It is hard to imagine that Burketown, a tiny town in the Gulf of Carpentaria, was once a thriving centre. But ill fate kept striking the town until it was reduced by nearly 98%. And what once was a lively settlement it is nowadays a quiet town with a population of less than 200. But it has a very interesting history waiting to be discovered...
PHOTO COURTESY OF 'DROP BEARS' www.dropbears.com
The tiny, isolated township of Burketown (population 180) sits at the southernmost point of the Gulf of Carpentaria, 25 kilometres from the coast, about 230 kilometres west of Normanton, and 400km north of Cloncurry. Burketown sits on the Albert River and marks the point where the wetlands to the north fade into the beginning of the savannah grass plains to the south. The town owes its named to the ill-fated explorer ROBERT O'HARA BURKE, who surveyed the region in the 1860's.
By the mid 1860s, several cattle stations had been founded in the area just inland of present-day Burketown. The town itself had developed around a site on the river, and it appeared as though Burketown would soon become one of the major centres in north-western Queensland. Unfortunately, tropical diseases ravaged the population in 1866 and the town was hit by a damaging tropical cyclone in 1887 resulting in the destruction of 98 percent of Burketown.
Today, Burketown is one of Tropical North Queensland's most famed locations for barramundi fishing, and the local population swells every year as keen fishermen from all around the country make their pilgrimage to Burketown.