The Channel Country (also known as Corner Country and Kidman Country) is in south-west Queensland, extending into South Australia and New South Wales. About 70% of the Channel Country's estimated 280,000 sq km is in Queensland. It is defined by having braided, flood and alluvial plains. In flood time the watercourses overflow into distributaries and channels, sometimes reaching 80 km across.

The main watercourses, from west to east, are:

Name Headwaters Courses pass through
Georgina River West of Mount Isa, south of Cloncurry Boulia and Diamantina Shires
Diamantina River West of Winton McKinley, Winton and Diamantina Shires
Cooper Creek Thomson and Barcoo Rivers, Longreach; local rainfall south of Eromanga Bulloo Shire
Bulloo River North of Quilpie Quilpie and Bulloo Shires

On the rare occasions of massive floodwaters, the watercourses discharge into Goyders Lagoon, Lake Eyre and Coongie Lakes across the state borders. The Bulloo River ends at a lake, just north of the New South Wales border. The Coongie Lakes, fed by the Cooper Creek, are a semi-permanent wetland in South Australia, west of Innamincka. The test of a very 'big wet' is the filling of Lake Eyre from the Diamantina-Warburton Rivers. The biggest inflows to Lake Eyre have been in 1891, 1951, 1974, 1984 and 2009. The 1974 event was the largest, filling Lake Eyre South. In 2009 no water was reported at the South, but the Warburton River entry was alive with bird life.

The Diamantina channel country is the most extensively braided or channeled. It can produce rich cattle-fattening pastures. From there cattle could be overlanded through Birdsville to the Maree railhead (1993) in South Australia. The Cattle King, Sidney Kidman, shrewdly used vast landholdings in the Channel Country as a chain of supply to spell and transport cattle to southern markets.

The infrequent richness of the Channel Country after rains had sustained Aborigines for millennia. After the Burke and Wills expedition's leaders perished at Cooper Creek in 1861, search parties for their remains reported on pastoral prospects in the Channel Country. European occupation began in the 1870s. Leading pastoralists included John Costello, Robert Collins, Patrick Durack and Oscar de Satge. Grazing, rabbit invasion and drought (1895-1902) reduced the Aboriginal population to station hands and house-help. A later, and exceptional pastoralist was Laura Duncan who capably managed a property east of the Diamantina River with her children; the family also had a high regard for Aboriginal beliefs and practices.

Burke and Wills artifacts and the Birdsville races are tourist drawcards to the Channel Country. The verdant vegetation and wildlife which occur after infrequent floods also bring travellers, as soon as the roads are passable. Between the flood-vegetated plains there are sandhills and gibber country, which can be seen least disturbed in the Simpson Desert toward the Northern Territory border. It is here that the first of the three corners is found. Poeppel's Corner at the intersection of the Queensland and Territory borders was named after the surveyor Augustus Poeppel who supervised the border survey in 1881-86. Haddon corner (South Australia and Queensland borders corner) was named after the Haddon Downs pastoral station, c1977. Cameron Corner (Queensland and New South Wales borders) was named after James Cameron, surveyor, who supervised the survey of the Queensland/New South Wales border in 1882.

In 1992-93 three national parks on Channel Country watercourses were proclaimed. The largest is Diamantina National Park, a former pastoral holding. Lochern and Welford National Parks are in the Thomson and Barcoo Rivers, upstream of Cooper Creek. Welford has a heritage-registered restored pise homestead (c1882) from the former pastoral holding, and there are Aboriginal wells and other cultural sites.

A.M. Duncan-Kemp, Our Channel Country: man and nature in south-west Queensland, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Pamela Lukin Watson, Frontier lands and pioneer legends: how pastoralists gained Karuwaliland, St Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1998

Mitch Reardon, Corner country: where outback Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia meet, Terrey Hills, Australian Geographic, 1995

Barcoo Shire, Boulia and Boulia Shire, Bulloo Shire, Diamantina Shire, Longreach Shire, Quilpie and Quilpie Shire and Winton Shire entries



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