Rooney’s Bridge, connecting Railway Estate to Oonoonba (Railway Ave – Abbott St), was for a long time the road bridge nearest to the mouth of Ross River. It was built in 1954 right beside the already-old railway bridge, to improve access from the South to the port and railway yards (see Trove – 1 – 2– 3 and this old TCC history page if you’re interested in more on this.)
Rooney’s Bridge was built without any pedestrian access because the rail bridge had a pedestrian footway, so the old railway bridge was not demolished when it was replaced by a new one. Instead, a new footbridge was laid across its sleepers. The result is a mess of three bridges within 50 metres or so, and a forest of pilings which must present a significant obstruction to floods coming downstream or tidal surges coming the other way.
Townsville only exists because of Ross River, which provided a useable port and a water supply. It is not a particularly good river for either purpose, being shallow and flood-prone but intermittent, but was better than the other options when the hinterland was being opened up by pastoralists and gold miners. (As I noted a year ago, the whole NQ coast is flat and low-lying.)
Mangroves and mudflats
Below Rooney’s Bridge, big areas of Railway Estate and almost all of the Oonoonba side are mangroves and mud-flats. We discussed those low-lying areas at some length in relation to the 2019 floods; what happened to Rooney’s Bridge at the time is featured on this video collage.
At present we’re more interested in the wilderness areas, right beside the city and threading through it, that they represent. They are, in fact, a counterpart to the Town Common (warning: 40 posts here) but have never been so well known.
This screenshot shows the lower Ross, and clicking on it will take you to Google Maps to explore at will. We have recently begun exploring it on the ground and will share our findings in future posts.
“Ross Island” is a term which pops up constantly in discussions of the area. It refers to Railway Estate, South Townsville and the Port. Its boundaries are Ross River to the South and East, and Ross Creek to the North and West.
Why “Island”? Because it was one. Ross Creek was a secondary mouth of Ross River until the river bank was raised to cut it off, and Bicentennial Park created.