SUNDAY 9 JUNE MT ISA TO LAKE JULIUS 105kms
We had driven the Mt Isa-Cloncurry road before, so decided to take advantage of the van’s offroad ability and cut through to the Burke Development Road via Kajabbi. I had seen a camp ground at Lake Julius advertised in some of the local literature picked up from the Information Centre, so we thought we’d overnight there. It looked interesting.
Drove out the Cloncurry road for about 20kms, before turning north on a dirt road. It was quite rough and rocky in parts and shook up some of the van contents!
But the scenery was spectacular – lots of mountains, white quartz blows, creek beds. In this rather arid country, the rocks of the ranges stands out really starkly.
After some 70kms, we turned west, for the final 15kms to Lake Julius. This section of the road was quite hilly. We missed the actual turnoff to the camp and had to double back. The final bit of road up to the camp was really steep – we needed to engage 4WD to pull the van up that. I was wondering what I’d let us in for!
The camping area was part of a large recreation camp complex, sited towards the top of a steep hill. The place was mostly camp buildings – I presumed it had been the original construction camp, when the dam was built in the 1970’s.
The actual camping area was at the hill top, was very small and whoever advertised it as a “caravan park” had never had anything to do with caravans!
It was cheap, at $5.20 a night, but was certainly not a proper caravan and tent area. There were three smallish tents pitched there already, and with the addition of us the place was full! Belatedly, we had realized that it was a long weekend holiday.
It was very tight to back into our site, with trees located in the wrong spots. The tenters had arrived not long before us, and had tried to spread out. The camp manager made them move so we could fit in. Not a great introduction to the (very) near neighbours!
We had to manoeuvre around trees, and the site was right at the edge of a huge, almost vertical drop down to the dry Leichardt River bed – a long way below. I quadruple-checked that the van handbrake was on, once we were into the site, and that we put big chocks behind the wheels! It was certainly one of the more unusual places we had been to with the van.
There were some amenities in a donga building – but no paper in the toilets.
The tenters were families with young children. They were well behaved and unobtrusive, and the parents seemed not to resent our intrusion.
We unhitched Truck and did a quick basic set up. Had a fast lunch, then drove to look at the lake and dam.
Lake Julius was formed by damming the Leichardt River, downstream from both Mt Isa and Lake Moondarra. It was a back up water supply for Mt Isa and the area. We were surprised at how huge the body of water was – it was much bigger than we had expected.
But it was the dam wall that was amazing – this huge wall of arches and barrel shaped forms. It was most impressive looking, and seemed more like something we would see holding back a major metropolitan water storage. Apparently it is unique in Qld. Actually, I could not recall ever seeing another one like this, anywhere on our travels.
There was only one place where we could reach the waters of the dam by road, and that was a rather small area. There were a few people there, fishing. We saw an aboriginal lady, and a man, catch a fair sized fish each – catfish, we thought?
There was a group of young adult students down there – some Australian, some American – who were being very loud and very into one-upmanship, and seemingly great complacency about their own superiority. This was very annoying and out of place in that otherwise quiet environment.
We followed a track to where we could access and explore the dry river bed, downstream from the dam wall, for a while. Looked for birds, with little success.
Then went back to camp and just relaxed for the rest of the day, sitting outside, reading, sewing and looking out over the views from our high vantage point.
Tea was barra marinated in a mix of ginger, chilli, lime juice, sherry before cooking. It was very nice, with some salad.