Prior to European settlement Pine Creek was an important quarry area for the Wagiman, Jawoyn, Arigoolia and Waray people. At nearby Umbrawarra Gorge Nature Park ancient aboriginal rock art can be found on the walls of the gorge.
Other features around Pine Creek include the Railway Museum, Old Telegraph Repeater Station, Mining Display and the Mine Lookout. Just outside of the Pine Creek townsite are many historical mines. Places like North Gandys, International, South Gandys Enterprise and Czarina were all part of the gold rush that saw Pine Creek boom and, like most old mining areas, a poke around the bush can unearth some interesting sites.
Gold was discovered by workers constructing the Overland Telegraph Line. There was a quick inundation of prospectors including a large contingent of Chinese who were used in the early days of the Northern Territory as cheap labour. The contribution made by Chinese immigrants goes largely unnoticed by early historians but the Chinese often took care of more menial tasks and were largely responsible for the supply of any fresh fruit and vegetables due to their willingness to establish market gardens.
Five years later Pine Creek had a police presence and two hotels with a school and the Railway to follow.
Over time mining has been the major impactor at Pine Creek although tourism now plays a vital role. As the easily won gold petered out the recovery of tin, tungsten, iron ore and uranium have all contributed to the region and open cut mining has revived the interest in gold.
The rail line has always been an important feature of the landscape no more than during World War 2 when vast numbers of trains ferried supplies and munitions from Darwin. Pine Creek served as an important military base with an American airfield and the 65th Australian Camp Hospital estabilishing a post in the town. The 2/10th General Transport Co and the No. 13 Australian Detention Barracks also set up shop. In all there were 10 military units at Pine Creek during WW2 comprising about 500 personnel. Most civilians were evacuated and the army commandeered many of the buildings.
Pine Creek has survived with a very real sense of it's past. The Pine Creek National Trust Museum and Railway Precinct are worth a look while the Playford Club Hotel is the oldest in the Territory. Water enthusiasts can visit Mary River, Lake Copperfield and, of course, the idyllic Umbrawarra Gorge.
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