With Autumn in the air and cooler day-time temperatures, what could possibly be more fun than an educational outdoor activity, searching for that elusive treasure.
Here's a list of six places in South East Queensland where you can do the real thing, so why not don your prospector's hats and get out there to see what treasures nature has to offer.
Fossicking in South East Queensland
You may fossick on most land throughout the state of Queensland, provided that you have a fossicking licence - family and individual licenses can be purchased here - and of course, the written permission of the landowner is required. National Parks and areas of native title are, however, definite no-go areas. You are permitted to collect gemstones, ornamental stones, mineral specimens, alluvial gold (including nuggets) and some fossil specimens. However, you are not permitted to collect meteorites or fossils of vertebrate animals.
Image: By J. Miller MARSHALL (22 November 1858 - 12-Jun-35)Dead in Minehead, England.Details of artist on Google Art Project - OgG0H8_F9vTAtQ at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21998427
These areas are signposted and have been established by the Government to promote local tourism. All you will need is a fossicking licence - no fees or special permissions are needed. It is worthwhile noting though that none of these sites have water or toilet facilities.
⚒ 1. Deep Creek Fossicking Area - Approximately 2 Hours North of Brisbane
In 1867 alluvial gold was discovered in a gully near the Mary River, marking the first major gold rush in Queensland. As a result of the gold rush, the mining town of Gympie was founded. Today, tourists, holiday-makers and locals can try their luck in a gold-bearing gully in the town.
Image: Visit Gympie Region FB page
Deep Creek is at the southern entrance to Gympie, between the Bruce Highway and Brisbane Road. From the south, exit the Bruce Highway at Brisbane Road or Jubilee Street and proceed along Araluen Terrace to Counter Street. From the north, exit along River Road and Graham Street to turn right into Victoria Street. There are 2 entrance turnstiles, one each at the ends of Counter Street and Victoria Street. Yellow metal posts mark the boundaries of the fossicking area; please do not go outside these.
Unfortunately, no camping or pets are allowed at the Deep Creek Fossicking Area. Accommodation in the form of motels, hotels and caravan parks is available in Gympie.
This area was extensively worked initially, but it is likely that gold may still be found as a result of reconcentration over the years or in pockets missed by the early miners. The most likely places are along the banks and bed of the creek, in particular on the inside of the creek bends. Panning is the simplest recovery method.
⚒ 2. Thanes Creek Fossicking Area - Approximately 2 Hours Southwest of Brisbane
The Thanes Creek gold fossicking area is extremely popular with tourists and serious fossickers as it is easily accessed from the rural centre of Warwick.
Take the Cunningham Highway travelling towards Inglewood. At about 37km from the Warwick Post Office, turn off to the right into Thanes Creek Road. The turn-off is 0.5km past the Thanes Creek Bridge, just past Thane railway siding. Cross the rail line and go 3.6km to the end of the bitumen and continue along the well-formed gravel road for a further 1.6km to a fork. Turn right into Hart Road and continue 2.5km to a second fork. Turn right into Big Hill Road and follow a further 0.9km to the fossicking area on the left.
The main entrance sign is visible from the road.
Camping is prohibited at this fossicking spot, but alternative accommodation can be sourced at nearby Warwick.
The rocks in the Thanes Creek area include sandstone, mudstone, conglomerate, slate, chert, jasper, andesite and limestone. Alluvial gold in the gullies and creeks accumulated from the weathering of the rocks containing these reefs.
Colours of gold can be obtained from the alluvial sediments within the stream channel and from gravel layers in the low bank or possibly from crevices in rock bars. During dry times, water may be scarce but pools do remain in better seasons. Panning is the simplest recovery method.
⚒ 3. Talgai State Forest Fossicking Area - Approximately 2 hours Southwest of Brisbane
Sections of the Talgai State Forest have been released as general permission areas for gold fossicking. Fossickers must make sure they comply with the special conditions of access (see below for access details).
Talgai State Forest is about 35km north-west of Warwick.
Take the Cunningham Highway west from Warwick for 8km before turning right into Sandy Creek Road, which turns into the Leyburn Cunningham Road. Pass through the town of Pratten (20km), then take Macalister Street, which turns into Margetts Street. Turn left into Big Hill Road, which will take you straight through the Talgai State Forest. Once inside the general permission areas, use only formed roads and tracks to access creek areas where alluvial deposits are found.
