Geohistory tourism of the Brisbane CBD

Sea floor sediments

 Brisbane CBD Geohistory

– 300 million years in the making

The concept of geohistory tourism  for Brisbane’s CBD is linked to its geological history, ecology and human interactions.

This includes:

  1. Geological processes, landscapes and ecology and how these change with time
  2. Plants and animals in geological and human time frames
  3. The traditional local indigenous inhabitants, their life style prior to European settlement
  4. Plants and animals in geological and human time frames
  5. The traditional local indigenous inhabitants, their life style prior to European settlement
  6. The initial setting up of Brisbane city and its effects on local environment and inhabitants
  7. Conflicts between indigenous inhabitants and European settlement
  8. Water resources and sources of building stone in the city
  9. The changing scape of the city
  10. Current and future directions, facilities and walking trails

Sea floor sediments


  • Two Rock Units – The Neranleigh-Fernvale beds (NFB) and the Brisbane Tuff
  • The age of NFB was unknown until 1974 – they were thought to be Pre-Cambrian as no fossils had been discovered.
  • The first fossils found in the South D’Aguilar Sub Province along the Mount Nebo-Mount Glorious road were poorly preserved brachiopods, bryozoa and crinoid. Follow up zircon dating showed an age of 351 Ma from the enclosing sediments. Later radiolarian fossils from cherts at Lake Manchester are Devonian or younger

Rock bodies

The Neranleigh – Fernvale beds were deposited in the deep ocean in the Late Devonian to Early Carboniferous (about 360-320million years ago), were accreted to the continent and underwent deformation from the Late Carboniferous to Early Permian (to about 300 million years before present).  Examples of deformation of these old rocks can be seen in outcrops adjacent to the eastern abutment of the Captain Cook Bridge.

Following that the Brisbane Tuff – a cataclysmic stratovolcanic eruption similar in style to Mount St Helens  (and represented locally by the Kangaroo Point Cliffs) was deposited in deep stream valleys in the Late Triassic (230Ma). An animation of the deposition of the tuff can be seen by downloading the Konect Tourism app from the app store .  Over time these rock bodies were eroded and the landscape become more subdued.  The rock bodies that formed the valleys to the Brisbane Tuff were more susceptible to erosion that the tuff, consequently the current landscape is an inverted landscape with rocks that originally formed the valley are now forming a hill in the landscape.


Mount St Helens Style eruption

The vegetation preserved in fossils in the tuff indicate a wet climate with dinosaurs, seed ferns, and cycads were abundant at the time of the Brisbane Tuff eruption.

The vegetation at the time of the originial aboriginal settlement indicates thick rain forest on the southern bank of the Brisbane River and drier eucalypt forest on the northern bank.

Original local inhabitants and conflicts of colonial settlement

The Turrbal people, according to Tom Petrie (a founding family of modern-day Brisbane,‘Meeaan-jin’), occupied the area of land extending far inland to the Gold Creek or Moggill, as far north as North Pine, and south to the Logan River.

They were fishing people and the Brisbane River and Creeks and swamps around Brisbane were vital food sources. the land, the river and its tributaries were the source and support of life in all its dimensions. . The river’s abundant supply of food included fish, shellfish, crab, and shrimp. Good fishing places became campsites and the focus of group activities with groups of up to 300.

