The Atherton Tableland is a fertile plateau which is part of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, Australia. It is located west to south-south-west inland from Cairns, well into the tropics, but its elevated position provides a climate suitable for dairy farming. It has an area of around 32,000 km² with an altitude ranging between 500 and 1,280 m (1,600 and 4,200 ft). The fertility of the soils in the region can be attributed to the volcanic origins of the land.
The principal river flowing across the plateau is the Barron River, which was dammed to form an irrigation reservoir named Lake Tinaroo, also Tinaroo Hydro, a small 1.6MW Hydroelectric power station is located near the spillway.
4.1 Places of interest
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This area is a distinct physiographic section of the larger North Queensland Highlands province, which in turn is part of the larger East Australian Cordillera physiographic division. South of the Tablelands is the Bellenden Ker Range.
Atherton was first explored by JV Mulligan in 1875, but it was John Atherton who settled near the town which now bears his name in 1877. The area was originally explored for its mining potential where deposits of tin and a little gold were found.
Originally a pioneering pastoralist, John Atherton was the first to find tin deposits in Northern Queensland. Local legend has it that Tinaroo Creek received its name from Atherton who shouted, “Tin! Hurroo!” when he first made his discovery. Atherton and his friends, William Jack and John Newell, discovered the famous lode, which became the Great Northern Tin Mine. A rush of miners from the Hodgkinson’s Goldfields followed. The construction of a dray road through the Tableland brought a secondary rush, this time timber cutters to mine the red gold (redcedar) of the rainforest. Redcedar cutters camps were at Rocky Creek, Prior Pocket, Oonda Swamp (Carrington) & Ziggenbein’s Pocket. Although tin was a major part in the Tablelands, timber is what Atherton owes its existence to with large areas of redcedar, kauri, maple, black bean, walnut, white beech and red tulip oak being milled for buildings.
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