In the far west of Queensland, Cooper Creek and the Georgina and Diamantina rivers wind through the landscape, moving water from tropical north Queensland across the arid heart of our state towards Lake Eyre in South Australia. For years at a time, these rivers may not flow, reducing them to a series of pools. But, when the rains return, the water winds through hundreds of iconic braided channels, spilling out and submerging millions of hectares of floodplains.
This precious inland water flow sustains a cluster of small Outback communities. The floodplains are renowned as some of the best cattle-fattening country in the world and support a lucrative ($500 million a year) beef industry. Certified organic beef – much of which is exported to Asian, US and Middle East markets – is a growing part of this.
This vast natural area is the site of one of the planet’s most spectacular natural phenomena and is globally recognised as one of the world’s last great internally-draining and free-flowing wetland systems. Because of this amazing natural irrigation system, the Queensland’s Channel Country is an arid landscape that supports more than 50 ecosystems including coolibah woodland, sand plains and vast dune fields.
Unlike the Murray-Darling river system to its east and south, there are no massive dams or diversions of water in the Channel Country. The waters, when they flow, still go where nature intended them to go; filling waterholes and creating vast inland seas. This attracts birdlife from thousands of kilometres away to breed on wetlands brimming with plant and insect life. Below the extraordinary landscapes of the Channel Country lies the Great Artesian Basin, the only reliable source of water across 22 percent of Australia.