Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is the kind of place you come for a day and stay for a week, all the while hatching plans for when you can next get back. It is a big, wild, sprawling National Park defined by steep and deep river gorges, roaring waterfalls, long untracked river valleys, dry eucaplypt ridges and enclaves of rain forest. Fire roads and walking tracks lead down to the less rugged river valleys, but access to the most dramatic areas of the park - the huge narrow canyons and gorges - is adventurous.
Chandler River Gorge
Wollomombi Falls and The Chandler River
There is a lovely NP campground at Wollomombi Falls from which you can easily walk around the all the tourist tracks in a morning or afternoon, even allowing for all the gawping you'll do at the jaw-dropping views. From the picnic area, a track leads across the top of Wollomombi Falls to Chandler Falls, and, in the other direction, the view from Checks Lookout is simply stunning. The surrounding rolling farmland gives no indication of the steep and rugged nature of these gorges which seem to simply open below your feet.
Wollomombi and Chandler Falls
We scrambled down to the Chandler River from near the campground, a somewhat adventurous descent that required a half length of climbing rope to get all the way to the river 500 metres below. Apart from one small rock slab which required careful downclimbing, travel downstream was relatively easy, scrambling over smooth river boulders past sandy banks and pools crossing the river occasionally when required. We got as far as viewing Church Rock before stopping for lunch on a big boulder in the middle of the river.
Pools along the Chandler River
After lunch, we scramble upstream through a magical landscape of small waterfalls, deep pools, and glistening rock slabs. Red bugs live on fallen leaves, and a carpet of tiny fern leaves floats on a rock pool studded with water droplets. We are dwarfed by the boulders in the river, and everywhere there is water, carving out new pools and chasms and channels. We travel as far as we can without swimming, then find a clean, smooth rock slab for another break and we sit, sip tea from our flasks, and listen to the sibilant hiss of the river as it slides down the river rocks washing them smooth.
There is a reason these are called wild rivers
It is a whole other world down in the bottom of the gorge. There is rock and water, and shifting glimpses of sky far above. It is a misty, rainy kind of day, perfect for exploring this narrow land of rock and water, where the vegetation clings to bare rock faces in a perpetual battle against gravity.
Small falls on the Chandler River
Moona Creek Gorge
The main rivers in Oxley Wild Rivers are the Apsley, Chandler and Macleay Rivers, but dozens of other small rivers and streams run into these larger rivers, and these smaller watercourses have carved yet more dramatic gorges.
Not far from the frequently visited Apsley Falls section of the park is Moona Creek and another gorge, this one almost 600 metres deep, improbably carved out by inconsequential Moona Creek. Unlike nearby Apsley Gorge, Moona Creek has no facilities, but it is well worth spending a day walking along the edge of the gorge, crossing over the top of the tiny waterfall that is Moona Creek, and scouting out all the viewpoints along the gorge rim.
Looking down the headwaters of Moona Creek
Apsley Gorge, Budds Mare and The Apsley River
Camping at Apsley Gorge is deservedly popular. The site we had over looked the fabulous Apsley Gorge, which may not be as deep as other gorges, but is every bit as spectacular with two waterfalls, deep pools and narrow rock walls lining the bottom of the gorge. The tourist track along the rim offers spectacular views and we even saw a platypus swimming in one of the pools below.
It's worth the trek out to Budds Mare, where the campground is a small enclave among towering eucalpyts perched on a plateau overlooking the Apsley River where it runs deeper and slower. The ridgelines are all dry eucalpyt forest but the gullies harbour moist green rainforest. The starry nights are quiet but for the sound of nocturnal birds and animals, and, in the morning, the valley, far below is draped in mist shifting across the river valley.
The view from Budds Mare down to the Apsley River
A faint, but easily followed track descends 700 metres down a dry eucalpyt ridgeline to the Apsley River where there are deep pools for swimming and gravel banks shaded by she-oaks for camping. We spent the day exploring down river walking along grassy banks, past small rushing rapids, and sluggish deep pools. The river is a corridor for travel, and wild horses roam the valley.
Apsley River and Paradise Rocks