Being tourists in Mt Isa

We spent the day with Mandie and Pete being tourists. First up we visited the fabulous Outback at Isa. This complex houses the Tourist Information Centre, a Cafe, The Riversleigh Fossil Centre & Laboratory, The Isa Experience (a museum to the history of Mt Isa) and the Hard Times Mine (an underground mine tour experience).

We did a fabulous one hour tour at the Riversleigh Fossil Centre. This was really good and we learnt so much about Riversleigh which is a World Heritage listed Fossil Site. It is said to be one of the best fossil sites in the world, according to Sir David Attenborough.

Most of the fossils at Riversleigh relate to 25-30 million years ago when giant mammals wandered this land. Scary big creatures such as diprotodon, marsupial lions, giant koalas and more. We were shown into the laboratory and the painstaking work it is to release the fossils from the limestone they are embedded in. It was fascinating.

Following our fossil tour we enjoyed morning tea in the cafe. Best coffee and worst scones!

We spent the next hour or so in The Isa Experience. This is a museum dedicated to the history of Mt Isa and has a wonderful gem stone collection. It is a self-guided display and has fascinating exhibits detailing the history of Mt Isa from its earliest people, through the discovery of ore by John Cameron Miles who staked the first claim in 1923, and on to how the town grew from a small mining town to the outback city it is today.

It is also home to the Mt Isa Rodeo Hall of Fame. The Annual Rodeo is a big deal in Mt Isa. The first rodeo was held in 1959 and since then the Isa Rodeo has become a major event on the Rodeo calendar. It is now the biggest and riches rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere. The Mt Isa Rodeo is held on the second weekend in August each year. A special purpose rodeo arena at Buchanan Park has been built in the town to world Rodeo standards and many of the cowboys that compete at Isa also compete in other countries. The Hall of Fame celebrates those that have made a significant contribution to the Rodeo over the years.

After all this reading and museum exploring it was time to get out and about. We’d heard about Lake Moondarra which is some 16km from town and apparently is a large man made lake and also the town water supply. In this extremely dry climate a lake would be a welcome sight. The road out to the lake was well signposted and we got such a surprise when we came to it. It is huge! Much bigger than we expected. You could water ski here and always be able to find good water because of the numerous islands.

Lake Moondarra was constructed in 1956 and its Aboriginal name means ‘plenty of rain and thunder’. The lake is popular with locals and is famous for its fishing, water skiing, canoeing and dragon boating, The view of the dam wall from the lookout is quite a sight. All that dry country and that huge lake below.

Back in town we drove to the Mt Isa Lookout to check out the view and the painted water tower. It is painted with native birds and fish. The view from the lookout across the town is a good one from that elevation. You can clearly see Mt Isa Mines on the western side of the Leichhardt River and the town on the eastern side.

Mt Isa is a mining town and as we drove around we noticed that most of the homes are transportable. I guess if the mine ever closes the houses can be moved somewhere else, although I read that the Mt Isa Mine is not likely to close any time soon. It is one of the worlds largest producers of lead, zinc, silver and copper. The mine was commenced in 1923 so it is almost 100 years old and it remains one of the worlds most productive single mines. The mine was acquired by Glencore in 2013 and Glencore employs around 3,200 employees and contractors today. It is a mixture of open-cut and underground mining and the copper mining section is 1980 metres deep.

Back at the caravan park and I took the time to do more washing and finally wash the dusty floor. You’ve no idea how good that made me feel to be rid of that BRB dust!

Our little BRB Makin’ Memories group of four couples went out for dinner to the Overlander Hotel and we enjoyed a last night together.


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