Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
27-30 May 2011 - Windorah and Cooper's Creek
Windorah is a small, quiet township with a population of about 100. The township provides essential services for travellers with a general store and coffee shop, hotel/motel (with excellent food), fuel with some mechanical repair capability, post office, police station, information office/library. There is a medical clinic for primary health care with the Flying Doctor available for more serious cases. Windorah is the last stop before Birdsville. There is no Telstra mobile telephone coverage but there are four television channels (ABC, SBS, Imparja, and SCTV).

The caravan park is run by the Barcoo Shire to encourage people to stay and is different to many other caravan parks. There is no office; new arrivals select a spot near power and water outlets and set up. A shire person comes around late in the afternoon to collect $10 a night for powered site or $5 if power is not being used; the fourth night is free. The amenities block is basic, new and very adequate.

Windorah solar One of the five solar arrays providing power to Windorah during the day. The array is beside the road from Quilpie greeting new arrivals

Windorah draws electrical power from a solar array during the day. Five large dishes made up of 112 curved mirrors track the sun from sunrise providing power for the town. Diesel generators provide power at night and when cloud is too thick for the solar to generate sufficient power. Changeover between diesel and solar takes place without interruption to the supply using batteries to maintain the supply while the diesels start and run-up; there was not one interruption to the supply during the five days we stayed in Windorah. The site is operated by Ergon Energy as a test installation of solar panels powering a small township and Windorah is considered the ideal size for this test. Solar has been adopted primarily to save diesel fuel. The solar power array is beside the road from Quilpie and opposite the airport. During our stay all five arrays were not needed; those not required were turned away from the sun making the array look disorganised with some dishes pointing towards the sun with others pointing elsewhere.

Road Bridge Road bridge across Cooper's Creek.

Travelling Australia - Windorah and Coopers Creek - page 2
Windorah is built on red sand clear of the edge of the Cooper's Creek floodplain. During the recent floods the township was isolated by floodwater forming a vast sheet of water visible to the south, but the town itself was not flooded. The main waterhole of Cooper's Creek (Currareva waterhole) lies 12 kilometres from Windorah along the Quilpie Road which crosses the waterhole on a single-lane concrete bridge. The Creek is lined with very large and attractive River Red Gum and River Tea Tree immediately along the bank and extending along the bank out of sight in both directions. Behind the River Red Gums lies a belt of Coolibah trees with associated understory plants, including many wattles. This Coolibah belt stretches away from the Creek to the limit of regular flooding, sometimes several kilometres, and covers subsidiary channels running parallel to the main stream and flowing when the Cooper is in flood.

Red River Gums River Red Gums lining Cooper's Creek waterhole 12km from Windorah.

At the time of our visit recent flooding had receded near Windorah, although the Cooper is still flooding in South Australia; the steeply sloping banks of the waterhole are being exposed and turning green in some places as plants grow there. Individual bush camping sites have been prepared along both sides of the Creek upstream and downstream of the bridge; most sites overlook the Creek and are popular with camper-trailer travellers.

Small beaches near the water are dotted with dead fish up to 30 centimetres long; in some places the fish carpet the mud. We were told the fish had increased their population at the height of the flooding to a level which depleted the oxygen in the water. When the flood receded there were too many fish in the water for the oxygen available and thousands died. Apparently the surface was covered with dead fish some weeks ago and we see only the remainder.

Ibis Straw-necked Ibis in the shallows, many were pecking at dead fish washed up along the shoreline and on sandbanks.

A large number of waterbirds could be seen around the bridge. Ibis, spoonbills and herons were in the majority; these species feed along the edge of the water on frogs, yabbies, worms etc. and do not dive for fish. There were few fish-catching species; pelicans were conspicuously absent but there were a few black cormorants which often work with pelicans catching fish; other cormorant species were not seen. These probably left when the fish died. Pelicans have a reputation for staying around only while there are fish to be eaten; if the supply of fish runs out then pelicans fly elsewhere.
Travelling Australia - Windorah and Coopers Creek - page 3
The Windorah community has established a 12 kilometres Nature Trail from Cooper's Creek to the township running through various vegetation types. The trail initially passes through Coolibahs lining the stream then moves into Gidgee woodland set back above the worst flooding parts but still on the mud deposited by past floods. Then the trail meanders through the red sand above the floodplain and carrying a different set of plants and shrubs.

Nature Trail Nature Trail on red sand through mulga.

During our stay in Windorah we had bright and sunny days with cold nights. The township was pretty quiet with few people moving in the streets. We suspect the town benefits by being on the road to Birdsville; it is the last refuelling/resupply stop before the 300 plus kilometre section to Birdsville and Bedourie.

One of our reasons for staying there was to collect our mail forwarded from home. Windorah receives two deliveries a week (on Monday and Thursday) but details turned out to be more complicated. Letters are delivered by air from Brisbane or Toowoomba but parcels are delivered early in the morning by road from Quilpie by the contractor delivering mail to properties. Our mail had been sent as a parcel so it came by road and was waiting for us in the post office by lunchtime on Monday.