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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Where a River Delta Isn’t

Author: Guest Writer/Thursday, December 27, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

Normally we think of a river delta like the Mississippi, Nile, and Amazon emptying broad expanses of muddy water into the ocean. However, some rivers end flowing out into continental interiors like Australia.

For the the island continent’s Channel Country, transforming rains often fall hundreds of miles away. This Outback region of Queensland has an inland delta created by several rivers. Instead of flowing to the coast during the rainy season, the famous Diamantina and Georgina flow from grassy uplands to Queensland’s low elevation interior. The rivers send water flowing over expansive floodplain deltas turning them from a dusty brown pan into lush green landscape. NASA’s environmental Aqua satellite captured the region during dry-season and flooded fly-over comparison.

Where monsoonal waters flow, plants and animals always follow. The burst of flowering and arrival of Australian migratory birds can be one of the most impressive sights in the Outback. The delta-watered interior offers breeding grounds for multiple bird species, including parrots, cockatoos, and even ocean pelicans. Cattle stations also use the random river floods to graze livestock before the wet season ends and dry conditions return.

 birdsville-queensland-delta-dry     birdsville-queensland-delta-wet

   Diamantina and Georgina Rivers                 Channel Country and River Deltas

   (credit: NASA, September 2009)               (credit: NASA, March 2011)

The Channel Country and its environment have been the source of Australian mythology expressed in literature, poetry, and song. In particular, the cattle drovers (cowboys) have provided fertile subjects for more than just the spectacular birds and flowers of the Outback. Hugh McDonald and the Australian folk band Redgum wrote and performed a classic song, the Diamantina Drover, about the cattle drives of Queensland Channel Country.

It is a place were a river delta isn’t just as it would seem.



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