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Published: November 3rd 2014
Which American President lived here?
If you read further down the blog you will find out!
Part two of the Goldfields Blog commences at Niagara Dam and takes us through the towns of Leonora, Leinster, Sandstone, Mount Magnet and finally to Mullewa.
There is mining to the east of this region where there have been significant nickel finds. Probably the greatest rags to riches to rags story of recent times was the Poseidon Mine out from Laverton. Shares went from 85cents to $285.00 and now the mine is closed.
A little closer to Leinster there is a huge new project which will be one of the biggest nickel mines in the world. It is only just getting under way with stage 1 currently, but much expense and expansion will shortly follow. No access to the region means no photos.
Our main story is GOLD, and when you drive through this desert like unspectacular country, you wonder how the gold was found, and how much was missed. There is a new project at Paynes Find. From late 1890's, they knew of 11 deposits of gold, but recent detailed surveys have found over 40 reefs.
diversion off the highway was to a really old gold mine town, Gwalia. This is a proper ghost town which housed many miners and their families in the late 1890s and through to WW 1. What is good here is that the miner's shacks and sheds have been preserved by volunteers. The State Hotel where I am sure the future American President socialised, stands opposite the railway platform that brought people and supplies to this remote town. Old bits and pieces have been kept to add to the atmosphere. There is a museum overlooking the open cut mine, and on the rim is Hoover House where the mine manager lived. There is a lot of history in the museum for those who want to know more. There is an old steam loco here that ran on wooden tracks and brought 30,000 tonnes of wood a year from the surrounding district to fire their furnaces. This kind of activity denuded thousands of hectares of trees which may account for much of the barrenness of the surrounding area.
Now the Hoover House was not named after the famous vacuum cleaner, but Herbert Hoover who later became President of The USA.
Wedgetail in tree.
Even though it was 200 meters away, it didn't like being stared at, and flew away.
We stopped briefly at Leonora to top up fuel. While there, a road train left to go out to one of the mine sites. He started from a compulsory stop. By the time the last of his four trailers past the stop sign, he had changed gears 6 times, and I reckon I could have run along side even then.
Initially we thought we may camp at Leonora, but since the day was still quite young, but also quite hot, we decided to head north to Leinster for lunch, and then Sandstone for the night.
Leinster is a very busy mining town, and super tidy. Though remote, most people could live here provided they could stand the 45c top summer temperatures. BHP-Billiton would be the major employer, but there is a small hospital and other Govt. services here as well. With no access to the mine sites (mostly nickel now), we headed west to the little town of Sandstone.
As you know we have been using our dash cam primarily for safety reasons. By and large, the driving public have been well behaved, but the local Bungarra definitely have failed their road license tests. (Bungarra = Sandy
Desert Goanna - very spotted)
We have chosen to stop and let these dudes cross the road rather than turn them into crow bate.
Talking of crows, we have seen many teams of crows cleaning the highway of debris. They tend to like playing chicken! We have seen several wedge tail eagles as well in the area. One was standing proudly on top of a rocky cairn, but as they are shy, flew off before we could get a photo. A bit like those fishing stories!
Sandstone is another little Gold Rush town that still survives. Tourists love a little side journey to London Bridge, and a couple of other historical sites of interest including an elicit brewery tucked in a hillside cave.
Mount Magnet has been the centre for many gold mines over the years, I think Marg counted about 13 on the edge of town. Some are in maintenance mode, others are still being actively mined. A local said that nickel had also been found in the area, but I cannot find anything that confirms that claim.
There is a lookout on the outskirts of town that allows a view over the township
and part of the mining area. The road to the lookout goes right past one of the active mines, so care is needed as vehicles come and go. Travelling on past the lookout, there is a travellers circuit that takes tourists past a number of sandstone structures that photographers enjoy. One of the stops along this route is the Granites. Apparently this part of the area is somewhat unique around the world. There are several hollow rocks where the softer white granite has eroded away leaving a shell of harder rock. Some of these caves have very old aboriginal art work, so access needs to be respected and restricted. We have been looking for wild camels, and in the granites we found what we believe to be camel hoof prints in the sand. Also a couple of fresh snake trails, a reminder that this is desert land with bitey things.
Mt Magnet got its name due to an isolated hill about 5ks out of town which has an extremely high iron content. This iron upset explorers and surveyors alike as it messed with their compasses. It may have messed with Tommy's brain too as he had us driving in
paddocks for much of the journey from Sandstone.
While gold was found west of Mt Magnet in places like Paynes Find and Pindar, our stop for the night is back into the northern wheat belt at Mullewa.
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