The historic outback town of Cloncurry (population 3,000) is known as the friendly heart of the great north west because it is a welcome crossroads with a sparkling community spirit. Swimming in the river during the wet season and playing cricket in the riverbed during the dry. Street parades, horse races, football matches, and the legendary Curry Rodeo and Merry Muster. It's all part of life in Cloncurry!!!.
Cloncurry is a town of many nicknames: referred to by the locals as "the 'Curry", and proud to call itself the "Friendly Heart of the Great North West" and the "Gateway to the Gulf". The town also lays claim to a number of significant achievments in the State's history. In 1889, Cloncurry set the Australian record for the maximum daytime temperature... at a sweltering 53.1 DEGREES CELSIUS. Cloncurry is also famous for being the arrival point of the first QANTAS flight with a paying passenger back in 1922, and is renowned as the birthplace of the ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE.
Cloncurry is almost 1,100 kilometres southwest of Cairns. The first Europeans in the area were explorers BURKE AND WILLS, as they passed through this rugged country in 1860 on their way to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Thanks to the copper mines established later that decade, Cloncurry quickly became one of the most prosperous towns in the outback. The early township's population seesawed with the fluctuating price of copper and gold, and with the productivity of local mines; at one point dropping as low as 40, but always bouncing back. Like many other outback Queensland mining towns, Cloncurry had a large Chinese population, but by 1900 Cloncurry's population also included 200 Afghans working over 2,000 camels.
The Afghans were invaluable immigrants to the country. With their camel trains, they helped to open up the remote backblocks of Australia. Cloncurry was the centre of their enterprise, yet the Afghan cemetery contains just one headstone, which faces north-south to the holy city of Mecca. The Chinese cemetery also only contains one preserved grave, although great numbers of Chinese miners, cooks, gardeners and shop owners must have been buried there.
During World War I, Cloncurry was the main source of Australian copper, with 7,000 people working many mines and four smelters. After a century of boom and bust, Cloncurry entered the 21st century with the biggest mining operations in Australia. Today, the town also services the grazing properties in the surrounding district as an important sales centre for sheep, cattle and horses.
It may be of interest to note the unusual demographics of the town; in 2001 Cloncurry was home to 3,097 males and 1,731 females!
There is great fossicking in the surrounding countryside, or you can take a tour of the Ernest Henry Mine, and see the pit from which 11.5 million tones of ore and 53 million tones of waste are mined each year. At the start of 2006, the mine pit was 335 metres deep and 1,280 metres wide. Local museums will provide a glimpse into the area's fascinating past, and there are a range of regular events in the town, most notably the annual Stockman's Challenge, one of Australia's great horse events, and the first of its kind in the country. This is a genuine stockman's festival where men and women of all standards test their skills in a variety of horse events. The Challenge has become the benchmark for young performance horses in Australia, and stockmen from properties and stations all over Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory start preparing horses years in advance so they can one day have the opportunity to compete at the Challenge.