Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 23rd 2021
There Be Dinosaurs Here and Lots of Fossilised Poop
We made the trip to Richmond in northern outback Queensland from Mount Isa. It was 406 kilometres through barren plains. We were staying at the Ammonite Hotel rather than our usual caravan park cabin which had all been booked out to the folks of the Royal Flying Doctor Dental Service, on its annual visit to the town.
There's no missing Kronosaurus Korner - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
We were too early to check in to the motel and wandered into the first pub we saw, The Federal Palace Hotel, which thankfully was doing lunches. It seems the staff here outnumbered the customers at this time of day. The current Federal Palace Hotel was built in 1924 after a fire destroyed its predecessor, and with its large verandahs, it certainly looks the park.
The Federal Palace Hotel built in 1924 - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Richmond is a fossil-rich area and significant finds are displayed at Kronosaurus Korner. The fossils are arranged on beds of sand, some have been worked on and others are displayed exactly as found. The experience began with a short film and we were given a hand-held audio guide. We entered the display's number into the guide and held it to our ear for the relevant description.
The fossils are arranged on beds of sand - Photos copyright Gayle Beveridge
We saw fossils of Kronosaurus Queenslandicus, a 10-metre giant reptile and of Ammonites, as big as car tyres. There are fossil skeletons of plesiosaurs, ancient turtles, ichthyosaurs, which are dolphin-like reptiles, and giant predatory fish.
Fossilised Ammonites, some as big as car tyres - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
In a separate room, on a padded bed in a glass case, is a complete fossilised skeleton and the best of its kind found anywhere in the world. Discovered by a local grazier in 1989, the fossil is known worldwide as the Richmond Pliosaur. It is a 4.25-metre carnivorous marine reptile that swam in Queensland's Cretaceous inland sea over 100 million years ago. Above the glass case is a life-size model depicting the animal in life. It would be hard to look upon this fossil and not be in awe of it.
The Richmond Pilosaur - Australia's most complete vertebrate fossil (and me) – Photo copyright Roger Marien
Kronosaurus Korner, which is also the Visitor Information Centre, is at 91-93 Goldring Street, Richmond. They can be contacted on (07) 4719 3390, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to visit their website.
Fossil Digging Experience
There are a number of fossil digging experiences available. We booked a two-hour fossil fossicking experience. Our guide, the Kronosaurus Corner resident paleontologist, led us to a quarry from which the council takes its road materials and where fossils are easily found and where cows, it seems, roam freely.
The site of our fossil dig experience - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The ground is layered, and the trick is to expose the layers, to get past the clamshell mash to the more interesting fossils below. Our guide showed us examples of what we are looking for, shark teeth, belemnites (tiny squid-like creatures), fish vertebrae, shells, fish jaws, fish scales, and turtle shell.
The layered ground which we peel back in search of fossils - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
We sat in white dirt, brushed clean a layer with a small house broom, checking for fossils and then with hammer and chisel lifted that layer to reveal the next. It was 34 degrees, and the flies were about in numbers. This was hot work, giving us some insight into the rigours of archeology. Most easily found were coprolites, which sadly were nothing more than fossilised poo. I found some fish scales. My husband found fish poo and a fishbone. Someone else found belemnites, but they were broken. We moved to another part of the quarry and our guide found part of a turtle and showed me how to remove it from the ground. Without his help, we would not have known these fossils for what they were. A fellow traveller found a fossilised tree branch, but it turned to powder as we touched it.
For further details and to book your fossil digging experience, click here to visit the Koronasaurus Korner Digs page.
Interesting Outback Issues - Prickly Acacia and Bore Water Realities
Although bushland in the area is dense, the paddocks were barren but for the occasional spindly bush. The bushes are prickly acacia and are a pest, an African weed originally brought to Australia as a shade and fodder tree. These plants have long spines and cattle can become entangled on them during mustering. They also cause a great deal of erosion and compete against native plants for water.
The terrain around the town of Richmond - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Richmond relies on bore water. A resident explained that before the water treatment plant was built in 2014, the townsfolk endured problems that we in the cities could not imagine. The water contained high levels of iron and manganese, and the lower half of the houses were stained orange from lawn sprinklers. We were told baths and basins were similarly stained, how washing could be stained and how blondes had to die their hair as the chemicals in the water also turned that orange.
This thrift shop houses shows the orange taint from bore water prior to the opening of the treatment plant - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The water had a strong taste and an unpleasant odour. The bore water was hot and residents had no need of hot water services but also little access to cool water. In 2014, the pilot water treatment plant won the Best Queensland Water Taste Test, good news for locals and visitors alike.
Lake Fred Tritton
In the afternoon, I walked to nearby Lake Fred Tritton. There is a path around the perimeter of the lake but I was somewhat deterred by the presence of Masked Lapwings (Plovers) which are renowned for swooping. A flock of White Egrets flew across the lake, a splendid sight.
A flock of egrets fly in over lake Fred Tritton - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
I photographed a large blue dragonfly and then a red one. A small flock of ducks crammed onto the bank in the shade of a small tree. Some Black-Fronted Dotterel were feeding at the water's edge. It was the first time I have seen these birds.
A blue dragon fly at Lake Fred Tritton - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The lake is suitable for swimming, skiing, fishing and canoeing. The paths were great for a stroll, I can attest to that, for walking the door and are also a good surface for children riding bikes and scooters. There are BBQ and picnic facilities. Lake Fred Tritton is on Goldring St, Richmond.
A Black-Fronted Dotterel at Lake Fred Tritton - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
The ruins of the Cambridge Downs Homestead, which was established in 1864, are by the banks of the Stawell River 30kms north-west of Richmond. In 2009, the Council erected a replica of the original stone house. The replica, called Cambridge Store, has an iron roof, but the original had a cane grass roof at the outset, which was replaced by galvanized iron when that became available. An information board in Goldring Street has an old photo of the Homestead settlement and relates some of its history and how the people lived.
The Cambridge Downs Heritage Display Centre - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
There is a log fence at the front and a garden has been planted in the yard. I ventured in; it was a welcome retreat from the heat. Inside, a painting of the real ruins is set on the wall where the stone is bare, allowing the construction to be studied. There are two singer sewing machines. One sits atop a sewing cupboard; it looks exactly the same as one my grandmother had. Displays are a mixture of household items, photographs and indigenous artefacts. Out back, there is a replica Cobb & Co mail coach and a wool cart.
A painting of the Cambridge Downs ruins inside a replica of the building - Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge
Getting There, Accommodation and Visitor Information
Richmond is in northern outback Queensland, around 500 kilometres west of Townsville and just over 400 kilometres east of Mount Isa, on sealed roads. We did the trip in a family sedan. There are train services from Townsville and Mount Isa, and bus services and flights from Townsville. Click here to visit the Kronosaurus Korner website Getting There page for full details.
We stayed at the Ammonite Inn, one of several accommodation options. Click here to visit the Kronosaurus Korner Stay page checkout the caravan park, free camping and hotel and motel options.
Kronosaurus Corner, which is also the Visitor Information Centre, is at 91-93 Goldring Street, Richmond. They can be contacted on (07) 4719 3390, by email at email@example.com or click here to visit their website.