Tibooburra, New South Wales
Cameron Corner Visitors Guide
There is something impossibly romantic about Tibooburra; there it is in the far north-western Corner (Corner Country) of New South Wales.
There is conjecture around the true origin of the name of the town. Pretty consistent among them is that the name means 'heaps of rocks' or 'place of stones' in the language of the local Wangkumara and Maljangapa peoples.
- One interpretation suggests that the name derives from a story about how "two men came from Innamincka and asked people for rainstones. They were refused and mocked and in revenge sent a hail storm that turned everyone, including themselves, to stone."
- Another story tells of three upright rocks, known as the 'Three Brothers' which were said to be three ancestors of the Wangkumara tribe who turned to stone for marrying women from another tribe.
- A more modern version is that the town name refers to the ancient granite tors that surround the village, the goldfields of the Tibooburra region was initially known as "The Granites" and formed part of the Albert Goldfields.
Services & Getting To
Tibooburra is the largest town of the Corner Country is home to Sturt National Park and provides the perfect base for exploring the region and provides the following services:
- Two hotels
- Motel rooms, cabins and a caravan park and hostel
- Post Office with banking and internet services.
- Supermarket and provisions
- Cafes and pub meals
- Royal Flying Doctor Service weekly visits.
- Fuel and roadhouses (with vehicular repair)
Tibooburra is 335 km north of Broken Hill, 1504 km northwest of Sydney, 900 km from Adelaide. It seems so isolated and yet it is full of friendliness and activity.
For 25,000 years before the arrival of Europeans, the Wangkumara and Malyangapa Aboriginal people moved through the area. Middens, quarries, campsites, ceremonial sites, tool production sites and scarred trees still exist as evidence of Aboriginal occupation.
In 1845 Charles Sturt and his party (there were 16 men, 11 horses and 30 bullocks) reached the area. They were trying to discover an inland sea. While stranded at Depot Glen, beside Preservation Creek (40 km southwest of Tibooburra), they explored the corner country and reached Mount Wood, Cooper Creek and the edge of the Simpson Desert.
In 1860 Burke and Wills passed through the area on their ill-fated journey from Menindee to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
In 1861 the land around Tibooburra came under the Crown Lands Occupation Act which allowed for land with a carrying capacity of one sheep for every eight acres.
John Thomson, a tank sinker, reached Wilcannia in 1880 and announced that he had found gold near Mount Poole.
Other parties followed in early 1881, exploring for gold and by mid-year, there were 2,000 miners in the area.
By the end of 1881, the government surveyed the townsite and built a post office.
Later in the 1880s, a survey team passed through the area trying to map the exact border between New South Wales and Queensland.
After the survey team, small numbers of pastoralists, aware that the rainfall was only about 200 mm a year, established extensive pastoral holdings with minimal quantities of animals.
Towards the end of the decade, a school (1885), courthouse (1888) and hospital (1890) were built, and the town of Tibooburra grew.
By 1902 Tibooburra was known as "The Poor Man's Fields" and was yielding very little gold. Most of the miners had departed.
In the 1930s the government moved the local Aboriginal population to Brewarrina.
In 1999 Pioneer Park was formally opened and dedicated to the Aboriginal tribes, explorers, surveyors, pastoralists and gold prospectors. In that year, Myth and Mirage, a sculpture by Anthony Hamilton was established in the park.
In the summer of 2012-2013, dubbed The Angry Summer by the Climate Commission, the temperature in Tibooburra reached a new recorded high of 47.9°C.
Tibooburra See & Do
The Pub Crawl
Do as the locals do and split your time between two very unique outback pubs across the road from each other (a bonus as this pub crawl requires no driving). Each pub offers a unique experience with the Two-Story Tibooburra Hotel (on the right as you enter town from the south) with its unique gold-laden bar (has there are real gold nuggets embedded in the timber, and across the road is the Family Hotel and its famous murals by Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale, and Rick Amor.
National Parks & Wildlife Services
The NPWS office in Tibooburra provides a unique overview of what to see and do when visiting nearby Sturt National Park (walking track guides, tour drive guides, displays and road and weather condition updates are available.) as well as hosting interpretive displays of the areas natural and cultural history. Heritage items from the area's pastoral and mining history are showcased next door in the old Tibooburra Courthouse Museum (free entry).
The Pioneer Park
Often without a single blade of grass, the Pioneer Park with a wonderful sculpture of a full-size 27-foot long whaleboat perched on the top of some poles - a replica of the whaleboat Charles Sturt hauled across inland Australia. And here, on the edge of the huge Sturt National Park, you can really feel as though you are in the heart of the desert.
Beside the sculpture, a sign explains... "In 1843 Captain Charles Sturt held the conviction that Australia's interior was occupied by a central inland sea, not far from the Darling River, believing Eyre's Lake Torrens to be an estuary attached to it. In the following year, leaving from Adelaide, Sturt's well-equipped expedition struggled against shimmering horizons and ever-increasing hardships, suffering from extremes of heat and the waterless nature of the country in search of 'any body of water of unknown extent'.
