The Mary River at its peak of 19.95m. Kidd Bridge is under water in the foreground looking south east.
The Mary River at its peak of 19.95m. Kidd Bridge is under water in the foreground looking south east. Craig Warhurst

Mary, so contrary all that water flow

MY LAST trip in helicopter, a four- hour flight over the Cooloola Coast and the Mary Valley, ended with me being violently ill out the door of the chopper somewhere above Imbil.

So when I got word the Gympie Regional Council wanted someone at The Gympie Times to photograph flood damage and water levels at the peak of Gympie's Australia Day weekend flood from the air, I immediately looked to co-worker Renee Pilcher for help.

Unfortunately Renee, who was and still is heavily pregnant, couldn't take the trip for safety reasons, leaving me rushing to the nearest chemist to stock up on motion sickness pills.

You see, looking though a camera lens while bopping around in a chopper plays havoc with my digestive system.

Living in the Gold City all my life, I have seen my fair share of Mary River floods.

My role at The Gympie Times during the past 15 years has meant I have covered a host of them, the biggest in 1999 when the Mary River peaked at massive 21.45m. But I had never covered one from the air.

Although worried about keeping my breakfast down, I was excited about seeing the Mary in full flood.

With the front door removed from the McDermott Aviation Bell 206 Longranger chopper for unobstructed camera angles, I and council officials Bernard Smith, Greg Ingham and Darryl Waugh, strapped in for lift off from the Gympie State High School oval.

Council had hired the chopper to inspect road damage and deliver workers to a failing water treatment plant in the Valley.

It didn't take long before the extent of the flood came into view.


As the chopper cleared the trees that ringed the oval, backed up water, from the aptly named Deep Creek, appeared and an ocean of water spread out over the One Mile Ovals all the way to the Mary River.


After getting his bearings the chopper pilot headed down stream to Mary St and circled the CBD.

From the air, Gympie streets wouldn't have looked out of place in Venice, with their rows of buildings surrounded by muddy water.

The chopper than banked to follow the Mary.

The normally gentle, 15-20m wide water body was a massive, fast-flowing, chocolate-coloured ocean.

It travelled north, taking everything in its path with it.

The chopper traced the mighty Mary's flow north over Fisherman's Pkt, Bells Bridge, nearly all the way to Dickabram Bridge before turning inland to survey the damage at Wooloolga and Widgee.

In the west the flash flood waters were gone, but the tell tale signs of raging torrents remained.

Washed-out creeks with flattened trees, torn up bridges, scoured out roads, and the saddest sight of the trip, the wreckage of a van swept down Widgee Creek, where a young man lost his life.

The flight followed Glastonbury Rd back to the Southside to reconnect with the Mary and fly upstream toward Kybong.

The Mary was huge spreading out over grazing land that was once the site for the Traveston Crossing Dam.

Until you get in the air over a flooding Mary it is hard to comprehend how much water is flowing down the river, all the way from the Valley to Maryborough and into the Sandy Straits.

The amazing thing is all that water actually fell from the sky.

Oh and by the way, my couple of Travelcalm tablets worked a treat.

Gympie Times

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