Kiandra, New South Wales

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View over Kiandra from a nearby hill

Kiandra Coordinates: 35°53′S 148°30′E / 35.883°S 148.500°E / -35.883; 148.500 is an abandoned gold mining town and the birthplace of Australian skiing. The town is situated in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, in the Snowy River Shire inside the Kosciuszko National Park. Its name is a corruption of Aboriginal 'Gianderra' for 'sharp stones for knives'. It was earlier called Gibson's Plains, named after Dr. Gibson, a settler in the district in 1839.[1] For a century (until the establishment of Cabramurra), Kiandra was Australia's highest town.

Kiandra lies approximately 90 kilometres (56 mi) north-west of Cooma on the Snowy Mountains Highway between Adaminaby and Talbingo. It sits at 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) above sea level and is situated on a high, treeless ridge, on the banks of the Eucumbene River, which is snow-covered during winter and is subject to high winds.

After decades of decline, restoration work on the remaining buildings at Kiandra has been ongoing since 2009. Work on the historic Kiandra Courthouse Chalet and Wolgal Lodge fishing cottage has been conducted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and volunteers, enabling occasional amenities and limited accommodation at Kiandra.[2]


Kiandra Police Station
Kiandra Snow Shoe Carnival 1900
The Start of the Girls' Snowshoe Race
The mailman arrives at Kiandra


In November 1859, gold was discovered by mountain cattlemen, the Pollock brothers, and by March 1860, some 10,000 miners and storekeepers had raced to the scene. Initial returns were very good. A 9 kg nugget was discovered in river deposits under what became known as New Chum Hill. Kiandra post office opened on 1 June 1860[3] and it is estimated that the area at its peak accommodated around 15,000 people, served by 25 stores, 13 bakers, 16 butchers, 14 pubs, several banks and four blacksmiths.[4][5] Nevertheless, by 1861, the Sydney Morning Herald was reporting a "mass exodus" and the easy pickings were exhausted.[6]

Significant numbers of Chinese people worked the Kiandra goldfields. Chinese miners built Three Mile Dam in 1882 to assist with sluicing operations at "New Chum Hill". The scenic lake still exists and now supplies Selwyn Snowfields with its snow-making water requirements. Wikipedia's Chinese site lists Kiandra as 奇安德拉 (Qi An De La).

The last mining operations finally ceased around 1905. Official total production recorded was 48 676 kg.[6]

In 1890 the second courthouse to be built in the township was constructed. The building included police barracks and was used more for its police rather than court function. It remained Kiandra's police station until 1937, later to become the Kiandra Chalet.[4]

A 'battery stamper' and other mining relics recovered locally are situated on the road to Cabramurra below New Chums Hill, close to the NPWS entry booth (which is only attended during the snow season). This stamper was used to crush rock and quartz in order to free the embedded gold.

The Wig and Pen Brewery in Canberra commemorates this chapter in Australia's High Country history with a pale golden pilsner beer in the Czech style, named "Kiandra Gold".[7]


Kiandra is often isolated by deep snow which made it inaccessible during winter. In 1861, Norwegian miners introduced recreational skiing to the snowbound mining settlement after manufacturing over forty pairs[8] of both short skis known as skates and the longer snow shoes[9] during the months before the first winter snow. To avoid confusion with a conventional skate, the skates were described as (two palings turned up at the front end and about four foot long). There were no fence palings or posts in Kiandra in 1861.[10]

Ski races were held annually on Township Hill at Kiandra where the World's first Alpine ski club was founded - the Kiandra snow shoe club.[11] The Club is now officially recognized as being the "Oldest Alpine Ski Club in the World".[6][12][13]

At one time, the poet Banjo Paterson was a vice president. The Club held perhaps the first international ski race carnival in 1908.[14] In 1927, William Hughes, a member of the Club, together with four members of the Ski Club of Australia made the first historic ski traverse from Kiandra to the Hotel Kosciusko. Their eventful journey is retold in Klaus Hueneke's book "Kiandra to Kosciusko" and was commemorated by 150 ski tourers in 1977 in an event organised by the Kosciusko Huts Association.[15] The Club is now based in Perisher and is called the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club.

The Kiandra courthouse closed as a police station in 1937, and was for a time used as a private residence, before becoming the Kiandra Chalet (until 1953) and later the Kiandra Chalet Hotel,[4] The owner of the Chalet ran a ski rope tow. The Chalet closed in 1973 and the building became a Roads Depot building.[16]

Australia's first T-Bar was installed on Township Hill in 1957, but in 1978, Kiandra's ski lift operations re-located permanently to nearby Selwyn Snowfields.[17] The T-Bar remained in operation at Mt Selwyn until the 2009 ski season when it was replaced by the Township Triple Chair (retaining the name "Township" in reference to the Kiandra Township hill run).

The area today[edit]

Kiandra courthouse before 2010 restoration
Kiandra courthouse as it stands today
Site of Anglican Church of the Ascension
The ruins of Kiandra's General Store

The last resident left Kiandra in 1974, after which the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW) took over the town and completed its demolition of most of its buildings. This decision by the NPWS not to preserve much of the human heritage of the township remains a source of resentment in some quarters in the district to this day.[6] Only four buildings from the former township remain intact, together with a collection of ruins and the historic cemetery. The area retains various other relics of Australian pioneer history, including mining equipment, old gravesites and abandoned diggings.

