Cataract River Rogaine – a brief history of the area

“Looking for Cataracts” Qld State Championships 24hr / Roving 15hr Rogaine 2022

Gold was discovered in the district in 1853 with a number of small prospects worked over the next 25 years.

Between 1872 and 1890, nearby Drake was a thriving mining and timber town, home to 12 pubs and a host of other businesses including a blacksmith and post office. In 1879 the settlement at Boorook, with a population of “about 300,” had three pubs and a wine shop! This settlement is long gone, but is the centre of the map for this Rogaine. The entire course map area is scattered with evidence of old Gold, Silver and Tin mining and whilst setting the course, volunteers have come across many interesting mining artefacts and evidence of human habitation – mostly open pit shafts (we’ve marked the ones we found on the map!), however there are bound to be more. In fact, whilst researching this update, we found a website that listed approximately 55 historical mine shafts on the map area alone!

The most interesting evidence of mining found on the course was a precious metals smelter building (see photo). It was likely a central facility for a number of local mines. It is located at the top of one of the waterfalls that you might visit, found well within private property – and the falls are not even marked on official maps. Amazingly, the land owner showed us where the mine workers have even hand dug a channel into the top of the falls to divert water into the smelter.

Ruins of precious metals smelter building

Other land owners told us about the differences between Western mine shafts (being square) and those dug by Chinese workers (round). Both Chinese and Western miners worked these areas alongside each other.

Later, between 1974 and 1976 Mt Carrington Mines Ltd extracted a small tonnage of high-grade silver (Ag) and gold (Au). Again in 1988 a mining campaign focused on extracting open pit Gold and Silver from local deposits. The ore was finally depleted by 1990 and the small scale mine was closed. Even in 2017 a new study was conducted on a proposal to re-open the area to Gold mining, and it was updated again in 2020. Will Gold Mining soon return?

The other, more recent industry in this area has been forestry, and even last month harvesting took place either side of the road into the Hash House. The picture attached shows an old piece of machinery that one of the landowners recalls riding with his father operating many years ago on their property – these days it lays waiting – perhaps serving as a Rogaine CheckPoint 😉

The area even has interesting history from the World War II era when Tenterfield was earmarked as a key battleground if the Japanese should invade Australia (the highway was until the early 1950s the only all-weather road from Sydney to Brisbane). During 1942 thousands of soldiers were set up in emergency camps, unbeknown to the locals, to cope with such an event. Overgrown tank traps and gun emplacements can still be seen on the Travelling Stock Route near the New England Highway (Just off the Western edge of the course map).

And finally, a huge thanks to the Landowners.

Not just a rogaine, but more of a local history lesson – this event couldn’t have been possible without the generous permission from all of the landowners in the Boorook Valley – many of them were born here and have lived their entire lives here. Never before have they allowed people onto their private land for an event like this. They have been more than happy to share their stories with us and show us the history – we hope you also get to enjoy the experience that we have had exploring the map area.

Event: “Looking for Cataracts” Qld State Championships 24hr / Roving 15hr Rogaine 2022
When: Saturday 29th – Sunday 30th October
Where: Rover Park, via Drake, Northern NSW
Entries Open: https://qldrogaine.asn.au/event-calendar/15-24hr-rogaine/

On behalf of the Cataract River Rogaine Volunteers,
Steve Amor

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