Although a modest outback town, Tennant Creek
is the Territory's most important settlement after Darwin
, Alice Springs
Located 377 m above sea level and enjoying an annual rainfall of 470 mm, Tennant Creek
is the most important township on the Barkly Tablelands. With a population
of over 3500, Tennant Creek
is the administrative centre for an area larger than the state of Victoria
. It is situated at the meeting of the Stuart and Barkly Highways and is 504 km north of Alice Springs
and 978 km south of Darwin
The first European to pass through Tennant Creek
was the explorer John McDouall Stuart. During his expedition in 1860 he named the creek after his friend and sponsor John Tennant, the father of the South Australian pastoralist and politician, Andrew Tennant (1835-1913). Between 1860 and 1862, McDouall Stuart made three expeditions before finally reaching the north shore. His purpose was to map a path for the overland telegraph which was being extended from England to Australia
It wasn't until 1872, when the telegraph line was completed and a permanent repeater station was built, that people moved into the area in small numbers. This station, which lies 11 km to the north of town, was closed down in 1979 and currently operates as a museum (see entry in Things to See).
Opposite the Telegraph Station are two lonely graves - one is of notorious cattle duffer Tom Nugent, the owner of Banka Banka Station, who died in 1911, and the other is of Archibald Cameron, an employee of the telegraph station who died in 1918.
The search for gold in the Northern Territory
in the late 1870s led to the discovery of small traces in the creeks and gullies south of the telegraph station in 1879. However the source of the gold remained a mystery and returns were insufficient to sustain prolonged interest and endeavour.