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Mary Kathleen - The Ghost Town

Home > Townsville > Adventure | Free | Outdoor | Quirky
Published May 15th 2019
From big uranium town to empty ghost town
Mary Kathleen was a mining settlement in the northwestern part of Queensland located in the Selwyn Range between Mount Isa and Cloncurry. You can reach Mary Kathleen about 60km drive away from Cloncurry or about 50km drive from Mount Isa on the Barkly Highway. The once thriving uranium town was founded by Clem Walton and Norm McConarchy in 1954. Mary Kathleen was named after the late wife of Norm McConachy.

Between 1956-1963 and 1974-1983, Mary Kathleen was a bustling mining town and popular social spot. Nowadays, the was open-cut mine resembles a swimming hole and exudes a spectacular blue colour due to the washing of minerals, including copper, from the mine walls. Even though the blue water is so inviting for swimming, it's not advisable to do so as it is extremely toxic and radioactive.

Mary Kathleen, Queensland, Mt Isa, Cloncurry, mine site, mining, ghost town, town, outback
Beware of wandering cattle

The sign on the gate at the Barkly Highway entrance to the site says "Even though no buildings remain, the ghost town like atmosphere makes one wonder what this flourishing community would have been like". Mary Kathleen is now a ghost town but there are still people who drop in to find out more about what once was.

A long unmaintained partially bitumen road takes you to the entrance of the town. The town was built around a shallow valley and had a post office, cinema, sports ovals, a school, banks, state school, temporary hospital facilities, two churches and a community store. It also had beautiful garden and plantation cultivated to supply residents with fresh fruit and vegetables and everything else that a town needed. But now all that remains is bitumen road, a stone water fountain and the concrete slabs where people can use it as an overnight camp. There is an information board that shows you where everything was before. You can still see some blue tiles where the town pool was and some big slab area where the manager's houses were. This site is now private property but open to visitors, just have to look after the surroundings and be mindful.

Mary Kathleen, Queensland, Mt Isa, Cloncurry, mine site, mining, ghost town, town, outback
Remain of church in town

You can drive to the mine pit that is located about 5 to 6km away from town centre. Be careful while driving, as many potholes along the way. It is suggested to disconnect and leave the caravan in town before going to the mine site. There is a small hand-written sign to show you where to take a turn, but the sign was small and put on the ground. We missed the sign at first and took the road to the shrubs. But the second time around, we saw the sign and just followed our nose, then we were there. After we parked our car, we had to walk a little bit. It is recommended to wear comfy-closed shoes as the path is a little bit rough. If you want to come close to the pit, you have to walk down the pit. There is a path to go down there with a lot of big stones to hop over. But the reward is seeing this blue clear water. You even can see some mining equipment that they dumped in the water hole very clearly - but remember to stay off from the water as it's toxic. If you can't or don't want to go down the pit, you can just walk around the hill and see the pit mine from the top.

Mary Kathleen, Queensland, Mt Isa, Cloncurry, mine site, mining, ghost town, town, outback

Although there are no mine activities anymore at Mary Kathleen, it has become well known for fossicking and gem-stone collecting. Some of relics found at Mary Kathleen are held in the Cloncurry/Mary Kathleen Memorial Park and Museum in Cloncurry.

Mary Kathleen, Queensland, Mt Isa, Cloncurry, mine site, mining, ghost town, town, outback
On the way down to the pit

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Why? Quirky ghost town full of interesting history
When: Any time
Where: On Barkly Highway North West Queensland
Cost: Free
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