In my book, I mention crossing bridges over dry riverbeds as we drove from Charters Towers to Townsville. Below you can see the most impressive of these dry riverbeds. This is the Burdekin River, one of the most important rivers in Queensland. The Burdekin rises in the Seaview and Gorge Ranges and flows about 450 miles to the ocean at Upstart Bay. The river drains an area of 50,400 square miles—when there’s rain.
This far north, you generally get two seasons: the Dry and the Wet, and the Wet, the summer rainy season, is when the Burdekin is in flood.
It was astonishing to note the high water markers standing at the entrance to the bridge—tall “rulers” that show how high the water can be at flood. This was particularly remarkable in light of how far above the riverbed the bridge is. The railroad bridge visible in the photo gives you some idea how high the highway bridge is—and suggests how wide the river is when at full flood.
Perhaps not obvious from the photo, there is still a thin stream of water flowing among the trees that may look like they line the riverbank. The trees are in fact in the middle of the river—they simply get inundated when the seasonal floods come through. But it is this stream and the attendant greenery that create a home for the varied wildlife (especially birds) indigenous to the area.
While this photo might make the Burdekin River look uninspiring, factors such as its economic importance, biodiversity, and impact on the Great Barrier Reef make it an area of intensive study.