Thargamindah, or Thargo to locals is a pretty little town steeped with some bloody amazing history tucked right down in the bottom of western QLD. After you’ve spent a few days getting there from Brisbane - some 1000km away on plenty of long straight roads, you may be pleasantly surprised with what’s around. Between nature, local history and the vastness of the surrounding areas you’ll be immersed in wanting more.
Today there’s plenty of services around town, walking and birdwatching trails, history displays with plenty of interaction, but it hasn’t always been like this.
Just imagine trekking through the area back in the 1860’s just like Bourke & Wills did opening the way for the usual pastoralists that were always looking for new rich land to start large stations on.
The town prospered until 1890 when the promise of a rail line would come to town, but the government at the time changed their mind and it ended up to Quilpie some 150km to the north ( but that’s another story ).
Being in the outback, water is always an issue and even though the local river, the Bulloo, had some flow during the year, the town sunk a deep bore tapping in to the Great Artesian Basin. It was in 1893 at a depth of 2650 feet they struck an endless supply of water after a tiring two years of drilling. Only trouble was that it was hot steaming water coming out at nearly 86 degrees. Cooling ponds were placed near the bore before the water was sent to houses.
The Great Artesian Basin is a huge underground water source with a massive amount t of pressure and in 1898 Edward Barton realised that by using the water pressure coming out of the ground it would turn a generator ( remember the ones we had on pushbikes ) thus creating hydro-electricity. From this Thargamindah started to generate electricity making it the first place in Australia to do so and amazingly the third place in the world. Lasting until 1951 when a steam took over and then diesel in 1988. There were street lights, lights for the hospital and for hall dances.
Around town there’s the 2 km Artesian walk to the old and new bore, machinery of the past dating back to the late 1880’s which has been donated back to the town from out laying stations and if you get a ticket from the information centre you can do a wonderful self guided tour inside the real life shed where the old turbines can be seen.
If you're into nature, the Thargamindah shire will leave you breathless where most nights you can have a billion star rated campsite plus stunning outback sunrises and sunsets. A river walk along the magnificent Bulloo River has night lights installed for when the nights are balmy and a sealed footpath will lead you around several areas highlighting river gums, river views with a scattering of chairs along the way to sit quietly and capture an array of outback birds. Pelican Point is along the river walk and aptly named where most days you’ll see plenty of these graceful birds gliding on the river looking for their next feed. It is simply that good.
Up town on the heritage walk, visit the old and relocated police cells where two mannequins come to life giving you an in depth story on why one has been locked up trying to defend his innocence. The old gaol was made with Cypress Pine with an iron roof, can only imagine just how hot the summers would be locked up here.
The hospital that dates back to 1888 was made from mud bricks with the mud sorted from the nearby river. But what sets this building out from others is that apparently animals kept walking on the bricks when they were set aside to dry, including; dogs, cats and emus - so the story the goes !!
In the main street the museum house was once owned by legend Sir Sydney Kidman who bought it for his station manager in 1912. Lived in until 30 years ago it has been restored and houses plenty of memorabilia from the era from near and far.
Perched in a hot semi-arid area where rainfall is a blessing, Thargamindah has many local water holes where an array of birds congregate during the warmer times and where mountain ranges surround the town allowing for plenty of exploring especially for the photographer when the sun lights up different colours on the weathering Mesa rocks.
Take the time to explore the many offshoot dirt roads to these ageing and weathering Mesa platforms where different layering colours can be seen as they are being worn away from prevailing winds.
It has been said that no body really knows the true meaning of Thargamindah but local Aboriginal people say either Echidna or clouds of dust, and I can definatly concur that in summer months there’s plenty of the latter. While this little town may not be on many peoples wish list, but after taking the time on the long roads west, one night is not enough exploring the area around Thargo.