Harry Leigh donated his name when he first settled the area in 1856. Originally known as Leigh's Creek, the potential of this town was long neglected. Coal was mined unenthusiastically in 1888 and it took the arrival of World War 2 to properly develop the deposits and for the town became an important part of South Australia's economy. Up until the 1940's Leigh Creek was considered to be too isolated, too distant and to difficult to develop and coal was imported from New South Wales and overseas to generate electricity for the state. Today trains operate around the clock delivering Leigh Creek coal to power stations around Port Augusta.
The fortunes of the townsfolk of Leigh Creek have always ridden on the back of coal mining. Downsizing in the 1990's saw large numbers of residents leave and numerous properties sold off and relocated.
Mining towns don't always make for pretty little villages. Clean and manicured places can often appear mildly sterile and lacking character when compared to the magnificent surroundings. In the late 1970's the open cut mine mine expanded to include the original townsite which led to a physical upheaval of the town. It was relocated 13km south losing much of it's original charm.The original townsite is called Copley which acts as the all important rail station and, curiously, has managed to hang on to the name of the pub - the Leigh Creek Hotel.
Leigh Creek is saved by it's location on the dusty gibber plains at the northern end of the Flinders Ranges. The location makes it a great base for exploring what is considered by some to be the most interesting end of the Flinders. Given a choice we would choose to stay in Copley or better yet pull up and camp in the great wide open. Arkoona Sanctuary is rehabilitated mining ground, specifically a dam, which has been transformed from virtual desert, overrun by feral animals, into an native oasis.
Further out lies the Gammon Ranges National Park or 'Vulkathuna' with natural features like the Italowie Gorge, Mount McKinlay Spring and Weetootla Gorge.
Towns such as Beltana, Blinman and the ghost town of Farina offer a view into the pioneer heritage of the region while those ready to embark on a 4WD pilgrimage will find the iconic Oodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks just 120km from the Leigh Creek townsite.
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