Downtown Isa and the Outback Park

Trip Start Mar 11, 2010
Trip End Mar 20, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, March 18, 2010

During the day while H is at work I have been exploring, and getting lots of lovely photos of butterflies, grasshoppers and dragonflies. The Outback Park which is part of Outback Isa is a delightful park with a large lagoon complete with waterfall and waterlilies and lots of red, yellow and blue dragonflies. I also saw a Dainty Swallowtail butterfly here; they are generally found much further south. It is a pity it is not available to the public unless you pay $12 to get in to the Isa Experience Gallery. The display was well worth it with lots of individual AV presentations as well as movies in the upstairs theatrette, but I was disappointed that the Mary Kathleen AV was not working. I was interested to see what it looked like back in the 1980's when there were people and buildings there. I went back a few days later but it still hadn’t been fixed. 

The video in the map room gives an overall view of outback Queensland as well as a quick tour down the XStrata mine, well worth a look if you haven’t got the time, stomach or money to spend on the Hard Times Underground Mine tour ($45) Apparently Mt Isa mines is one of the most productive single mine in world history based on the production of lead, silver, copper and zinc, and the town is the 5th largest city in the world by surface area. (43,010square kilometres)

In the same building, the Riversleigh Fossil Centre has a wealth of information from the dinosaur fields at Riversleigh, 4 hours drive north of The Isa.  Apparently scientists have discovered 50% of all we know about Australian mammals from this site. The resident palaeontologist conducts lab tours at 10am and 2pm during the week.  The Riversleigh fossil deposits are among the richest and most extensive in the world with some fossils dating back 15-25 million years. The area was once lush wet rainforest but changed dramatically to dry grasslands, presumably when a large meteor hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. 

There is also a very nice little coffee shop serving very affordable lunches and snacks and she makes a mean cappuccino!

Mt Isa is not a flat desert as I had imagined, but surrounded by the red rocky hills of the Selwyn Ranges dotted with white trunked eucalypts and olive green clumps of Spinifex and lots of different wildflowers.  The Leichhardt riverbed runs through the town and has water in parts of it.  We have spent some lovely hours wandering along the sandy bed of this river and some of its tributaries, and photographing the birds and insects that live there – lots of black kites (I counted 10 together yesterday) peewees, the beautiful bee-catcher, and lots of little birds we haven’t been quick enough to photograph.

The town itself has a rather cosmopolitan feel about it as the early workforce for the mine was mainly migrants and refugees from Europe, including a large Finnish contingent who built saunas here much to the amusement of the locals. The Irish Club boasts that it is the "biggest Irish Club in the world"! It has a bistro, café, restaurant and an old Melbourne tram snack area. We had a lovely meal of Steak and Guinness pie washed down with Kilkenny and Guinness in the restaurant which was decked out in green banners as we were there just before St Patrick’s Day. It has come a long way from 17 March 1955 when a few Irish lads started the Mt Isa Irish Association in a galvanized weatherboard building. The poor old RSL is really suffering in comparison.  We dropped in to give them some lunchtime business but there wasn’t a soul at the reception or inside the restaurant, which looked rather rundown.  The driveway is all broken tar and potholes.  Don’t think they are likely to get business unless they have a major renovation.

Instead we moved on to “The Buffs” (Buffalo Club) which advertises the fact that it won the “Best Coffee Shop and Social Club Qld 2008” What a difference to the RSL!  This was buzzing in both the bistro and the restaurant and we both had a delicious Smoked Mackerel Salad.
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