the chamberlain story

The Chamberlain River runs through Kachana from South to North. It is made up of various pools, channels and billabongs which are interconnected by rapids when it's flowing. We supply it with a perennial flow of water through two of five gorges that cut through the Durack Range. 

November 2010

"Starvation Billabong" is over a kilometre long


The deterioration of multiple sponges, soaks and wetlands to its East in recent decades has contributed to sand beginning to fill up many large pools


For the Salmond River 2001 was a game-changer, for the Chamberlain it was 2011.


How did this happen?



This is the result of a combination of dynamic factors. Seasonal variations, lightning, human-lit fire, stocking practices, destocking and cull-programs. We witness an increase of run-off in higher catchment areas, i.e. every time there is run-off, more water flows downstream quicker, but not for as long. Add a combination of high rainfall events over a few days, and a lot of water begins to move quickly.

"Starvation Billabong" March 2011

Stripped layers of bedrock

"Starvation Billabong" March 2011

Do we call this a cyclical event?   -   Within hours, layers of bedrock that had not seen sunlight since humans walked the earth, were exposed and washed downstream …        

A lot of rain?   -  Yes, there was a lot of rain, but we’ve had that before, and nothing like this ever happened. In fact the rain was not even all that heavy compared to other experiences over the years, only very steady over a few whole days.

Compare these two photos (taken from a slightly different angle, note the Elgee Cliffs in the background are the same).

"Starvation Billabong" November 2010

"Starvation Billabong" March 2011

Those trees were alive and growing before the flood - March 2011

A tributary to "Starvation Billabong" - March 2011

When the biology is no longer there to hold soil and sand in place, physical forces take over and shift it downstream. As flood levels drop, tributaries cut their way through the sand.

Stripped layers of bedrock - "Starvation Billabong" March 2011

A lesson in geology at the expense of biodiversity.

Stripped layers of bedrock - "Starvation Billabong" March 2011

For these plants, getting water might have been tough before…. What about now?

Lucky boab tree! It survived. For now...

"Starvation Billabong" looking to North - March 2011

Approaching El Questro Homestead - March 2011

"Starvation Billabong" Northern end - March 2011

El Questro Homestead - March 2011

Boab tree lodged under the south-western end of the El Questro Homestead - March 2011


Apart from what it cost me to take a look, these were the only measurable costs officially attached to this event: The cost of removal, cost of repair, loss of income while this was happening.

These unlucky boab trees had all been uprooted and washed downstream - March 2011

Rivers of blood are a symptom of eroding biodiversity

Soil makes for the skin, muscle and organs of a productive landscape. To plants, soil performs the same role as our digestive system performs for us. It shelters, feeds and gives jobs to billions and billions of microorganisms.  Exposure and dehydration affect productivity. 

The good news: There are low-tech high-skill options to begin to reverse undesirable trends in our landscapes

Pastoralists hold the key!


The key is the renewable energy of Australia’s New Megafauna.


We use that key by initiating and applying regenerative practices that mimic what nature has taught us.


As with any new skill there is a learning curve. When we get bucked off, we get up, lick our wounds and jump back into the saddle. We get better and become more effective with practice.

To initiate natural self-healing processes in river-systems the size of the Chamberlain River, work needs to begin in upper-catchments...