The mother lode that’s never been found

20151031_114222 (3)Gold was found here, the place mined for over half a century, but the mother lode never found. Trek through the bush tracks, over fallen trees amongst the wildlife, and it’s easy to find yourself surrounded by a circle of politicians and prospectors, back when digging and horse and carts were the norm.

Gold Creek Dam, at Brookfield in Brisbane’s quiet western suburbs, is the second oldest large dam in Queensland. It was built between 1882 and 1885. Its stepped spillway is the first of its type in the world. The place is the same today as it ever was.

The 8th premier of Queensland, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, visited here with the 9th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh in 1883. The following year 18-year-old William Rose was killed when working in a cutting and buried by a fall of earth. Ironically due to a lack of water, the dam wasn’t tested until a year after it was finished.

Even before the dam, the early settlers found alluvial gold in Gold Creek. The creek and gullies were actively mined from the 1860s to 1930s. Fortune is still underfoot because no one ever struck it rich.

I followed the bush tracks in search of an old miners’ camp said to still be here. Amongst the gloriously ancient calls of Whipbirds and Bellbirds, I’m visited by a little Red-browed Finch bobbing through the brush. A tree far too light for the load gives way as a Pheasant Coucal tries awkwardly to perch. There’s a huge Lace Monitor, it must be at least two metres long. He looks derisively at me like he did the luckless miners, then slowly walks on his way.

I didn’t find the camp. But in the creek there’s the round steel hub of a wagon wheel. The wagon never carried out gold, its exhausted owner left wondering if the lode will ever be found.

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