Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
24 July 2009 - Longreach to Blackall via Isisford
The plan for today was to go from Longreach to Blackall but not via the main highway; we intended to travel via minor roads passing through Isisford. We left Longreach on the highway to Ilfracombe where we turned south on the minor road to Isisford. From Isisford we went east to Blackall. This route is also known as the Outer Barcoo Scenic Drive.

The road throughout was bitumen of variable standard. From Ilfracombe to Isisford was single lane bitumen; mostly pretty bumpy. The edges were reasonably level and in some places grassed; pulling over to allow oncoming vehicles to pass was generally not difficult. From Isisford to Blackall the road was much better; two lanes of mostly good bitumen wide enough for oncoming vehicles to pass.

The road throughout crossed Mitchell Grass Plains but these were not the flat, wide-open plains we had crossed in the Northern Territory. These plains varied from nearly flat and fairly open with a thin coverage of scattered gidyea trees to fairly heavy coverage of trees and shrubs, mainly gidyea, sometimes with undergrowth. Several pastoral properties had partly cleared the native vegetation leaving many trunks and branches on the ground. At first sight the task appeared to be incomplete; we later learned that trees and scrub are sometimes left in place to encourage birds and small animals which, in turn, encourage native grasses to grow for stock feed.

The soil was a greenish-brown colour; when dry it cracked but if walked on or driven over it became powdery. In several places the green-brown soil had a surface layer of stones up to 30 cm across, usually weathered to a red colour.

There were quite a few road kill along the road, mainly kangaroo with at least one pig. Carcasses on this road are not cleaned up as road patrols do in some shires; many carcasses we passed were little more than mangled fur over a crushed skeleton after having been run over many times; it was uncertain what species they were. Surprisingly few birds were feeding on more recent carcasses; at most we saw three kites or crows feeding

The road crossed a series of pastoral leases. Cattle were widely grazed with some sheep seen south of Ilfracombe. This whole area was pioneered for grazing sheep but cattle are replacing sheep for many reasons including the lower work load involved in running cattle. Fewer workers are needed for cattle (for example, no shearers) and the trend to replace sheep is partly blamed for the steady decrease in population of outback Queensland.

We passed one emu and one kangaroo. At one point a flock of about a hundred green birds, probably budgerigars, burst from the grass just ahead of us. As they collectively wheeled away from the road in a tight bunch they briefly flashed bright green before wheeling again and turning off the bright green and disappearing into the grass. A magic moment.

In Isisford we stopped near the Outer Barcoo Interpretation Centre which deals with the region in general but has as its centre piece the fossil crocodile Isisfordia duncani found near Isisford and determined to be the ancestor of all modern crocodiles. A readily identified section of backbone vertebra determines that a crocodile is "modern" and this is the oldest fossil with that crucial feature.
fossil crocodile Reconstruction of the fossil crocodile discovered near Isisford and on display in the Interpretation Centre.

Our visit to the Interpretation Centre began with a short film extolling the benefits of Isisford; a second film tells the story of the fossil crocodile. Replicas of the crocodile and of the fossils found in sandstone are upstairs with some good explanatory material. Downstairs was a café where we had coffee. We found the Centre well worth the visit for the fossil crocodile; details on the Isisford area were thin and non-specific tending to emphasis the good fishing to be found in the shire.

Isisford contains the Shire offices but not much else. There is a post office but we didn't see a bank (although there was a Commonwealth Bank agency in the post office). The general store, butcher and bakery were open; there were no other shops. We didn't see a petrol station and the caravan park was a signboard without substance. We didn't search every street for business but the main street was limited.
Isisford main street Isisford main street.

From Isisford we drove to Blackall on the Landsborough Highway. This was back in the mainstream of caravanners who mostly stick to the Highway and have little interest in travelling on minor roads. Blackall caravan park was pretty full and couldn't accept a van of our size for tonight. We could have free-camped but we wanted electrical power to run the heater on the threatening cold night. We were sent to the showgrounds for $20 where we had power, water if we wanted it, toilets and showers. Blackall uses artesian water which comes from the tap strongly sulphurous; I was reluctant to have that in the caravan hot-water tank and our experience was that it overwhelmed drinking water filters; our previous filter system never recovered from Blackall's water after an earlier visit so we intended to use internal water while we were at Blackall.
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