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How a few days of rain changed everything in Longreach

Jun 01, 2022
Longreach Common is a vision of green after recent rainfall. Image source: Supplied

What a difference a few days can make! In May, our Nogo Station in Longreach had 200mm of soft, penetrating rain. It was the biggest fall in one event for over 15 years! That sort of rain changes everything for us. And it will totally change the landscape that greets our Outback Pioneers guests this winter.

If you think the outback is all red dirt and dry dust, now is the time to see something different in the cycles of drought and deluge.

This winter and spring, Nogo Station will be green with clover, lambs’ tail, legumes and weedy growth. The billabongs will be full of water-lilies like a painting. Our sheep are already on their way home from a 3-year agistment in New South Wales. You can almost see the smiles on their faces, as well as on ours, when they come through the gate!

The birdlife is amazing – finches, ibis, seed-eating birds, eagles, cockatoos, emus, brolgas – you wonder where they all come from! To go on our double-decker station safari this year will give a completely different perspective from previous years.

Merinos grazing on the pasture, after a good season at Nogo Station. Image source: Supplied

A dry land where water rules

The story of water is everywhere here in Longreach if you know where to look.

The Thomson River has been a lifeline since early white settlement, and for the Indigeous peoples before us. It starts from rainfall in the White Mountains behind Charters Towers and finds its way to the headwaters of the Thomson River at Windorah.

Cruising along the Thomson River is a must-do for every visitor to Longreach. Image source: Supplied

Even when we’re in drought here in Longreach, the Thomson can flood across the plains in summer, bringing its life-giving water from far away. The river is also the town’s water supply and a favourite recreational place for locals.

These days, it has an important role in attracting visitors to the outback. If you’re coming on a Starts at 60 holiday, our Starlight’s Cruise Experience is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip. You get close to the life and legends of the river as the sun goes down in a spectacular outback sunset. And we promise it’s never a dry lesson! You’ll have plenty of fun, laughter and entertainment along the way.

When we started the original Thomson River cruise in 2009, we never dreamed it would become a bucket-list experience for so many. It’s been so popular that we’ve just bought another bigger paddlewheeler to make sure we’re not disappointing anyone. This old lady brings stories from another great river – the Murray. She is currently making her journey overland and will be ready to welcome guests aboard in the coming weeks. You’ll be hearing a lot more about her soon.

Richard Kinnon escorting the Pride of the Murray to her new home on the Thomson River. Image source: Supplied

From horse-drawn water carts to road-trains

Water is one of the themes on our Nogo Station Experience too. We check all Nogo Station’s water sources on a ‘water run’ every couple of days, and you’ll be aboard to experience that as we head out across the plains and past billabongs.

Stock horses enjoying the Thomson River water at Broken Leg Creek cattle camp. Image source: Supplied

You’ll see some old horse-drawn water carts, which took water out to the sheep or cattle. They held a drop in the dust compared with the road-trains we now use with 30,000 litres aboard. You’ll see the machinery our forebears used to dig dams. What used to need 50 horse-drawn scoops is one motorised bucketful today. And, when we want to maintain and de-silt our dams, we contract huge D9 bulldozers from the coal mines in the Central Highlands that can do in a day what would have taken the old boys three weeks of constant hard work.

You’ll learn about the different types of rainfall and the native grasses, the role of Merino sheep in the outback story and how responsible grazing can be good and sustainable for this country.

Water knowledge is the key to survival

Our local, larrikin hero of pioneer times, Captain Starlight (aka Harry Redford), was so successful in his cattle duffing because he was a skilled bushman who understood the cycles of drought and thanks to his strong relationship with the Indigenous people. If he hadn’t waited for the right time to travel with his stolen cattle, he would surely have perished for lack of water on his incredible journey from Longreach to South Australia.

Harry Redford’s billabong in the dry – wait till you see it now! Image source: Supplied

His other secret was communicating with the Indigenous peoples whose lands he passed through. He spoke 12 Indigenous languages by the time he was 12 and the local peoples showed him how to find local water sources and bush tucker. It’s such a different story from Burke and Wills (only nine years earlier) who raised their guns and fired bullets in the air when they encountered Indigenous people who could have helped them!

Passing on the secrets

Old boys who experienced the 1955 drought and floods, and of course Indigenous people, have a lot to teach us about how to deal with climatic cycles. We need to build a bridge between those who have valuable knowledge to pass on and those who are trying to manage today’s challenges.

The Kinnon brothers listening to respected outback identity and friend, Tom Lockie. Image source: Supplied

We could certainly do with government help for more infrastructure here too. It’s 30 years since we had any new water infrastructure in the outback. Most importantly, we need to work together to preserve the outback lifestyle and allow the outback to be productive land that supports its local communities.

Come out and see our amazing country for yourself. It’s part of all our heritage and can still be an important part of our nation’s future. Your visit will make us smile and, in return, we’ll give you plenty of laughs and inspiring experiences, come rain or shine!


Discover more of the outback’s secrets and unleash your own pioneering spirit on a 6-day holiday to Longreach and Winton. You’ll cruise the Thomson River at sunset, hear about a grazier’s life from your Kinnon family host, ride the Cobb & Co stagecoach along the original bush route, and much more.