149. Camooweal

Another place I couldn’t wait to visit. Nowadays it is considered a sort of outer suburb of Mt. Isa (!) But it has a total different character; it’s the OUTBACK.

The 189 km of Barkly Highway between Mt. Isa and Camooweal (“Tojo’s Highway”) with its varied scenery and thousands of red anthills, was broken at one point by an unusual feature – a section of the old highway which was built during World War II with American funds. It was originally designed as a link between the southern states and the theoretical ‘front line’ in the NT. Before 1940 it was just a track which ran close to the telegraph line erected in 1897 and meandered from waterhole to waterhole. The new road, commenced in 1941, was ten miles shorter. By the end of 1941. Australian and American traffic on the road was up to 1,000 vehicles pre day! (That’s a section of the old road in the foreground of the second photo.)



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Nowadays it is a useful resting/camping place for many caravans, and sadly the place where one dog had to be left behind. No not this one …



This rest place was not far from the turnoff to the station “Calton Downs” where my grandfather d’Archy worked as a stockman aged 22 according to the Queensland electoral roll of 1905.  Ten years later he was managing  “Headingly” station and three years later, now a married man, he was managing “Chatsworth”. Perhaps not the easiest country for mustering.



Our first stop on the outskirts of Camooweal was the Drover’s Camp. My great grandfather having been a drover in this area in the late 1890s and 1900s I was especially keen to visit. However, the focus is on the 1920s-1940s and the volunteers who care for the place were once real drovers themselves.



It was a fascinating display and Dave found the long talk very worthwhile.Tales of the Canning Stock route and of setting up camp with everything done in orderly fashion including lining up all the pack bags in precise order so the could be grabbed by the correct person and loaded on the correct packhorse next morning.IMG_0491



A fascinating demonstration of how to make and light a carbide lamp (oh the horrid smell!).



And an extraordinary portrait gallery of drovers, including several women.



Then on through the town – very small with one general store cum post office and a couple of roadhouses and two fuel stations.


Road trains thundered along the main street…


The township of Camooweal does not have a great many attractions but one which does get attention is this statue of a stockman. I like the way he looks backwards.



He is beside a lovely old building, once the shire hall, said to be a fine example of colonial architecture and currently being restored. It was a beautiful pink colour which Dave said was merely undercoat but which I hope will also be the final colour.




We were heading for a free camp on the banks of a large billabong just outside town. It had been raining in the area recently and the ground was quite soft so we were a little nervous about venturing too far from the main camping area.




Later on we wished we had – there are several kilometres of dirt track bordering the waterhole, with caravans and other camping vehicles spread far and wide. It looked like some had bedded down for a long stay. And why not? Absolutely glorious scenery, peace and quiet, water and necessities available not too far away …. we could definitely have stayed there for much longer. And all free. The birdlife along the river was amazing. Brolgas, egrets, pelicans …. and beautiful white and purple waterlilies. I make no apology for the number of photographs.

This is what I saw the first morning.The waterhole at this point is narrow with a small number of waterlilies.



IMG_0544Early next morning I went for a short walk:IMG_0546


IMG_0525Some of Dave’s bird photos:

cloncurry Camooweal 20

cloncurry Camooweal 30

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Further down the track, so to speak the waterhole widened and the waterlilies exponentially multiplied – as did the birdlife.



IMG_0660More of Dave’s birds:

cloncurry Camooweal 29cloncurry Camooweal 28cloncurry Camooweal 24cloncurry Camooweal 22

More camping as the far end of the waterhole, where it starts to narrow:IMG_0696IMG_0674IMG_0670IMG_0669


Apart from an occasional sortie into town to get bread and milk, we made one short trip, as one does – to the Northern Territory. Only 12 kilometres down the road. The effects of unseasonal rain were still in evidence.IMG_0646

cloncurry Camooweal 17

Here’s map showing Camooweal and its relation to some other places we’ve passed through. We will be heading for Normanton soon.


We didn’t visit the Camooweal Caves National Park, as the caves are closed to visitors and camping is not permitted within the park.

Next blog: an Adventure! Actually it’s already been covered  by Blog No. 144.

5 thoughts on “149. Camooweal

  1. As always, a visual delight 🙂 And lovely descriptions. Glad you are finding all the things you wished for, Nancy.

    E xxx

    Elizabeth, with much love

    email: biffynz@gmail.com blog: http://www.biffynzatlarge.net.au +61 410 878 540

    On 1 August 2016 at 17:13, The Circumforaneous Gibbs wrote:

    > ciotach72 posted: “Another place I couldn’t wait to visit. Nowadays it is > considered a sort of outer suburb of Mt. Isa (!) But it has a total > different character; it’s the OUTBACK. The 189 km of Barkly Highway between > Mt. Isa and Camooweal (“Tojo’s Highway”) with its varie” >

  2. Your blogs are plurry magic and brings back many memories of exploring on my trusty Honda 125cc Trail bike when living in the Isa back in the mid 70’s. Cant wait for next instalment.

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