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The Great Artesian Basin Story

The Great Artesian Basin is the world’s largest underground river system that flows beneath half of inland Australia. When you visit Cunnumulla you will realize the reason why water is the lifeblood of the Australian outback lifestyle and industry and learn about the important role the great artesian basin played in the early settlement and further development of the land.

In Cunnumulla you will have a unique chance to learn up close the great artesian basin story. The Cunnumulla Fella Centre Art Gallery and Museum feature the milestones of the Great Artesian Basin Story through the Artesian Time Tunnel and highly informative material.

The Great Artesian Time Tunnel

The Artesian Time Tunnel is a simulation of time travel back in time hundred million years into the Australian Great Artesian Basin. The Artesian Time Tunnel is located in the Cunnumulla Fella Centre and is indeed a big surprise for visitors (for me too) who come to Cunnumulla for the first time. Not many expect to experience this Time Tunnel, nor know much about the Great Artesian Basin Story. If you are curious, here you can find out more about it.


The Time Tunnel project was installed in Cunnumulla in 2008 with focus on the importance of water in both naturals, historical and cultural heritage of Cunnumulla, highlighting the vital role of water from sustaining the life of early pioneers as well playing a critical part in the development of pastoral and mining industries.



A visit to the Artesian Time Tunnel is followed by a visit of the Cunnumulla Fella Museum offering an insight into aboriginal Dreamtime stories centred on natural watercourses. In the Cunnumulla Fella Centre, it is also possible to watch a 30minutes video about the Great Artesian Basin Story in Queensland, a very interesting video which shows you how artesian water formed during millions of years in the sedimentary rocks and surfaced through mound springs. And how indigenous people used it, the first bore to the artesian water conservation programs.

A Video about the Great Artesian Basin Story

This 30minutes video is the highlight of the Great Artesian Basin Story. And this was the second big surprise after the Artesian Time Tunnel. I took some pictures while I was watching it, so as to also visually remember the story of it.


The water takes almost 2 million years to travel from the river at the Great Dividing Ranges to the surface of the outback in central Australia. Water seeps through sandstone rocks over the huge area of the Artesian Basin. The Basin holds 130000 times as much water as the Sydney Harbour.



Here below a recap of the most important facts about the Great Artesian Basin.

The Great Artesian Basin Facts

  • The Great Artesian basin covers an area of 1/5 of the Australian continent. It includes most of Queensland, parts of NSW, some of SA and NT. The Great Artesian Basin Map gives you an idea of the proportions.
  • It is estimated that artesian water is approx 2 million years old, dating back to the Ice Age.
  • The first water bore in the underground took place in 1878 on Kallara Station, in New South Wales, the first bore in Queensland took place 100 km south-east of Cunnumulla.
  • Aboriginal people have been using artesian water through mound springs, which are places where artesian water naturally flow to the surface.
  • The average temperature of the Artesian Basin Water is 30-50° to a maximum of 100°.
  • In 1999 the GABSI Scheme was sealed by landowners and the government. This is a joint program to help converse artesian water. The program foresees the capping of flowing bores and a piping system to reduce water wastage and evaporation of water through bore drains on land properties. Thanks to this GASBI scheme over 300 properties could benefit from the conservation, resulting in more than 18000 megalitres of saved artesian water.

The Great Artesian Basin’s Natural Springs

The hot, salty natural water comes to the surface through the cracks in the rocks. In my hotel, I had artesian water running from the tap and could notice how soft my skin was just after washing my hands or taking a shower. You can soon feel the beneficial health properties of the artesian water rich in minerals.

All over the area, there are natural spring oases. 60km south-west of Cunnumulla in Eulo you can see many Great Artesian Basin’s natural springs and take a mud bath too. Horseshoe Spring is a known Natural Spring in the area. These natural springs have created a natural habitat for special grasses, snails, reeds, fish to be found nowhere else in the world.


Also in the past people used artesian water for bathing and believed in its beneficial health properties, as you can see in the picture above.

During my Trip to Cunnamulla time was too tight to drive to Eulo, hopefully, I can experience a natural spring in the next future and will tell you more about it.


Go to Cunnamulla Outback Town

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