Tennant Creek is the regional centre for the Barkly Tablelands. It is about 600 km, or a day's drive, north from Alice Springs and was at one stage the third-richest goldfield of Australia.
Tennant Creek was named for John Tennant of Port Lincoln by John McDouall Stuart who said, 'I should think it a likely place to find gold in'. About forty years later Alan Davidson did discover gold at Tennant Creek in 1901.
The Tennant Creek Repeater Station was opened on 24 August 1872 as one of twelve repeater stations in a small hut of three rooms. This small temporary building was erected near the watercourse for Tennant Creek and, in 1874, the occupants of the Overland Telegraph Station completed the stone buildings, which remain today. As in Alice Springs, a 25 square mile reserve was proclaimed in 1874 around the station.
After the completion of the Telegraph Station it remained an isolated group of buildings in the middle of nowhere. The town of Tennant Creek did not eventuate until the discovery of large gold deposits in the 1930s which gave rise to Australia's last major gold rush. During 1935 the operations at the Telegraph Station were transferred to the new township.
In 1933 payable gold was found by the Peter Pan Gold Mining Company. The Great Northern Mine, owned by H.J. Udall produced 625 grams of gold from eight tons of ore treated at the Peterborough Government crushers in South Australia. There were about a hundred men on the field. Constable Muldoon of Barrow Creek was appointed Warden of Goldfields and arrived in September 1933. A year later, other discoveries were made resulting in as many as three hundred men working the fields.
In May 1935 a Township was surveyed when about 600 people were in the area. Government batteries were also started and Joe Kilgariff, publican of Alice Springs who had established a hotel at Tennant Creek in June 1934 was doing a rip roaring business.
During the Second World War the site was used by the Australian Army as a staging camp for convoys of troops and supplies. Italian miners, who had been working in the local area for years were rounded up and sent to internment camps at Tatura in Victoria.
On 22 October 1979 the $5 million Alice Springs-Tennant Creek micro-wave radio link was opened. It employed the world's latest solar energy technology and brought modern telecommunications to the centre of Australia. To overcome the problem of distance 13 repeater stations had to be build with antennas of up to 76 metres high.
Today the town has a population of about 4,000 people and is the commercial hub of the Barkly region.