A prosperous inland town servicing the surrounding agricultural region. The construction of the huge Fairbairn Dam in 1972 saw the area's agricultural focus shift from cattle to crops. It now produces over 25% of Queensland's cotton.

Location: 263 km west of Rockhampton; 909 km from Brisbane (via Rockhampton).

Blackdown TablelandsBlackdown Tableland National Park (110 km east): Rising abruptly above the surrounding dry plains, Blackdown Tableland protects spectacular sandstone scenery with gorges and waterfalls at the north-eastern edge of the central Queensland sandstone belt. The tableland is the traditional home of the Ghungalu people who have visited this place for thousands of years and left behind rock art, vivid reminders of their special culture.

Natural features: Nogoa River; Fossilised Wood (displayed outside the Emerald Town Hall, estimated to be 250 million years old)

Built features: Lake Maraboon and Fairbairn Dam (1,440,000 ML); Emerald Cotton Gin.

Heritage features: Emerald Pioneer Cottage (1880); town lockup (built 1910, in use until 1970), St Marks Presbyterian Church (1884); Emerald Railway Station (1900)

Fossicking: The old gold mining district surrounding Clermont attracts interest from fossickers and metal detector enthusiasts. They are located in state forests or reserves, and special conditions apply. There are a number of separate areas available: Clermont (PDF, 35 kB) | Black Ridge (PDF, 200 kB) | Bathampton (PDF, 223 kB) | Birimgan (PDF, 388 kB) | Bottom Apsley (PDF, 250 kB) | Town Reserve (PDF, 263 kB) | McDonalds Flat (PF, 233 kB) | Four Mile (PDF, 330 kB) | McMasters (PDF, 363 kB) | Museum Reserve (PDF, 263 kB)

Petrified wood is a type of fossil, in which the tissues of a dead plant are replaced with minerals (most often a silicate, such as quartz). The petrifaction process occurs underground, when wood or woody materials suddenly become buried under sediment. Mineral-rich water flowing through the sediment deposits minerals in the plant's cells and as the plant's lignin and cellulose decays away, a stone cast is left in its place. The volunteers at the Rowley Roberts Tourist Information Centre can show you examples of petrified wood and direct you to where you might see this in its natural setting. The Centre is located west of Emerald in Alpha.

Origin of name: Possibly a reference to the precious stone deposits found in the area, the name was first given to the Emerald Downs pastoral run name by pastoralist Peter Fitzallan MacDonald around 1860.

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Brief history

Ludwig Leichhardt was the first European in the area in 1845, he named the nearby Comet River after seeing a comet. He also inscribed the word 'Dig' on a tree by the banks of the river. The tree is now in the Queensland Museum in Brisbane. Leichhardt's glowing reports of the area's rich black soil soon brought the first European settlers to the area. Gold and copper were discovered in the 1860s, but in limited amounts.

The town was established in 1879 as a base for the railway line from Rockhampton to the Central West. Unfortunately, little is left of Emerald's early buildings as the town was ravaged by major fires in 1936, 1940, 1954 and 1968. The construction of the huge Fairbairn Dam in 1972 saw the area's agricultural focus shift from cattle to crops. It now produces over 25% of Queensland's cotton.

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