Due to its combination of a sub-tropical climate, a rugged hinterland and wide coastal plains, the Mary River floods regularly. Before European settlement, the indigenous population would have known the river cycles and moved around the region accordingly.
The first records of flooding began around the 1850’s. Major floods were recorded in the Gympie and Maryborough areas roughly every 3-5 years with the floods of 1893 becoming known and ‘the worst in the state’s history’ for over a century.
The effects of these early floods were devastating as many of the homes and other structures were timber. People and livestock were killed, farms submersed and in 1893 the Maryborough Bridge was completely washed away.
Other significant floods occurred in 1928, 1952 and 1976 but the river often also rose in the years in between. In December 2010 and January 2011, nearly 75% of Queensland was badly affected by flooding following higher than average rainfall in the preceding months and cyclone activity in the area. The Mary River, while still affected, was spared the tragic events that followed the catastrophic flooding of the Lockyer and Brisbane River valleys.
The South East Queensland councils along with the government have the unenviable task of planning for future flooding events. They do have the benefit of scientific research and the latest technology but a big challenge is the fact that 80% of the local floods occur between December and April which is also the peak tourist season.
When you are out walking or driving in the region, especially if you are near a waterway, be sure to pay close attention to the local weather and flood warnings before you head out. The rivers and creeks can rise rapidly and you may find yourself isolated in a campground or on a flooded road.
Remember to use caution and common sense. In most cases you are better off to stay where you are and either wait for the waters to recede or wait for help to arrive. Obey all road closures and park restrictions. Ensure your vehicles’ tyres are well maintained particularly if you intend to drive on unsealed roads. Carrying a first-aid kit and emergency food and water is also a good idea.
If you do have a rainy vacation, there are still plenty of things to do in the area to keep you occupied. Eating a counter meal by the fireplace at a pub, wandering through a regional art gallery or savouring a steaming cup of coffee and freshly baked rolls in a café are still lovely experiences to remember.