Highway One: the mighty Burdekin River

By Catherine Lawson | November 7, 2013

The mighty Burdekin River in Queensland has a unique bridge, built over sand.

Catherine Lawson and David Bristow, along with baby Maya, are doing a lap of Highway One, the road that circles Australia. 

IN THE SUGAR CAPITAL of Australia, the mighty Burdekin River weaves an 886km-long path from high on the Seaview and Gorge Ranges to the sea at Upstart Bay. It separates the twin towns of Home Hill and Ayr in north Queensland, 85km south of Townsville and rates as one of Australia’s economically most important rivers and the fourth largest river by flow.

The Bruce Highway crosses the Burdekin on a particularly impressive bridge known as the Silver Link, longer, at 1097m, than both Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Brisbane’s Story Bridge.

But what makes the Silver Link unique is that it is built on sand, the only bridge in Australia lacking firm rock foundations. Instead, the Silver Link rests on enormous concrete caissons sunk 30m deep into the Burdekin’s sandy riverbed, each weighing about 4000 tonnes.

Work on the bridge began in 1947 and took 10 years to complete, due in part to construction challenges and a steel shortage during WWII. In 2012 it was hailed as a National Engineering Heritage Landmark.

Upstream of the Silver Link, a massive dam wall breaks the Burdekin’s flow, pooling as Lake Dalrymple, the largest dam in the state with a capacity four times that of Sydney Harbour. Anglers lured to the lake leave with catches of barramundi, sooty grunter and red-claw crayfish that also attract saltwater crocodiles too.

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