All about Mitchell

21 04 2009

Mitchell is located on the banks of the Maranoa River, approximately 25kms west of Amby or 87 kms west of Roma. The town was named after Sir Thomas Mitchell, the explorer responsible for discovering the rich grazing lands of south-western Queensland and the western Darling Downs.

Sir Mitchell first explored the area that now bears his name in 1846, but it was not until 1854 that the first station was established. The station, named “Mitchell Downs”, was taken up by Edmund Morey and the main homestead was originally built where the corner of Mary and Winchester streets now stand.

By 1861, the pastoral stations of Eurella, Amby Downs and Forest Vale had also been taken up.

In 1864, the Mitchell Downs Homestead was destroyed by floodwaters and as a result, a new homestead was built in a nearby location. The remains of the original homestead were taken over by Thomas Close and converted into the Maranoa Hotel. A community began to grow, by 1870, post office, general store, butcher and blacksmith had opened and houses had appeared.

The railway line from Roma to the eastern bank of the Maranoa River was completed in 1883, and in 1885 a bridge over the river was constructed to enable the railway line to enter the town itself. The railway bridge was the first bridge to be built with concrete piers in the Queensland Colony.

The Mitchell Courthouse found its way into the history books when, in 1902, it hosted the trial of Patrick and James Kenniff. The Kenniff Brothers were nicknamed the “Last Australian Bushrangers” and were caught in the Mitchell area in April 1902. Patrick Kenniff became the last person hanged in Queensland when he was executed at Boggo Rd Gaol in Brisbane on January 12, 1903. The Courthouse, now closed, has been renamed the Kenniff Courthouse in reference to the trial.

Today, Mitchell boasts a population of over 1000 people. Like other regional towns, Mitchell has experienced population decline, however it has been proactive in minimizing the extent of the decline. In addition to the traditional grain and grazing industries that the town has historically relied on, today Mitchell is home to cypress pine milling, a quarry, and is also experimenting with various broadacre farming.

Things to do and see in Mitchell:

  • The Great Artesian Spa Complex is the star attraction in Mitchell. The Spa is incorporated into the aquatic centre and features two artesian spas – one naturally heated to 38oC, the other at a cooler temperature for those that would prefer.
  • Visit the Yumba. Originally called Reserve 131, the Yumba site was a government Reserve for Aboriginal people in the Mitchell area. Today, the Gungarri people take visitors to the Yumba on a journey through traditional and contemporary aboriginal cultural heritage. The Yumba is progressively being rebuilt by the Nalingu Aboriginal Corporation to create an Indigenous Cultural Education and Knowledge Sharing Centre to encourage greater cultural awareness.
  • The Nature Trail is a 3.2km long walking track along the banks of the Maranoa River. The walk starts (or finishes) at the Neil Turner Weir and provides opportunities for bird watching, fishing, canoeing and other aquatic activities
  • The Kenniff Courthouse features a historical displays (including information about the Kenniff Brothers bushrangers in general), gardens, windmill and information centre
  • Visit the Kenniff Brothers’ Monument (7 km south of Mitchell). The Monument consists of contemprary statues depicting the arrest of Patrick and James Kenniff – the statue of Patrick’s arrest shows Patrick lying on the ground with two policemen standing over him, while the aboriginal tracker looks the other way. The statue depicting James’ arrest shows him escaping the first attempt at arrest, before he was later surrounded and forced to surrender.
  • Admire the local artwork. The Bridging Arts exhibition, called “Booringa – Past, Present and Future,” is a unique open-air aerosol art gallery located on the bridge pylons beneath the Warrego Highway on the eastern entrance to the town. It was an initiative of the local Youth Council and features the work of individuals and community groups. The Cambridge Streetscape recalls the memories of local residents and features works created by members of the local community and professional artists. The Maranoa Arts Complex features works of art by local artists and also hosts  visiting exhibitions of reknowned artists.
  • Mitchell is the gateway to the Mt Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park. Mt Moffatt is famous for its unique rock formations and aboriginal art, and is home to many hideouts used by the Kenniff Brothers. The road to Mt Moffatt is mostly unsealed, is impassable after rain and is recommended for 4WD only. Check road conditions before departure. The area is relatively remote, facilities are basic (camping only) and visitors should be self-sufficient.
  • Ooline Environmental Park is 35 km west of Mitchell. The Ooline tree (or Scrub Myrtle) is currently listed as a vulnerable species under the Nature Conservation Act. The tree is a relic of the rainforests of Gondwana Land and is unique in the sense that depsite its rainforst orgins, the Ooline tree can now only grow in hot and dry conditions.
  • Fisherman’s Rest is a camping, fishing and day-use area on the banks of the Maranoa River, about 7 kms west of Mitchell.
  • Major Mitchell’s campsite is located 35 kms north of Mitchell. The site marks Sir Thomas Mitchell’s campsite when he journeyed through the region in 1846. The site has a shelter and barbeque facility

References:

1. Ryan, M. (ed), (2003) Discovery Guide to Outback Queensland Queensland Museum Publishing. Brisbane, Queensland.

2. Booringa Shire Council Website

3.  Booringa Shire Council Tourism Guide – “Michell: Gateway to the Outback. Visitors Guide to Mitchell, Amby and Mungallala”

4.  Mitchell: Gateway to the Outback Website

5.  Environmental Protection Agency Queensland Heritage Register, Queensland Government

6.  The Australian Government: Shared Responsibility Agreements: Mitchell Queensland


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