Carnarvon Gorge, Qld

We left Brisbane on 8th of September for Cooktown. Having done the coast road on our first trip north we headed west to take the inland road north from Roma. A three year drought has made inland Queensland a dust bowl, but it is still a beautiful area.

Our first over night stop was at Bowenville Reserve, a free camp on the bank of the Oakey Creek. Local councils provide free camps for caravans near small towns (particularly those bypassed by highways) as a means of injecting revenue into the towns. Most grey nomads are retired and most take along their dog. Caravan parks can be expensive and not many are dog friendly so they head to free camps. The nearby town provides a place to get provisions; petrol, groceries, fresh food, fishing tackle, post office, newsagent etc. and a chat with the locals who are always happy to talk about the history of the area. We find the free camps much more relaxed and quiet than caravan parks,  and more spacious so we can leave the van hitched to the car, which is convenient when staying overnight. The councils often provide a toilet, but no other amenities. No drinking water, power, or anything else so being self contained is important.

Bowenville Reserve, has a small boat ramp for tinnies and kayaks. Lots of people had kayaks with them.

Next stop was Judds Lagoon for two nights, another free camp just off the Warrego Highway near Yuleba. Some enterprising local sells fire wood and braziers made out of various things including gas cylinders. If they hadn’t been so heavy we would have bought one. An honesty box was bolted to a tree for payments. He also provided a trolley to carry the wood, fantastic! We sat around our fire easting slow cooked lamb shanks for dinner done in the camp oven on the Baby-Q.

Our next stop was Takarakka Bush Resort in the Carnarvon Gorge. Kangaroos, emus and cattle were in abundance along the Carnarvon Hwy, so the drive was slow. We have never seen so many emus in one place before, too many to count.  Came close to hitting a roo. There is a saying that if you see one roo, look for the second one coming along behind, so true. From the Carnarvon Hwy to Takarakka is 40km of dirt road with several creek crossings, it took us over an hour. The road passes through several large cattle properties before entering the Carnarvon National Park. Stock wander across the road all the way along. One property was growing crops for fattening up the cattle prior to sale. The lush green paddocks were quite a contrast to the dusty brown land surrounding them. The fine road dust entered the van through every possible ventilation crack and covered the inside with a layer of dust like brown talc powder.

Takarakka Bush Resort is the only caravan park near Carnarvon Gorge. There is camping further into the national park but only for tents or small off road vans. Takarakka is a beautiful camp ground. The water comes directly from the Carnarvon Creek and is wonderful to drink. There are lots of kangaroos and bird life around the camp, we saw a ‘Pied Currawong’ (like a magpie but slimmer) fly off with a packet of paper napkins in its beak. There is no internet or phone reception, a two way radio is provided near the office for emergencies out of hours, Wifi can be purchased but is slow. The camp is well run, clean and with friendly staff. Each afternoon at 4.30 there is an information talk about the various walks,  very informative and useful.

We could only get a booking for three nights and would have preferred to stay a week as we only got to see half the places. Will book well in advance next time and stay longer.

Walks at Carnarvon Gorge.

The main walking track through the gorge leaves the Visitor’s Centre (which is under-construction) at the very end O’Briens Road, about 5k drive from Takarakka. There are short walks off O’Briens Rd prior to the main track.  These each have car parks and are well sign posted.

With only two days for hiking we managed to cover a lot of ground, but missed out on about half the gorge. We will definitely be back to finish it.

On our first day we visited Baloon Cave, Mickeys Creek and Warrumbah Bluff, the Nature Trail and the Rock Pool.

Baloon Cave – 1km from car park. (has wheelchair access)

Mickey Creek and Warrumbah Bluff. 3km from car park and a further 200mtrs to Warrumbah Bluff. The information session back at camp mentioned that if we continue past the sign that says ‘formed track ends here’ there is a cavern following Mickeys Creek and its possible to go into it until the sides are so narrow you can’t fit through. It was well worth going the extra distance. The water was only ankle to knee deep  but we had lots more walking to do and didn’t want to get wet shoes. Next time we would take our thongs so we could walk through the water rather than along the rocks on the side.

Nature Trail – a 1.5km walk leaves from the ‘yet to be finished’ visitors centre being built in the established picnic area. Toilets, BBQs, tables, taps etc. Lots of parking for cars and buses. Lots of wallabies, kangaroos, kookaburras, and the grey Apostle Bird which we hadn’t seen before.

Saw a flash of red about the size of a butterfly in the bushes, then realised it was a little bird. A male red backed fairy wren.

Rock Pool – 600mtrs from car park. If you keep walking along the creek past the first rock pool there is a second much larger and deeper pool. The water is cloudy from the sandstone and it was icy cold. Tim went in alone.

On our second day we did a 6 hour hike through the gorge visiting Wards Canyon, the Art Gallery, Amphitheatre and the Moss Garden.

The Main Walking Track through the gorge crosses Carnarvon Creek multiple times.

Our first stop was Wards Canyon as half way along the main track we saw tyre marks in the sand which continued for quite a long way. We were fascinated as to what kind of vehicle it was as the terrain was quite rough in places. Then we found it. The equipment had been dumped onto the creek bed by helicopter and then transferred by the works the rest of the way.

The Art Gallery. A must see.

The Amphitheatre, amazing. Like being in a cave with a hole in the top.

The Moss Garden. I remember this from my school trip in 1972.

From Carnarvon Gorge we head north to Charters Towers.

cheers for now

Helen and Tim