Thousands of years ago a large number of fish were stranded on dryland after the water level suddenly fell. The fish, many of them unique, were preserved for posterity in layers of rock only to be discovered in the 1900s and then catapulted into fame when their true value was realised.
In between the land has seen many changes, particularly in the past 150 years with the development of a township not far from where the fishwere left high and dry.
From crude beginnings on the south of the Belubula River it was realised by most that a township on the north side would dobetter and in 1846, the same year as Governor Fitzroy visited the area, the first buildings were erected.
The private town developed steadily as it was adjacent to one of the few crossings of the river and in a piecemeal style with odd blocks of land and no formal street plan, hence the winding nature of the main street,Gaskill Street. Nearby copper and gold mines at Belmore ( now Moorbel ) also contributed.
Its next claim to fame came in 1863 when bushranger Ben Hall and his gang took over Robinson's Inn, later the Royal Hotel, and took townsfolk as hostages.
After the first road bridge was built in 1874 the town developed at a faster pace and many of the old homes and buildings date from the latter part of the 19th century. The town became a service centre for the Belubula valley and surrounding wheat area.
Today the colourful past repays Canowindra handsomely. Walking along the streets takes you back to the 1800s while a visit to the museum and antique shops giveyou an idea of how the people lived.
Canowindra's still air, cool mornings and warm days have made it an ideal location for hot air ballooning and have led to the town b eing known as 'Australia's BalloonCapital'. A number of companies offer flights over the town while there are events which feature ballooning, including Marti's Balloon Fiesta in April.
The Age of Fishes fossil project looks set to put the town on other maps with a museum being developed and many fossil experts and students involved.