While travelling between Cloncurry and Mount Isa in far north Outback Queensland, make sure you pull off the highway and have a drive around the abandoned streets of Mary Kathleen.
The abandoned ghost town of Mary Kathleen in Cloncurry, North-west Queensland, once belonged to the nearby uranium mine, which has long since closed down and emptied out. The township was a bustling community in the mid to late 1900’s with thousands of residents who worked in the mine and went to local schools.
These days you can drive the old streets of the town and even choose a vacant house slab (yep, they’re still there) to camp on for the night for a unique Mary Kathleen camping experience. Take a wander up the hill to the mine site, but don’t touch the radioactive turquoise water!
Here is a collection of original Mary Kathleen township photos, versus some of the modern day pictures of what the abandoned town looks like today.
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Mary Kathleen Town, Mine & Camping
History of Mary Kathleen
Back in 1954, uranium was discovered there. In fact it was the largest known deposit in Australia at the time. The UK Atomic Energy Authority signed the sales contract in 1956 and the project was developed at a cost of $24 million.
Over the course of a year, an architect-designed town was built at a rate of one house per day. It was located about 5km away from the mine where the ground was more suited for gardens and a water pipe line from Lake Corella.
Between 1958 and 1963, 4080 tonnes of uranium oxide was extracted. By 1963 the contract had been fulfilled ahead of schedule, so the mine lay idle and the township emptied out. Only twelve families remained in the quiet suburbs. The gardens withered away and lawns turned to buffel grass. The area did occasionally get a slash with the tractor, but that was about it.
In 1974, the mine reopened with a supply demand from Japanese, German and American power utilities. This second reopening lasted until 1982 when the reserves were exhausted.
The township, mine and mill were all dismantled by the end of 1984. All of the housing, equipment and public buildings were put up for auction, 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 pool, tennis courts, round-a-bout and house slabs. Someone has kindly gone around and spray painted some descriptions on the ground in some places, to show what each building and structure once was.
In the Town Square, you could find a Community Store, which sold groceries, clothing, footwear and hardware. There was also a Recreation Club, where the locals could play billiards and darts.
The services that were in town:
- Community Store
- Recreation Club
- Milk Bar
- Barber Shop
- Post Office
- Two Banks
- Beer Garden
The town also boasted an Olympic standard swimming pool, which has long since been filled in. Plus, an open-air cinema, which ran five nights per week, an oval for sporting clubs, tennis courts, lawn bowls and a golf club.
There were also two churches, market garden and orchard for fresh produce. The local hospital had six beds and played part in the delivery of over 200 babies. Of course there was also a school for the local kids.
Apparently, the company charged only $8 per week for a two bedroom unit. Rates, electricity and amenities were all free and the wages were good. Former residents say some of the best years of their lives were spent there.
Mary Kathleen Town Photos (Then & Now)
Fountain in the centre of town
Looking across the town square
Looking back to the Post Office, Bank & Community Store
These tiles are what remain of the old ANZ Bank floor.
Mary Kathleen Town Housing
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
Laurel Faye Clifford (03.01.1930 – 07.09.2004)
Milton Clifford (22.01.1927 – 13.01.2008)
ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS
Bridge Linking the town to Mary Kathleen Mine
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Mary Kathleen Mine
The Mary Kathleen uranium mine is located only about 5km from the township, so it was quick and easy for the employees 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. A high clearance vehicle is recommended for the unsealed section.
Along the way you will need to keep your eyes peeled for spray painted signs on pieces of scrap metal to guide your way. The driveway to the mine itself is barricaded off, but you can still walk down there.
Apparently some of the locals swim there… although I wouldn’t recommend it. Maybe it’s just a rumour for the tourists!
Isn’t the turquoise blue just spectacular.
HOT TIP – The mine is a LOT bigger than it looks!
Mary Kathleen Camping
You are in fact allowed to set up anywhere in the old Mary Kathleen township for free camping, which is cool. Just pick a street, choose a slab and reverse the van in!
Mary Kathleen Camping FEATURES:
⏰ No time limit
⛺️ Self-contained vehicles only (Camper Trailers, Caravans, RVs & Big Rigs)
🐶 Dogs allowed
📶 Telstra Reception
⚡️ Generators allowed
❌ NO tents, power, water or amenities
We stayed at the nearby Corella Dam, which was absolutely beautiful! It’s a FREE camp with green grass and is suitable for water sports.
Getting to Mary Kathleen
You will find the abandoned township and mine located halfway between Mount Isa and Cloncurry in north-west Queensland. It is accessible with a 2WD, but the roads are filled with potholes, so just go slow and keep your eyes peeled.
|Address||Barkly Highway, Cloncurry QLD 4824|