"Sturt's search is believed to have ended somewhere near present-day Tibooburra, and it was at Depot Glen, 40 km south-west of Tibooburra, that Sturt abandoned the 30-foot, 12-oar whaler boat that had been brought with the expedition (Depot Glen is approximately 12km from present-day Milparinka).
Aboriginal Keeping Place
The Tibooburra Local Aboriginal Land Council Keeping Place is a unique museum displaying traditional indigenous artefacts and selected photographic material from the Tibooburra district.
The collection consists of wood, stone and fauna materials from the Wadigali, Wongkumara and Malyangapa tribes. The museum is a 'Keeping Place' for the remains of the tools and artefacts found in the Tibooburra Corner Country district.
Souvenirs, local arts and crafts are available. Admission to the museum is a gold coin donation.
Golden Gully, adjacent Dead Horse Gully camping ground, is a reconstruction of mining sites and methods with explanatory plaques. The turnoff is 1 km north of Tibooburra.
Exploring the Tibooburra Area
When gold was discovered in the 1870s, a rush to the Corner Country began, with miners travelling overland from Wilcannia, and from Farina on the Ghan Railway line, travelling overland across largely waterless terrain. No visit to Outback New South Wales can really be considered complete without visiting Milparinka and thinking about the lives of the early settlers.
Gold was never found at Milparinka, but something more precious, water. A township developed along the waterhole in the Evelyn Creek, whilst gold was mined at Mt Browne, Albert, and The Granites (Tibooburra).
In time, Milparinka grew into a substantial township with four hotels, a bank, shops, a library, a newspaper office, a police station and courthouse, a Cobb and Co office, a school, a post office and more. Plans were made to build a hospital. The telegraph was linked to Sydney in 1896, and coach services arrived twice a week from Wilcannia and later Broken Hill.
Today, Milparinka is a ghost of its former self, but as heritage township has much to offer. A devoted local community group has restored four of the most significant buildings, the courthouse, police station, gaol cells, and former kitchen and turned them into a vibrant, awarding-winning Heritage Precinct, and one of the original hotels, the Albert ( now known as the Milparinka Hotel) still operates.
A walking trail around the township connects significant historic locations, whilst ongoing survey work is reconstructing the original town layout. A pastoral museum, public gardens and pioneer memorials complete the attractions.
Today beautifully restored colonial buildings provide the venue for interpretive and visitor information, while garden-sites combine recreation and learning with hands-on mining displays for children (and the young at heart).
Depot Glen, Pooles Grave and Mt Sturt
Depot Glen is on Preservation creek and was the base camp for Charles Sturt's expedition (1844-45 ) party for six months unable to move forward or backward because of extreme heat and drought.
The explorers constructed an 'underground room' in Depot Creek, a tributary of Evelyn Creek, where there was a permanent waterhole. Having access to this water, they survived the drought.
While the leading group of Sturt's expedition pushed north, a second group stayed at Depot Glen waiting for their return. To keep the men busy Sturt had them walk to Red Hill (Mt Poole) each day 'to give the men occupation and keep them in health', where they constructed a cairn.
James Poole, the second in command, died of scurvy on this expedition and was buried near Depot Glen. A beefwood tree with his initials carved in the back marks the grave.
The only trees on the gibber plains in the vicinity of Mt Poole are river red gums lining the beds of the ephemeral streams. In the deeply-incised bed of Depot Creek, the tree roots reach down to the water that flows beneath the surface along the stream beds.
Sturt National Park
Tibooburra is the closest town to the magnificent Sturt National Park. Located in the north-west corner of New South Wales and bordering South Australia to the West and Queensland to the north, this massive park provides the visitor with a great insight into the geomorphology of outback Australia with ancient eroded mountain ranges and vast gibber plains easily illustrating the concept of the inland sea that early explorers believed covered the interior of Australia. The park also provides several vantage points to the Dingo Fence.
In the eastern section of the park, there are 2 wonderful and informative self-drive tours:
- The Gorge Loop Road: This is around Mt Wood and the Mount Wood Hills covering the outdoor pastoral heritage museum, Mt Wood Homestead & shearers' quarters, the Gibber and Mitchell Grass Plains, the Twelve Mile Creek Gorge, and the old pastoral remains at Torrens Bore and Horton Park Station. Wildlife such as Emu, Kangaroo, and Wedge-Tail eagles are commonly sighted.
- The Jump-Ups Loop Road: The ancient landforms that are known as the Jump-Ups are the remains of an ancient mountain range that have been eroded down over millions of years leaving the 150m plateau (Mesa) and the granite strewn plains that form the catchment of the Connia Creek (Ephemeral) which follows south-east into the Twelve Mile Creek.
The drive from Tibooburra to Cameron Corner takes the visitor through a diverse landscape including the Waka Claypan, past Fort Grey which was a provisions stockade built by explorer Charles Sturt for his inland expeditions, and on to the Corner and the world's longest fence; the 5,000+ km Dog Fence which was constructed to keep roaming Dingos of the north and west out of the pastoral lands of New South Wales.
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Map & Visitor Information
Sturt Visitor Centre
51 Briscoe Street, Tibooburra NSW 2880
Phone: 08 8091 3308