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Nature, culture and history

Natural environment

Central West Queensland bioregions map

Central West Queensland bioregions map

Bioregions are unique environments, defined by their distinct geology and climate. Park visitors can explore four different bioregions in Central West Queensland.

Channel Country

Mighty inland rivers disperse into braided channels, creating waterholes and wetlands. With its slow-flowing waters and floodplains tens of kilometres wide, Channel Country may be the world’s finest natural watering system.

It supports more than 50 ecosystems, including coolibah woodlands, sand plains and vast dunefields—all adapted to a climate of infrequent rain that falls in short but massive deluges and a parching evaporation rate.

Mitchell Grass Downs

Natural grasslands, named for the dominant native Mitchell grass, form the basis of the region’s grazing industry. Their roots anchor in dark clay soils formed from ancient sediments.

When wet, the soils absorb water and expand. When dry, they shrink and crack deeply, making it difficult for trees to establish roots. Unique animals shelter within the cracks, including endangered Julia Creek dunnarts.

Mulga Lands

Sand plains, deep red loam soils and a drier climate allow mulga trees to dominate, with mosaic patches of grasslands and eucalypt/acacia woodlands. Each mulga tree canopy channels rain to its roots, like an umbrella blown inside out.

Desert Uplands

This botanically diverse bioregion features semi-arid sand plains formed from eroded sandstone ranges of the ancient Great Divide.

Dominated by acacia/eucalypt woodland with spinifex hummock grassland, the uplands are home to specialised fauna.

The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the world’s last largely unregulated wild river systems. Spread across parts of Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and a sliver of New South Wales, and covering 1.2 million square kilometres, Lake Eyre Basin contains five major drainage basins, including the two most variable large watercourses in the world—Cooper Creek and the Diamantina River.

Residents—human, plant and animal—depend on flood cycles that transform this dry, harsh land into a teeming mass of life. When the rains come, millions of birds, billions of fish and countless plant species suddenly respond in their quest for survival.

The creation of Lake Eyre

From above, Lake Eyre is shaped like a kangaroo skin with one arm folded under. Stories passed down by Aboriginal groups of central and south-central Simpson Desert tell how the lake was formed in this shape long ago. Many versions describe a kangaroo hunt after which the skin is used to create a lake.

Like most traditional stories, they explain the natural world and contain messages for the listener. The details of the Lake Eyre creation stories vary, but the lesson remains the same—make good use of what you have.

Together the stories build an oral map of the landscape, pointing out routes and landmarks for travellers who know how to follow them.

Elusive mammals

A well-informed visitor with sharp eyes may spot many mammals besides red and grey kangaroos. Seven macropod species are found in the district. Most parks have at least three macropod species, but all seven live at Idalia, including vulnerable yellow-footed rock-wallabies and endangered bridled nailtail wallabies which were successfully re-introduced to the park in 1994.

Endangered greater bilbies and vulnerable kowaris are at Diamantina. Bladensburg hosts the largest known population of endangered Julia Creek dunnarts on a national park.

Idalia’s high diversity of insect-eating bats includes the rare little pied bat. Shy echidnas and possums are at Idalia, Lochern and Welford. Watch for gliders at Idalia and Forest Den.

You are likely to see dingoes at Diamantina and Munga-Thirri (formerly known as Simpson Desert National Park), and marsupial mice occupy most of the district.

Brilliant birds

Central West Queensland is a birdwatcher’s paradise, supporting hardy, adaptable species as well as specialised and rare species.

Specialists are restricted to specific habitats, like Hall’s babblers in Idalia, Lochern and Welford’s mulga woodlands and spectacular spotted harriers, a raptor of the grassy plains. Nomadic budgerigars are regularly on the move, chasing their diet of grass seeds.

Paradoxically, this arid land caters for thousands of water birds. In wet times breeding colonies of pelicans, ibis, egrets, herons and spoonbills are among the largest in Australia.

Birdwatch at Surprise Creek and in the spinifex grassland at Bladensburg; Hunters Gorge and Lake Constance at Diamantina; Broadwater Waterhole at Lochern; Sawyers Creek and Little Boomerang Waterhole at Welford; and along Idalia and Combo’s creeks and waterholes.

Look for rufous-crowned emu-wrens, rainbow bee-eaters, mulga parrots, bustards, emus, splendid fairy-wrens and many others.

Along the Simpson Desert QAA track in Munga-Thirri, catch a glimpse of shy Eyrean grasswrens, whose furtiveness frustrates photographers.

Abundant reptiles, a few frogs and rare fish

Arid lands create a range of habitats to host diverse reptiles. The same conditions limit amphibians to well-adapted widespread frogs, like water-holding frogs and ornate burrowing frogs.

Look for yellow-spotted monitors at Bladensburg, Diamantina, Idalia and Lochern, and spiny knob-tailed geckos at Bladensburg. Mulga snakes live at Lochern and Idalia.

Spot unique Emmott’s short-neck turtles at Lochern and Welford—named after local grazier Angus Emmott, a lifelong naturalist.

Over a dozen fish species are found here, and many, like Cooper Creek catfish in the Thomson River at Lochern, are not found outside the Cooper catchment.

Species lists are available from the Wildlife Online web page.

History

Past presences

Visitors to this region are invited to contemplate the migration of people across this land, and their ingenuity fostered by isolation and climatic extremes.

Many Aboriginal groups thrived on the secret bounty of these arid and semi-arid lands, trading along rivers and finding food in unlikely places. Each group encountered non-indigenous people who changed their lives forever, but their heritage is alive today in stories, artefacts and traditions continued by descendants.

Explorers like Burke and Wills sought their fortunes, as did miners and pastoralists from Europe and Asia. Many died, some barely survived but others thrived. Now, pastoral properties, some covering more than 10,000 km2, mines, small towns, parks and reserves dot outback Queensland’s landscape.

Last updated
4 May 2017