Welford National Park – Remote Camping On The Barcoo River
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It’s pretty safe to say Welford National Park is a fair way from anywhere. Located about 120km ENE of Windorah and 250km WSW of Blackall in Western Queensland, Welford NP is remote… ideal for remote camping.
Not really. You have to be fully self-contained, including water. There are toilets at Boomerang Waterhole. However, there’s no phone reception and no other facilities.
Take care and be prepared, including extra food and water in case of a breakdown or unexpected rain. If it rains out here, you could be stuck in the black soil plains for quite a while.
Heading For The Barcoo River
Originally Welford Station, the National Park covers about 124,000 ha (310,000 acres). The Barcoo River forms the Southern boundary and this was to be our destination.
Coming in from Blackall, we passed through Emmet. With a population of two, Emmet’s a pretty quiet place. It was originally a busy railway siding, but not any more. Just one house and one store sit exposed to the elements on bare flat ground. It would be pretty warm in summer! An old bloke leant out of the store window, staring at us as we drove past. Maybe he’d never seen a vehicle before…
After Emmet, the country changed. We passed rocky ridges that for some reason had been cleared of all scrub. Maybe they were trying to create a new desert.
The land started to slope very gently down towards Barcoo River. Lots of black soil and huge areas of green meant we were on the massive Barcoo floodplain.
Cattle were grazing knee deep in swamps, munching happily on the Mitchell grass. We drove past Trafalgar Station, crossed the Barcoo River (which was flowing) and turned right to Welford National Park.
Once in the park, we were welcomed by a small swarm of locusts, the first we had seen since leaving Blackall.
Welford Station, A Link To The Horrors Of The Past
Richard Welford was a wealthy and well-connected squatter, who in the 1870s had decided a huge tract of land along the Barcoo River would now be his.
Conflicts escalated between the original inhabitants and these ring-ins who had claimed their land. Eventually Welford was killed by the Aboriginal people and this set off a frenzy of revenge massacres by the squatters.
Not far to the south-east, Hell Hole Gorge became a massacre site. Indigenous families were slaughtered and thrown into the gorge. A lot of secrecy surrounds this massacre.
Like so many other mass murders across Australia, not much is known about it in the white community. It was swept under the carpet and white-washed from our early history.
Campfire On The Barcoo
Driving about 10km past Welford homestead leads you to a beautiful campsite on the Barcoo, across the river from Trafalgar Station. What a fantastic spot, so secluded and relaxed.
When we visited, the Barcoo was flowing quite strongly – we could actually see it moving! The river had recently been 4 to 5m higher than its present level. No wonder the Barcoo floodplains are covered in rich black soil – the Barcoo has deposited deep layers of silt across the surrounding countryside for thousands of years.
Fortunately, we were there in campfire season. So a crackling fire topped off an already perfect camping spot. Of course, the marshmallows appeared after dark and the kids (and Mum!) contented themselves with way too many toasted marshmallows!
Welford National Park is one of those secret camping spots that you sometimes stumble upon unwittingly. It’s also a symbol of the battles fought between blacks and whites during the colonial wars.
Spare a thought for the original inhabitants. They had a peaceful lifestyle along the river, with everything they needed for a comfortable life. All that was turned upside down forever when Welford decided to claim the land as his own.
I wonder how much the landscape has changed and degraded since people like Welford “improved” the land.
There’s so much more to do than just camp on the river. We’ve added it to our list of places to explore further – I’m sure you will too.
If you need camping gear or 4WD accessories for your next outback trip, Outdoria stock a wide range of gear.
Welford National Park is on Kuungkari Country.
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