Unfortunately, there are no facilities at the Talgai State Forest Fossicking area and camping is not permitted. Please remember to take your own water supplies as no permanent potable water supply is available and no water may be taken from dams, water bores or pump equipment.
Colours of gold can be obtained from the alluvial sediments within the stream channels, from gravel layers in low banks or possibly from crevices in rock bars. Panning is the simplest recovery method.
Only fossick within the general permission area as indicated on the map;
Do not enter private property;
Use only safe working practices;
Do not undermine a stream bank or earth face or create overhangs;
Use hand tools only (including metal detectors). Generators and machinery of any other type are not permitted;
Do not interfere with or fossick within 10m of any stock, infrastructure or improvements;
Remain at least 100m from registered apiary sites (whether hives are present or not);
Carry all water supplies. No permanent potable water supply is available, and no water may be taken from dams, water bores, pump equipment, etc;
Adults must supervise children at all times;
Image: CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=300765
Do not interfere with any vegetation, stock or wildlife;
Keep noise and dust to a minimum;
Ensure that dogs are on a lead and under control at all times. Remove all animal faeces from the area and dispose of legally;
Remove all rubbish (including organics) from the area and dispose of legally;
As no ablution facilities are available, bury human toilet waste in a hole dug into the topsoil at least 10–15cm deep and 100m away from watercourses (or any body of water) and walking tracks. Fill, cover and disguise the hole;
Ensure excavations do not exceed dimensions of 2m x 1m and a depth of 0.5m. Refill excavations to make them safe for other visitors and stock, and contour them to the surrounding land surface;
Keep motor vehicles to formed roads and tracks only and bring no other machinery;
Do not light any fires; and
Comply with any directions given by a sign or notice.
⚒ 4. Durikai State Forest Fossicking Area - Approximately 2 hours Southwest of Brisbane
As with the Talgai State Forest, sections of the Durakai State Forest have also been released as general permission areas for gold fossicking. Fossickers must ensure they comply with the special conditions of access (see below).
The Durikai State Forest is on the Cunningham Highway 27km west of the city of Warwick in south-east Queensland. There are only three practical access routes, one to each site, all of them off the Cunningham Highway.
Inside the forest, use of motor vehicles is restricted to formed roads and tracks.
Unfortunately no facilities are available in the Durikai State Forest and camping is also not permitted. There is a caravan park and a hotel in close proximity to this State Forest.
Please carry all water supplies as apart from the stock dams, there is no permanent water in the fossicking area. All creeks tend to dry up very quickly after streamflow events.
Colours of gold can be obtained from the alluvial sediments within stream channels and from gravel layers in low banks or possibly from crevices in rock bars. Panning is the simplest recovery method.
The same conditions apply as for Talgai State Forest (see above) with the inclusion of an additional two:-
Fossickers must ensure they comply with the special conditions of access; and
The Darling Downs–Moreton Rabbit Board fence runs through parts of Durikai State Forest. It is an offence NOT to close a rabbit-proof fence gate immediately after use and fines apply.
⚒ 5. Swipers Gully Topaz Locality - Approximately 2.5 hours Southwest of Brisbane
Gem-quality topaz occurs on part of the Passchendaele State Forest, near the small township of Amiens, about 13km north-west of Stanthorpe. This is a general permission area so fossickers must ensure they comply with the special conditions of access (see below).
From Amiens, head west along the Goldfields Road for about 0.7km and turn left into Pine Forest Road. Travel south for 1.4km, turn left, then almost immediately right and keep travelling south until you reach the 'T' junction (about 1.3km). Turn right and travel a further 0.6km. Swipers Gully fossicking site is located on the right.
Inside the forest, use of motor vehicles is restricted to formed roads and tracks.
There are no facilities and camping is not allowed at Swipers Gully Topaz. There are several motels, hotels and caravan parks in Stanthorpe. As water is not usually available in this area, please remember to bring your own.
