River Trade on the Barron
The Halfway House and Opium Store
In 1876 the town of Smithfield was established on the northern bank of the Barron River five kilometres upstream from here. For a while Smithfield was the largest settlement in the district and all supplies for the goldfields arrived by boat.
However the river was not deep enough for heavily laden vessels to make it all the way to the wharves at Smithfield, so Townsville merchants Clifton & Aplin Co built a store and hotel here called the Halfway House. Boats would offload their cargo to lighters to be transported upstream. On the opposite bank there were a number of Chinese huts and the Opium Store.
In 1888 William Innes built the Range Hotel on the river bank near here, and two years later he opened a store with a wharf and corn milling plant. Boats like the SS Zeus, Palmer, Burdekin, Star of Hope and Aracoon loaded sixty tons of maize, corn and bananas at Innes’ wharf for sale in Townsville.
Sampans full of bananas
There were many Chinese farms along the river and a large fleet of sampans transported the bananas to the wharves in Cairns. By working the tides the sampans would were able to travel as far upstream as Lake Placid and get back here to the Opium Store before low tide. They would wait for the following high tide and head across the bay to Cairns.