It's the last sign of life in the southwest corner of Queensland. Beyond Thargomindah lie the South Australia and New South Wales borders and the desert country approaching eastern central Australia. Remote? Yes. Isolated? Yes. The outback? Most definitely.
It's red dirt, sparse woody grass and stunted shrub bush all the way, the unbroken plains interrupted by an occasional emu or kangaroo. It's affectionately called 'Thargo' by two hundred odd locals who exist by supplying local pastoralists and the passing tourist trade. Gas and petroleum discoveries in the district have meant that royalties paid to the shire have found their way into road improvements, and travelling out here is reasonably comfortable.
Rainfall at Thargomindah averages less than 300mm a year although that can range between virtually nothing one year, to having nearly a metre fall the following year. After heavy rain the barren landscape leaps into life as the straw coloured grasses turn green and the outback is covered with a carpet of native wildflowers.
Thargomindah is located on the Bulloo River and in flood years like 2012 the town was cut off for three months. Supplies arrive by helicopter and dinghys replace cars as the preferred means of transport.
In 1891 Thargomindah leapt to the forefront of pioneer technology. A bore was sunk, tapping into a thermal artesian stream which shot an 84°C jet of hot water, seventy feet above the town. Thargomindah had an instant supply of pressurised hot water which still supplies 1.3 million litres per day. In fact it has to be cooled to be useable. The bore powered the first hydro electric scheme in Australia and Thargomindah had electric street lighting as early as 1898.
This isolated town and district is filled with the pioneering history of settlement and transport in the heart of the east-central outback. The railway never made it to Thargomindah and coach companies like Cobb & Co established a strong foothold in such places. They were vital links to remote communities even though a 150 mile journey could take five bone-jarring days. Cobb & Co's history is filled with tales of passengers going missing along the tracks (presumably bounced from the roof), of overloaded carriages tipping over, of the human cargo walking thirty miles because the horses were so knocked up, and of delays that stretched into days and nights rather than hours.
Other aspects of interesting cultural heritage are the mud block buildings that still stand in the town today. Built in the 1880's they are a remarkable testament to the ingenuity and fortitude of groups of people who made best with what was on hand.
Thargomindah makes a great launchpad into the interior of Australia. The landscape is wide open with nary a soul about, except for a passing road train or a curious tourist. Cameron Corner is just down the road. It's the junction of three states and offers a fork into the outback regions of New South Wales and South Australia. 4WD and camping enthusiasts will appreciated the isolated tracks and the freedom of camping wherever you choose to pull up.
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