Cracow QLD is a tiny dot on the map. It sits about 500km North-West of Brisbane, in the heart of cattle country.
But Cracow’s claim to fame is gold, not cattle. A latecomer to the great Australian gold rush, it has ebbed and flowed on the fortunes of gold since mining started during the Depression.
Let’s have a look at the mixed fortunes of this town. By the way, you pronounce Cracow, “Crack-O”.
A Dusty Start
Cracow sprang from nowhere during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Small quantities of gold had been found between 1850 and 1918. However, the area wasn’t seriously prospected until 1932.
You see, in 1913 Johnny Nipps found gold just 10km North of Cracow Station. A Mt Isa prospector Charlie Lambert heard of the find and located a promising reef. However, he didn’t return until 1931. He and two mates staked their claims, then talked up their finds as prospectors invariably did.
This of course started a gold rush. The timing was perfect. People were desperate during the Great Depression, so digging holes into rock in mid-West Queensland sounded like a smart career choice.
A shanty town sprang up North of Cracow Station and became Cracow. At one point over 2,000 people lived here in squalid conditions. The town was perpetually shrouded in fine white dust and water was hard to obtain. There was no sewerage system and the sandflies had a field day attacking the residents.
Let’s just say, Cracow wasn’t exactly paradise in its heyday…
Gradually, the individual mining leases were bought out by one large company. Less than ten years after the initial boom, Cracow had shrunk to just over 800 people. The mine closed in 1976 and Cracow continued to shrink.
The mine re-opened in 1985 and the town had a temporary reprieve. However this was short-lived, with the mine closing a few years later.
Newcrest bought the leases and re-opened the mine in 2005. They have the technology to chase gold hundreds of metres underground, so it’s once again viable. While the mine continues to operate, it hasn’t really helped Cracow. Miners live in a dedicated camp on the edge of town, rather than in the town itself.
Newcrest has contributed to the town by adding a few sporting facilities and contributing to the upkeep of the campground and surrounds. However, Cracow is now down to a population of 25.
So What’s In Cracow?
For starters, friendly people.
We spoke to two locals for hours, yarning about this that and the other. While we were there, the town had an ANZAC Day commemoration of sorts at the Community Hall. Of course, country people don’t need much of an excuse for a party. So this kicked on well into the night.
The Cracow Hotel is the only business still open in town. Even then, its opening hours are unpredictable.
This is a shame. Being the only business in town, it really needs to be open and functioning. Otherwise word gets around amongst travellers and they’ll no longer stay in Cracow. Apparently, the walls are covered in memorabilia. But it’s a bit hard to see when the front doors are locked…
The local community relies on the pub being open to attract tourists. Sad to see the town suffering as a result.
Facilities for campers are excellent. You’ll find three powered sites, toilets and showers, and an undercover eating area with BBQ. All this for a donation.
The campsite is beside the Heritage Centre, which was originally the Courthouse. In and around this building are a series of excellent interpretive displays. They explain the town’s gold mining history, how gold was discovered and even have a couple of huge rocks impregnated with hundreds of ancient fossils.
Beside the Heritage Centre is a quirky looking building that was a Birthing Unit. It’s now used as a Keeping Place for the Wulli Wulli people, the original inhabitants of these lands.
In the main street you’ll find old buildings in various states of disrepair. In stark contrast, a unique war memorial sits amongst these buildings. Apparently Stan (see Stan below) has been the driving force behind this memorial. It really is a special place.
Oh, I nearly forgot. If you feel like a swim you can visit Cracow Beach. It’s a stunning spot on the Dawson River.
We loved Cracow. Yes the town is slowly being reclaimed by the Mother Nature, and yes the population keeps shrinking. Despite this, the community is strong… and friendly. They’re really pushing hard to attract tourists.
Spend a night or two here. You’ll love it.
Just wish the publican could be bothered to open the pub…
Cracow QLD is on Wulli Wulli Country.
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