt in 1845 but it was Burke and Wills who made the location famous. There are 5 sites along the Cooper of special significance to the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. In 1861 The Dig Tree was famously carved indicating that supplies had been buried beneath the tree. 30 metres away is The Face Tree with a carving of Burke's face and his initials. Burke's Tree is the place at which Robert Ohara Burke was buried. Will's Grave is the burial site of William John Wills. In reality the actual site may be 2.5km from this location. King's Site is where the only survivor of the expedition, John King, was discovered living with the Yandruwandha Aboriginal people in 1861.

Of course when Burke and Wills ventured into the region there was nothing here. The townsite is surrounded by the Strzelecki, Tirara and Sturt Stony Deserts and the Innamincka settlement wouldn't be established for another 10 years.

In 1871 a customs post was established at Ootoo to collect state taxes from drovers bringing stock into South Australia from Queensland down the Strzelecki Creek. Seizing the opportunity to quench the thirst of the thirsty drovers M.F. Lennon opened the Bushman Hotel. A police camp was setup in 1882 and in 1890 the town was formally gazetted as Hopetoun. The townsfolk were so disgruntled with having their town named after the Governor of Victoria, The Earl of Hopetoun, that they complained bitterly until the original name of Innamincka was restored. Innamincka is also a nearby station.

In 1928 The Royal Flying Doctor established a base here and the Australian Inland Mission constructed the Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home - essentially a hospital.

With Federation in 1901 came the abolition of the customs tax and modern transportation saw the demise of traditional droving. After Innamincka was abandoned in 1951 a final insult came when the floods of 1956 washed most of the buildings downstream.

Today the town of Innamincka is essential a rebuilding of what once was. It's by no means a faithful reconstruction of the original town but it retains the bush character of the isolated pub in the middle of nowhere. The real essence of Innamincka lies in the Burke and Wills history and Australia's largest billabong - the Cullyamurra Waterhole which has never known to have been dry. There are aboriginal rock carvings at the eastern bank. Coongie Lakes National Park, Innamincka Regional Reserve and Strzelecki Regional Reserve all showcase an amazing world of creeks, waterholes and flood plains which contrast against the beauty of the deserts regions.


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