If you’re traveling between Cloncurry and Mount Isa in the far north of Outback Queensland, make sure you get off the highway and drive through the deserted streets of Mary Kathleen.
The abandoned ghost town of Mary Kathleen in Cloncurry, northwest Queensland, once belonged to the nearby uranium mine, which has long since been closed and deflated. The township was a bustling community in the mid-late 1900s with thousands of residents working in the mine and attending local schools.
Today, you can drive through the old city streets and even pick a vacant house (yes, they’re still there) to camp in for the night for a one-of-a-kind Mary Kathleen camping experience. Hike up the hill to the mining site, but don’t touch the radioactive turquoise water!
Here’s a collection of original Mary Kathleen township photos, compared to some of the modern photos of what the abandoned town looks like today.
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Mary Kathleen Town, Mine & Camping
History of Mary Kathleen
Uranium was discovered there in 1954. In fact, it was the largest known deposit in Australia at the time. The UK Atomic Energy Authority signed the contract of sale in 1956 and the project was developed at a cost of $24 million.
Over the course of a year, an architect-designed city was built at the rate of one house a day. It was about 3 miles from the mine, where the ground was more suitable for gardens and a water main from Lake Corella.
Between 1958 and 1963, 4080 tons of uranium oxide were mined. In 1963, the contract had been executed ahead of schedule, so the mine was shut down and the municipality was emptied. Only twelve families remained in the quiet suburbs. The gardens withered and lawns turned to buffalo grass. The area was occasionally hit with the tractor, but that was it.
In 1974 the mine was reopened with a supply demand from Japanese, German and American electric companies. This second reopening lasted until 1982 when reserves were exhausted.
The municipality, the mine and the mill were all dismantled at the end of 1984. All the housing, equipment and public buildings were auctioned off, leaving nothing but slabs and rehabilitated land.
Mary Kathleen Town
The town of Mary Kathleen is now an abandoned ghost town. You can still find suburban streets, the old swimming pool, tennis courts, roundabouts and house plates. Someone has been kind enough to go around and spray some descriptions on the floor in some places, to show what every building and structure once was.
In the City Square you could find a Community Store, which sold groceries, clothing, shoes and hardware. There was also a leisure club, where the locals could play billiards and darts.
The services operating in the city were:
- Community Store
- Recreation club
- milk bar
- Post office
- Two banks
- beer garden
The city also had an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which has long been filled. Plus, an open-air cinema, which runs five nights a week, an oval for sports clubs, tennis courts, lawns and a golf club.
There were also two churches, a vegetable garden and an orchard for fresh produce. The local hospital had six beds and helped deliver more than 200 babies. Of course there was also a school for the local children.
Apparently, the company was only charging $8 a week for a two-bedroom unit. Rates, electricity and amenities were all free and wages were good. Former residents say they spent the best years of their lives there.
VIDEO: Take a ride through the abandoned city of Mary Kathleen
Photos of Mary Kathleen Town [Then & Now]
Fountain in the city center
Looking over the town square
Looking back at the Post Office, Bank & Community Store
These tiles are left over from the old ANZ Bank floor.
Mary Kathleen Town Housing
IN LOVELY MEMORY OF
Laurel Faye Clifford (03.01.1930 – 07.09.2004)
Milton Clifford (22.01.1927 – 13.01.2008)
ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS
Bridge connecting the city to the Mary Kathleen Mine
Mary Kathleen Mine
Mary Kathleen’s uranium mine is only about 3 miles from the community, so it was quick and easy for workers to get to work.
To get to the mine from the old town, just follow the old bitumen road (which is full of potholes) and follow the little yellow signs to the mine. For the unpaved section, a vehicle with high ground clearance is recommended.
Along the way, you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for spray-painted signs on scrap pieces to point your way. The driveway to the mine itself is barricaded, but you can still walk down it.
Apparently some locals swim there… although I wouldn’t recommend it. Maybe it’s just a rumor for the tourists!
Isn’t the turquoise blue just spectacular?
HOT TIP – Mine is MUCH bigger than it looks!
Mary Kathleen Camping
You basically get to settle anywhere in the old Mary Kathleen township for free, which is cool. Just pick a street, pick a plate and reverse the van!
💲 FREE (no time limit)
🐶 Pet Friendly
📶 Telstra reception
⚡️ Generators allowed
⛺️ Independent vehicles only (motorhomes, caravans, motorhomes and buses)
❌ NO tents, electricity, water or facilities
We stayed at the nearby Corella Dam which was absolutely beautiful! It is a FREE camp with green grass and suitable for water sports.
Location Mary Kathleen
Halfway between Mount Isa and Cloncurry in northwest Queensland, you’ll find the abandoned township and mine. It is accessible by 2WD, but the roads are full of potholes, so go slow and keep your eyes peeled.
ADDRESS: Barkly Highway, Cloncurry QLD 4824
Have you experienced Mary Kathleen town, camping and mine? Let us know your story in the comments below.
Originally Posted: August 20, 2018 | Updated: June 16, 2022
MARY KATHLEEN CAMPING ESSENTIALS
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