|Now deserving of a Leichhardt Museum and visitors' centre.|
Leichhardt noted in his diary on 5 November 1844 that ‘they had travelled through open undulating country for some miles and then by ridges clothed with a forest of silver-leaved ironbark'.
Leichhardt named this watercourse the Dawson River after expedition supporter Robert Dawson of Black Creek, who donated a bullock to the expedition.
(Today it is known as Roche Creek, flowing into Juandah Creek, south of Taroom, and then into the Dawson proper.)
Five days later, the expedition camped at a waterhole they named Pelican Water Hole. Leichhardt and Gilbert rode to the top of a clear hill (Bonners Knob, now referred to as Convent Hill or Gilbert’s Lookout) where they had a vista of a long range of mountains.
Gilbert was very impressed with the view and wrote:
"One of the most beautifully picturesque and extensive scenes met our anxious gaze. The immediate vicinity of the hills was like park scenery – clear undulating grassy hills, with here and there small clumps of Brigalow, while the sides of the hills were dotted with single scrubs, as if picked out by hand.
"Beyond this to the westward, and round as far as we could see to the east-southeast, was a carpet of evergreens for six or seven miles and then the high ranges rose up and formed a beautiful background to the most pleasing natural picture we have seen."
This is the first recorded description of the Dawson River valley where Taroom stands today.
The Dawson River is undoubtedly one of the prettiest stretches of inland waterways, intersecting the Leichhardt Highway at Taroom and Theodore.
Passing through the towns of Moura and Baralaba the river has several weirs along its course, and fishing and sporting competitions are held along the river throughout the year.
Scenery including Livistona Palms and Dawson River Weeper, Callistemons, other flora and wildlife also bears watching.
Leichhardt was renowned for ‘blazing’ (marking) his inscription 'Ll.' on trees along his routes. One of these trees is the historic Coolabah in the main street of Taroom, which was marked in 1844.
Guarded by the fiercely-proud townfolk, the tree stands tall today, towering above its earlier photos.
Modern-day travellers can have their photo taken by the 'Leichhardt Tree' – and today stand on the ridge where Leichhardt and Gilbert once stood, at the Lookout which bears the latter’s name.
Above: Gentlemen of Taroom gather around the Leichhardt Tree in 1914. The bloke third from left has his left arm touching the tree where the ‘LL’ mark was blazed. (State Library of Queensland)
Above: The mighty Leichhardt Tree stands tall above Yaldwyn Street, the main thoroughfare of Taroom, in this 2013 view. (Vaughn Becker)
|Above: Landscaped surrounds of Gilbert’s Lookout in Taroom offer 21st century visitors a chance to take in the expansive view which Leichhardt and Gilbert saw 170 years ago. (Vaughn Becker)
|Above: Leichhardt plaques on a commemorative stone in ANZAC Park, on Yaldwyn Street, Taroom. Behind is the former council building which has been proposed as a Leichhardt Museum and Visitor Centre.