Palmer River - Cape York Peninsula
After leaving Atherton, we headed for the Palmer
River Roadhouse on lower Cape York Peninsula, keen to embark on some sightseeing
and metal detecting for gold.
The Roadhouse, and a small caravan park, is located
on the banks of the Palmer River, adjacent to the Peninsula Development
Road (Mulligan Highway), approximately 122km inland (southwest) from Cooktown
and 154km nnw of Mareeba.
History of the Palmer River Goldfields
In 1872 William Hann led a Government sponsored
expedition to Far North Queensland to determine the nature of the country
and the mineral resources. He subsequently named the Palmer River and
reported the first finds of gold in the area.
In the following year, James Venture Mulligan and
six of his chums departed from the Georgetown goldfields in North West
Queensland in search of payable gold along the Palmer River.
In three weeks the party found over 3kg (102 oz)
and the rush was on.
The Palmer was one of the most remote and harshest
fields worked by early Australian miners. Skirmishes with the indigenous
population were numerous and they had to overcome disease, floods, lack
of supplies, isolation and climatic conditions which ranged from tropical
heat to monsoonal rains.
A heavy influx of Chinese diggers to the Palmer
fueled anti-chinese feelings and they were subsequently excluded from
reef mining activities by the authorities.
Despite these restrictions, the Chinese became
the principal producers of gold on the Palmer - being industrious, organised
and more disciplined than their white counterparts.
Several gold stamping batteries were commissioned
between 1876 - 1890 close to rich reef deposits discovered in the in the
Maytown area in 1875. In its inaugural year of operations the first battery
commissioned, the Pioneer Mill, crushed reef stone which yielded 466kg
By 1890 there were some 158 reef mines in operation
on the Palmer and alluvial deposits along its length were being worked
The financial crisis of 1893, problems in controlling
ground water and declining reserves, saw the steady decline in reef mining
on the Palmer over subsequent years and the last mine (shaft) ceased operation
However, numerous alluvial claims are still worked
today along the Palmer, and its tributaries, and over recent years metal
detecting has been prolific...to the point where it has largely outlived
The selfish and thoughtless actions of some metal
detector enthusiasts has seen property owners along the Palmer reluctant
to provide access for fossicking. And who can blame them, when people
enter their stations without consent, leave gates open, camp near stock
watering points, shoot cattle, leave garbage littered around, dig holes
that are are not filled in again...and even conduct burning off operations
to make detecting easier!
Our stay on the Palmer
We consider ourselves particularly fortunate to
have been able to camp in an idyllic spot on the banks of the Palmer River.
We are indebted to John and Tanya and George and
Joyce who so generously and warmly welcomed us onto their station and
shared with us their way of life on the Peninsula.
It was an exciting and rewarding experience...
and one that we will always cherish.
'Reflections on the Palmer'
... our home for a week!