The remaining buildings at Kiandra are of high heritage value and historical walking trails provide information on the former layout and points of interests of the old town. The most substantial remaining building is the former courthouse, which was originally constructed in 1890, and which was partially restored by National Parks in 2010 for use as an interpretive centre.[4] The restored court room was officially opened on 5 May 2010 with some 150 people present for the ceremony. The later additions to the original courthouse at the rear of the building remain in a state of outward disrepair, although National Parks intend to continue the restoration in stages, aiming to preserve the cultural history of the site across its many previous uses.[18]

In 2012, public accommodation returned to Kiandra with the opening of the restored Wolgal Lodge for bookings. The opening of the 1960s fishing cottage was in part conducted to create and demonstrate a market demand for Kiandra-based accommodation, which, according to the Snowy Times, could prove a "market based argument for restoring the Kiandra Courthouse and Chalet for accommodation".[19]

Easter 2013 saw all four of Kiandra's buildings in public use for the first time in decades - with guided tours and exhibitions - including the Matthew's Cottage exhibition and the Pattinson's cottage house museum.[20]

Kiandra in print, photography and archaeology[edit]

Historic Kiandra: A Guide to the History of the District, by D. G. Moye (editor) was published by the Cooma-Monaro Historical Society to mark the centenary of the Kiandra Goldrush in 1959, and remains in print.[21]

Australian High Country enthusiast Klause Hueneke has written two books on the Kiandra region: Huts of the High Country, 1982 and Kiandra to Kosciusko, 1987.

The Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club recently[when?] published a history: Kiandra : gold fields to ski fields and Lapland Snow Shoes in Australia, by Norman W. Clarke.[22]

The poet Barcroft Boake wrote a poem about skiing at Kiandra, entitled "The Demon Snow Shoes: A Legend of Kiandra".[23][24] Banjo Paterson referenced Kiandra in his poetry - as in A Mountain Station (The Bulletin, 19 December 1891).[25] Patrick White's first novel, Happy Valley (1939), has Kiandra thinly disguised as the township of "Kambala".[26] The 2011 time travel/science fiction adventure novel Falling into History, by Peter Fleming, is partially set in Kiandra.[27]

The Township has been subject to various archaeological studies, including a project by the Australian National University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology under the direction of Drs Mike Smith, Ken Heffernan and Annie Clark in the mid-1990s.[28] The Kiandra Historical Society remains a useful resource of record for the history of the town.

A number of interesting photographic studies were taken of life at Kiandra, including a series by Charles Kerry, and a scene of Chinese miners near the Township.[citation needed]


Climate statistics were compiled at the Kiandra Chalet site, elevation 1395m, from the year 1866 until 1974. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the lowest temperature recorded was -17.8 degrees Celsius, in July 1965 and again in August 1966. In January 1968, the highest temperature of 32.9 degrees was recorded.

For the period 1897-1974, the mean temperature range in January was from maximum 20.7 degrees to minimum 6.1 degrees Celsius. In July, the figures were: mean maximum 3.9, mean minimum -4.7 degrees.[29] This range means Kiandra is one of the few places in the southern hemisphere to experience a humid continental climate.

Climate data for Kiandra
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 32.9
Average high °C (°F) 20.7
Average low °C (°F) 6.1
Record low °C (°F) −3.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 90.3
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2mm) 7.6 6.8 7.7 9.3 11.7 14.1 13.8 14.3 12.9 12.5 10.1 8.7 129.5
Average relative humidity (%) 49 51 55 62 69 76 79 73 65 57 54 51 62
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kiandra". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Brown, Alan G. and Campbell, Hugh M. (1963) New South Wales Numeral Cancellations Victoria: The Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria, Australia, and London: Robson Lowe Ltd.
  4. ^ a b c d
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  7. ^
  8. ^ Scores of young people are frequently engaged climbing the lofty summits with snow shoes 6 August 1861.
  9. ^ ’’The roads were impassable except with snow shoes or the more novel mode of travelling on skates’’.
  10. ^ There is little or no timber in the country here, and whatever there is, is of no use for fencing or house building purposes. The Yass Courier, 4 August 1862.
  11. ^
  12. ^ ""In 2011 the FIS joins the congratulations for this important Australian anniversary, together for Kiandra’s inaugural position in alpine skiing in the world.", Federation of International Skiing -Newsflash, June 29, 2011. Pub. World’s First Alpine Ski Club. ISBN 978-0-646-56587-3.
  13. ^ ""I would like to commend you for having organized the first Alpine ski races in the history of our sport.", FIS, President’s signed letter. 10 May 2011. Pub. ‘‘World’s First Alpine Ski Club’’. ISBN 978-0-646-56587-3.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Kiandra". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 February 2004. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Historic Kiandra : a guide to the history of the district / D.G. Moye.". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews -". Time. 25 August 2011. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ David Marr, Patrick White – A Life, Random House Australia, Sydney, 1991.
  27. ^ Fleming, Peter; Falling into History; Xlibris; 2011.
  28. ^
  29. ^ Kiandra Chalet Climate Statistics.
  30. ^ "KIANDRA CHALET". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved July 2013. 

External links[edit]