Monday, July 15, 2013

More Travels in Sandstone Country

After walking Across the Roof of Queensland, we had a few more places to visit in Central Queensland. First was Isla Gorge National Park, a small national park protecting gorge country off the Leichardt Highway south of Theodore. There is a small campground about 2 km off the highway and a short walk to a look-out over the Park, but no other trails. Our initial plan had been to descend into the gorge for some walking, but, after looking over the gorge, we decided to walk ridge-lines along the top of the gorge. This is easily accomplished as the bush is not thick and only a minor amount of scrambling is required. The cliffs are much smaller here – 10 metres versus 100 metres in Carnarvon Gorge and very broken so access to the gorge floor would be easy.

From Isla Gorge we continued south to Lake Murphy Conservation Area. Lake Murphy is ephemeral. Nearby Robinson Creek must flood to fill the lake, which, had obviously occurred in the not too distant past as there was plenty of water in the lake. The lake is too shallow for kayaking, but it is easy to walk around the lake on the shore-line. The primary attraction is the bird-life, not as abundant as at Lake Nuga Nuga, but sizeable numbers of water birds are present. The camping area at Lake Murphy is lovely. Nice open grassy sites with picnic tables and, best of all, very few other campers. We stayed two nights. I circumnavigated the lake twice and we also did the short 3 to 4 km walking trail that follows Robinson Creek. As to birds, we saw many of the same birds we saw at Lake Nuga Nuga – ducks, apostle birds, black swans, pelicans, plovers as well as some other wading birds I cannot identify and three Jabiru.

From Lake Murphy we day-tripped out to Robinson Gorge in Expedition National Park. First stop here is the unfortunately named “Cattle Dip” which, in reality, rather than being a shallow mucky trough, is a narrow gorge through sandstone with a permanent waterhole. Viewing is from above via a short walk. Next we walked up to Shepherds Peak which gives a good view of the surrounding park. Robinson Gorge is visible as a slash through the plateau and in the distance are other sandstone bluffs. Finally, Robinson Gorge look-out, which offers a superb vista over the gorge. A cacophony of bird song drifts up to the look-out from the base of the gorge. A good access track leads to the bottom of the gorge where you can wander either up or down stream. We went upstream. Expect slow walking down here as the grass grows neck high in places making it hard to see that your next foot step is about to plunge into a deep hole. Progress tends to be lurching. Upstream, past the look-out, however, the river is dry and the walking is easy on soft sand on the gorge floor. Apparently, people do walk downstream to the Cattle Dip but it would be wise to have a full day, if not two for that. We had a swim – or rather a dip – in the river before climbing back up.

After a last night at Lake Murphy, we drove north to Theodore where we got some weather reports. The weather on the coast was still sounding mixed so we decided to take our time driving up to the Townsville area – our next destination – and visited yet another National Park in the central Queensland sandstone belt – Blackdown Tableland National Park.

A sign at the start of the access road warns that the road is not suitable for caravans, but we had no problem towing our little 13 foot van up to the lovely campground. The road is mostly tarmac, although narrow and winding, and only the last 7 to 9 km is gravel, and in good shape.

There are a few short walks you can do in the Park, handily, two leave from the campground so you don't need to drive. One leads to a view point where you can see Mimosa Creek gorge leading southeast into the lower country, the other is an interpretive loop that passes some interesting rock formations and Aboriginal stencil art. We also drove to Gudda Gumoo where a two kilometre trail leads to a view point over another gorge leading out to the plains and a series of quite stunning waterfalls on south Mimosa Creek.

One of the best things about Blackdown Tableland National Park is that there are a bunch of big sandstone boulders near the which provided good bouldering!

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