The rocks in this area are mainly granitic. Topaz and other gemstones and minerals are found in shallow alluvial gravels (wash) in Swipers Gully. The wash consists mainly of silt, sand and gravel fractions. Adjacent colluvial deposits (hillwash) may also have some potential. Tailings from previous mining operations in the area (now rehabilitated) offer an additional opportunity for gem finds.
Pale blue Topaz - Image: Pixabay CCO Public Domain
The topaz is commonly colourless but pale blue, yellow and green (rare) have been found. Generally the stones are waterworn but crystals with well-developed faces are not uncommon. Other gemstones found include mainly quartz varieties, rock crystal (clear) and smoky quartz along with rare garnet and zircon. Fragments of cassiterite are also found.
As I mentioned above, water is not available in this area, so supplies will need to be brought in if wet sieving methods are going to be used.
The same special conditions apply as the Talgai State Forest Fossicking Area - please read above.
⚒ 6. Chinchilla Petrified Wood Localities - Approximately 3.5 hours Northwest of Brisbane
An abundance of petrified wood can be found in the Chinchilla area and is in great demand for its quality and colours.
Two landowners in the Chinchilla area have given general permission for fossicking at specific sites on their properties. Fossickers must make sure they comply with the special conditions of access (see below). The landowner has the right to terminate their permission and ask visitors to leave the land immediately if the conditions are not complied with.
If you would like to fossick elsewhere on the farm, than in the general permission areas, you must first obtain the landholder's written permission.
Good specimens can be easily found next to the roads in the area and collecting is only permitted from the ground surface in road reserves - NO digging is allowed.
Access and Entry fees
The town of Chinchilla is about 300km west/northwest of Brisbane on the Warrego Highway.
Travel from the tourist information centre west along the Warrego Highway. At the 0.2km mark, turn left on to the overpass and travel straight along Heeney Street. At the 1.7km mark, turn right into Tara Road (towards the airport). At the 6.2km mark turn right into Greenswamp Road. The fossicking site is on the right at the 9.7km mark.
An entry fee is payable to the landowner (Kel Gaske) at the Chinchilla Visitor Information Centre, Warrego Highway, Chinchilla Qld 4413. Do not park across or block the access gate adjacent to the collecting site.
From Greenswamp, travel west along Greenswamp Road, crossing Charleys Creek at the 1km mark. Turn right into Sturgess Baking Board Road at the 3.3km mark. The fossicking site is on the right at the 3.8km mark.
Alternatively, travel from the tourist information centre west along the Warrego Highway. Turn left into Sturgess Baking Board Road, cross the rail line and travel a distance of 8km to the fossicking site, located on the left.
An entry fee is payable at the Chinchilla Visitor Information Centre, Warrego Highway, Chinchilla Qld 4413. Please call the landowners, Donald and Lorraine Bell, on (07)4668 9193 before arrival.
Unfortunately, camping is prohibited in these areas but there are several motels, hotels and caravan parks in Chinchilla.
All visitors/prospectors need to be self-sufficient in supplies, including water.
Good specimens of petrified palm have been collected from the Chinchilla area. Most of the petrified wood is found in unconsolidated gravels capping low ridges of the Kumbarilla beds. Material is easily collected from the ground surface or in drainages.
You must have a valid fossicking licence;
Do not interfere with any stock or improvements;
Adults must supervise children at all times;
Leave gates as found;
Keep vehicles to existing roads and tracks;
Do not interfere with any wildlife or flora;
Remove all rubbish; and
Refill and make safe all excavations.
Image: David Ey To Thanes Creek Fossicking FB page
Before jumping in the car and heading off to gem-filled pastures, please check the Queensland Government's safety checklist. If you're not totally sure as to what tools you'll need, the QLD Govt also provide a list of tools. And, guess what, there's even a dedicated store in Brisbane, called Miners Den, that can assist you with all things 'fossicking'.
Now you're ready! Don your prospector's hat and let's go treasure hunting!
PS Should you hit 'gold' then why not contact Eckart Schillings Jewellery School in Peregian Beach - I know he would love to assist you with making a new piece of jewellery.
Information and maps are all courtesy of the Queensland State Government.
A great article Elaine. WHile my husband and I were travelling around QLD we went fossicking for sapphires at Rubyvale which we thoughly enjoyed. We also did a bit of fossicking for opals in Lightning Ridge in NSW. I love it. I could do it for days.