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In 1864, the Queensland Department of Harbours and Rivers conducted the first official survey of the Fitzroy River at the problematic Upper Flats. At that location in particular, even small boats regularly became stranded at low tide and larger vessels often came to grief on the shifting shoals. To improve navigation to Rockhampton, Engineer of Roads Henry Plews recommended the construction of longitudinal rubble stone 'training' walls (illustrated in red in the map below), accompanied by dredging. The principle of river training was that, by narrowing the channel with artificial banks or walls, the tidal flow would be concentrated sufficiently to scour the bed clear of shoals. A river was considered properly trained when it achieved and maintained adequate depths for shipping without the assistance of dredging. However, due to the high cost of wall construction, dredging alone commenced in 1865. Unfortunately, the new channel repeatedly silted up to even shallower depths than the natural channel. [Plews' plans for Fitzroy.]

Map of the Upper flats of the Fitzroy River, 1864, showing sandbanks and Plews' suggested training walls.
Upper flats, Fitzroy river, 1864, showing sandbanks and Plews' suggested training walls. (QV&P, 1964)
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