DROWNED CANE AND SOURED LAND
FLOODS IN THE LOWER HERBERT VALLEY
Sourced from the Upper Herbert catchment at Herberton, and channelled swiftly down the basalt ranges to the Lower Herbert valley below, monsoonal flood waters have flowed through time-worn rivers, streams and tributaries into the lagoons and crevices across the delta over a millennia of time.
Continue your journey along the Hinchinbrook Way Historical Walk, follow the links at the bottom of the page for more nearby locations or keep an eye out for QR codes!
Sourced from the Upper Herbert catchment at Herberton, and channelled swiftly down the basalt ranges to the Lower Herbert valley below, monsoonal flood waters have flowed through time-worn rivers, streams and tributaries into the lagoons and crevices across the delta over a millennia of time. Floods in the Lower Herbert valley have provided a process for growth, cleansing and renewal for the land, shore and seascapes.
Unlike the local Aboriginal tribes who seasonally moved around the flood plain, early settlers remained in the valley all year ‘round building houses, planting sugar cane and stocking the land with horses and cattle. However, the community found themselves vulnerable to the pernickety months of December through to April when the flood rains came. And they did: every year.
Historical stories of heroic deeds and tragic losses emerge to remind all of the power of water and the destruction it can bring. In 1894, Mr and Mrs Buchanan and their five young children aged between ten years and five months, were all drowned in the swirling tide of water, debris and detritus, despite valiant attempts by four rescuers from the Planters Retreat hotel. At its height, the water was 3ft. (900mm) higher than the inundation of 1890, and the full extent of damage remained unknown.
It is not just drowned cane and soured land which affected farmers in the district. The loss of livestock impacted greatly on the community and many people risked lives to save their animals. In 1904, Reginald Boyd of Ripple Creek attempted to save eighteen draught horses by swimming them over the flooded Seymour River to higher ground. However, along the way he lost five of his horses as one by one they were swept away down the river and drowned. Boyd was met with further heartbreak the next day when he found his prize stallion and eight mares dead in their paddock – the loss estimated at £200 pounds or $300,000 in today’s terms.
Twenty three years later Ingham’s district lost 2,500 cattle and 1,500 horses in what is now the largest flood in all time: the 1927 flood. Associated with a cyclone, the 1927 flood inundated the whole landscape as the valley became submerged.
Referred to as “Black Thursday, it not only caused a massive loss of livestock, but an appalling loss of life with a total of 53 people losing their lives in the murky rising flood.
At the time, the waters rose to 3ft. (900mm) above the 1894 level reaching the upper level of the Hinchinbrook Hotel. Hundreds of people were trapped in the low-lying areas and multiple houses were swept away after breaking away from their stumps. Three related Italian families, all living in the one household, suffered a terrible loss when their house broke off its piers and floated towards the coast. As it broke up in the swirling waters only four men survived out of fourteen: their wives, children and brother-in-law all lost to the flood waters around them.
Since 1927, eighteen large floods measuring over 14 metres high have flooded the Lower Herbert valley. Flood waters have shaped the memory of community, as well as their social response towards the seasonal phenomenon. Rains on the hinterland bring just as much conversation as they do preparation in Ingham.
The question is, are you ready for the next big flood?
Images provided by the Ingham Family History Photographic Collection.