The stretch of Outback Queensland between the towns of Winton, Hughenden and Richmond are known as dinosaur country. Known as the Dinosaur Trail, this area was under the ocean millions of years ago. This makes it rich in dinosaur fossils. Once home to many dinosaurs and marine reptiles, these towns are rich in history that you can dig out of the ground with your bare hands (and maybe a few handy tools). While road-tripping around this area, you can unearth fossilised shells, fish and even shark’s teeth. Dinosaur enthusiasts and amateur paleontologists will feel like kids in a candy store.
Situated on the Overlander’s Way halfway between Townsville and Mount Isa, the town is located on the bank of Queensland’s longest river, the Flinders. Richmond’s wide main street (Goldring Street) is enhanced by its median strip gardens of bougainvilleas, native trees and shrubs.
A wander through Kronosaurus Korner with its fossil finds will transport you back to the time of the cretaceous-era inland sea, which existed from about 97.5 to 120 million years ago. It was a time when half of Australia was underwater and carnivorous creatures dominated life below the surface. Take a self-paced tour through the award-winning major attraction that is the only museum in Australia primarily dedicated to displaying marine reptiles. Here you will find Minmi, who is considered to be Australia’s best-preserved dinosaur skeleton. The collection in Kronosaurus Korner includes other iconic finds like the skeleton of a 100-million-year-old Pliosaur discovered in 1989; the famous Kronosaurus queenslandicus discovered at Army Downs north of Richmond in 1929 and the Richmond Pliosaur (known as Iever’s crocodile), measuring 4.25 metres, with a long slender snout and interlocking teeth.
In addition to the fossicking, there is a great museum and lots of historical spots in town, as well as a lake you can and a free splash park to cool off in after a hard day fossicking.
After ‘fossil fever’ kicks in visiting Kronosaurus Korner, you can head out and do some fossicking for bones and fossils yourself. Pick up a permit for a small cost at the Kronosaurus Korner reception and a map to guide you through the region’s designated fossicking sites. There are two sites where you can fossick, located on the map here.
The fossicking sites are located around 12 kilometres out of town and are accessible to all vehicles via fully sealed roads. Finds have included everything from fossilised fish, squid, shark teeth to bivalve or giant marine reptiles.
Hughenden is home to the Flinders Discovery Centre, where you can meet Hughie, a seven-metre-tall muttaburrasaurus, along with a wide range of fossils from the local area and around the world. The hub of the dinosaur activity and your source of all things information on the local area is the Flinder’s Discovery Centre. It also hosts an exhibition of fossils and gems from the local area along with some pieces from further afield, along with the prize attraction – a life-size skeletal replica of a Muttaburrasaurus affectionately known as ‘Hughie’.
The town is also within close range of four national parks, including Porcupine Gorge National Park, which is known as ‘Australia’s Little Grand Canyon’. Don’t forget to visit Hughenden Lake after your day of fossicking to cool off. It is a great swimming spot and perfect for a picnic lunch.
Around 16.7km from town in a couple of modern creek beds on the way to the Porcupine Gorge National Park, is a well-known public fossicking site that can be found immediately adjacent to the road. Here you can dig up pieces of Belemnite (prehistoric squid). Closer to town, head to the back of the showgrounds for a site that is easily accessible and full of moonrocks, gypsum crystals and cretaceous fossils.
Tips you will dig
- Make sure you wear sunscreen and hats and take lots of water as fortune hunting for bones and fossils is thirsty work
- Try and go early in the morning or later on in the afternoon – outside the full heat of the day.
- Read all safety signs carefully as each area will differ in rules and warnings
- Check in with local visitor information centres for maps and any licenses that might be needed.
- Take your own tools – a spade and hammers to break up the dirt (your hands will thank you for it)
- What you find, you can keep. Of course, if you stumble across the next big dinosaur discovery – do tell the local visitors information centre as they will contact the relevant people
For more visit outbackqueensland.com.au