I’d been wanting to visit this museum since it opened several years ago. I’m delighted to say it fully met my expectations - and I find I keep using the word ‘amazing’ when referring to its contents.
Why? Well, what makes this very different and very exciting, is that the fish caught in Canowindra a few years ago (and they’re still catching more) are Devonian period fossil fish some 360 million years old! These little flippers were splashing around in a billabong (Australian waterhole) way back, before even dinosaurs wandered around the land. It seems the droughts then were every bit as severe as the current one and probably worse, because for some reason our fishy friends found the water ran out – leaving them high and dry.
Fast forward some 360 million years (less half a century) and back in the 1950s, a council roadworks quarry exposed some strange shapes in some rocks. Later, a palaeontologist (oooh…that’s a big word for a fossil digger) from the Australian Museum found out about the rocks and took an interest. What he turned up was nothing short of amazing (said it again). Since then, largely with volunteer assistants, literally thousands of fossil casts of ancient armoured fish and their hunters have been found preserved in the rocks.
Unlikely as it may seem to find this in a relatively obscure Australian country town, I am not exaggerating even slightly by saying that this fossil find and its display are both of world-class importance! The museum display is fascinating, but if Canowindra is too far off your personal “beaten path”, the good news is that the website is worth visiting for more information.
Main photo:Outside the Age of Fishes building
Second photo:Some of the rock slabs with embedded fish casts
Third photo:Close-up of a fish cast (surrounded by others)
Fourth photo:Information board on one of the unique finds
Fifth photo:Another information board on another unique fossil.
I’d say that Cowra and Canowindra were pretty much twin towns in about 1900. Quite frankly, the streetscape down the main street of Cowra is generally unexciting – but Canowindra retains its Federation period charm. And that, of course, takes us to the nub of what seems to be Canowindra’s problem – it looks very much as if the enhancement of personal mobility over the past century has meant that Cowra has grown commercially at the expense of Canowindra.
As a tourist, that is mere background. The town is itself a marvellous museum piece and well worth the stroll. And all those verandahs make the heritage listed streetscape so much more pleasant. Along the way, you should have no trouble buying a beer, it fairly much follows the traditional Australian country town model of a pub on every corner! Of course, there also are some interesting looking little restaurants – but time precluded us from visiting.
Main photo:Cobley’s Building – according to the signage at the top, Cobleys were General Merchants and this building dates from 1913.
Second photo:It’s an uncommon country town that doesn’t have a Royal Hotel!
Third photo:Notice how the main street bends? And aren’t the verandahs mavellous?
You can go to the top of the class if you read through my 'Introduction' page and remember that Canowindra is pronounced Ca-noun-dra. Well, it’s kinda obvious in any case, isn’t it! No??
Canowindra is just over 30 km to the north of Cowra and the drive there and back, particularly on the back roads we travelled, is pleasant and relaxing. It also gave an excellent view of the extent to which so much of the Australian countryside has been dessicated by the drought.
Of course, as enthusiastic car club members, we were busily enjoying the views of the other little Renault 4CVs sharing the road with us – should you take this run, it is highly improbable that you will see any. Maybe 40 of these cars are still operational in the whole of Australia, so about half of the national collection were present for this event!