  • The free settlers didn’t recognise local aboriginal ownership and did not compensate the Turrbul and some serious affrays and conflicts ensued.
  • By 1869, many Turrbul had died from gunshot or disease, but the Moreton Bay Courier frequently mentioned local indigenous people working and living in the district.  There was constriction of their movement and the term boundary road reflected the region that local aboriginal were not allowed closer to the CBD.
  • In the1840s to 1860s, the settlement relied increasingly on goods obtained through trade with aboriginals—firewood, fish, crab, shellfish—and services they provided such as water-carrying, tree-cutting, fencing, ring-barking, stock work and ferrying.
  • Since the arrival of Europeans the rate of change in the natural environment has increased dramatically. The district was characterized by open woodlands and rain forest once fringed the Brisbane River and its major tributaries, especially on the broader floodplains such as St. Lucia and Seventeen Mile Rock when land was required in Brisbane for housing and farming trees were felled, creeks (Creek Street), estuaries, gullies and wetlands (e.g Brisbane City Hall) were  filled-in  and local plants and animals were reduced with the introduction of foreign species
  • Exotic plants in many of the creeks of the Brisbane River have substantially changed the aquatic environment.  These include grasses, e.g. para grass (Brachiaria mutica), and green couch (Cynodon dactylon) which reduce free water in stream channels, and flow velocities in the lower reaches of most creeks and Creeks extinguishing native aquatic vegetation.  Floating exotic plants including water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes), salvinia (Salvinia auriculate) and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) blanket some reaches. Native aquatic macrophytes have declined, apparently due to dredging, saltation and other disturbances (Arthington et al, 1983).” (Task M2 State of the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay and Waterways – Gutteridge, Haskins & Davey Pty Ltd, p. 6-9 1996). Arthington et al, 1983).
  • Major weeds in the catchment include:
  • Lantana monteuidensis (creeping lantana), Lantana camera (lantana), Baccharis halimfolia (groundsel bush), Celtis sinensis (Chinese elm), Cinnamomum camphora (camphor laurel), Protasparagus africanis (a climbing asparagus), Bryophyllum spp. (mother of millions), Cassia spp. (exotic cassia)
  • Up to 60% of urban bushland remnants suffer from some level of weed invasion, either from human influence (dumping of garden clippings, misguided revegetation) or by natural means (wind blown seeds, dispersal by birds and animals, spread by water) (BCC, 1990).

Brisbane From country town to thriving capital city – short history

  • Earliest water supply from the spring at Spring Hill was stored at the tank at Tank Street, this water supply became polluted fron animal excrement, which caused significant typhoid health problems  in Brisbane
  • 1859 – City of Brisbane established and separation from NSW  and John Petrie became  first mayor
  • First reticulated water supply 1871 and 1882 from Enoggera Creek and stored in tanks on Wickham Terrace and fed by gravity feed into the city. This reticulated water supply fed a local population of more than 50 000 inhabitants from the 1880s.
  • First railway in Brisbane went from Roma Street to Ipswich in 1879.
  • A demonstration of electric lighting of lamp posts along Queen Street in 1882 was the first recorded use of electricity for public purposes in the world.
  • First horse-drawn, then electric trams operated in Brisbane from 1885 until 1969.
  • The first reservoir was built in 1871, and the second in 1882. Both were built primarily of red-brick and mortar, set in-ground. Interiors feature columns and arches between walls for reinforcement. At the time of planning, Spring Hill was considered to be the ideal location for a Brisbane water source, due to its elevation above most of what is now Brisbane City. Water was sourced from Enoggera Dam via gravity feed.
  • Significant historical buildings include the Commissariat Store along Queens Wharf Road, the old Windmill (along Wickham Terrace)  and the Treasury Building (Casino) at the Raddison Plaza
  • The proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia was read on the first of January, 1901 from the Treasury Building facing William Street.
  • Brisbane was regarded as a country town rather than a major city and McAthur Chambers in Queen Street was the headquarters in World War 2 for Douglas MacArthur the commander of allied forces in the Pacific
  • the long period of control of the Country party by Johannes Bjelke Petersen  (1969-1988) had both positive and negative effects on the city. During his time in office there was a diminution of public right to demonstrate, however despite much controversy there was important infrastructure was constructed eg Wivehoe Dam, but significant public buildings were destroyed by Dean brothers in the name of progress e.g., the Bellevue Hotel and Cloudland.
  • In 1988 the World Expo at the current Southbank site fundamentally changed the concept of dining out in Brisbane
  • In the past 20 years, large complexes of units have been constructed in the CBD and significant student migration of Asian students has been a feature of urban Brisbane
  • Road tunnels have been constructed to reduce traffic congestion and reduce travel times across the CBD.
  • Queens Wharf is the oldest roadway in the city and was constructed to bring material from the first wharf on the northern bank of river at the beginning of colonial settlement.  This roadway  fronts the Commissariat Store.  This area is being renewed as part of a major redevelopment of the inner city.

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