The Three Rivers Hotel in Greenvale, Qld, draws travellers, workers, Slim Dusty fans and anyone wanting to revisit the good old days.

Story By Carly Crummey

Growing up on a station in Queensland’s central west, Slim Dusty’s songs were a staple of Lou Fletcher’s childhood. So when she heard that the pub that bears the name of one of his famous ballads – the Three Rivers Hotel – was on the market, she travelled thousands of kilometres north to investigate.
“I imagined it to be a falling down two-storey Queenslander, but when I got here I was really pleasantly surprised – it’s beautiful,” Lou says from behind the bar, pausing to greet the laid-back town’s new constable. “I only heard about this place through a friend and was lucky to get it, being so far away – especially as two days after I signed the contract, someone else put an offer in.”
With the help of four other female staff members – Becky, Tracey and the two Staceys – Lou runs the bar, which is a regular talking point for the constant wave of road workers who can pull-up at the pub for months at a time. “One recent crew stayed for three months, so we really got to know them and hear all their stories, and now they are bringing their families back to visit,” Lou says.
Others that stop by the Three Rivers Hotel are travellers on their way to Cairns or the Undara Lava Tubes. They have their photos taken next to the images of country-music legend Slim and railway construction worker Stan Coster – the lesser-known identity who fashioned the song’s lyrics using his own experience on the Townsville to Greenvale line. Both of their faces frame the much-loved verses about hard work and harder play that decorate the back wall.
Often described as an “oasis in the outback” for its lushness, Greenvale has a relatively short, but eventful history. Nickel deposits were found about 300 kilometres west of Townsville in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Queensland Nickel drilled and found that a mining operation was viable.
The company needed a site for a town to house hundreds of workers and enlisted the help of long-time local Henry Atkinson who owned Lucky Downs Station and a lot of the surrounding area at that time.
Although the land at the station would have been ideal its owner, not surprisingly, didn’t want it covered in buildings and people, so Henry presented an alternative three options to the company and they chose what he determined was the second-best site.
Meanwhile, the railway line was progressing to Townsville and most of the construction workers were based at camps along the three watercourses in the area: the Burdekin, Star and Clarke rivers. It was here that a wet mess was created as a spot where all the workers could retire after a day of hard slog in the blistering heat, and a makeshift sign above the doorway had it christened the “Three Rivers Hotel”.

This story excerpt is from Issue #66

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2009