Monday, 16 March 2015

Lawn Hill National Park (Boodjamulla), Riversleigh & Mt Isa, Central West Qld to Cunnamulla

Adel's Grove is a 32 hectare freehold property completely surrounded by the 6,000 square km Lawn Hill Station cattle property which is a Fauna & Flora Reserve.

We are now 340 km NW of Mt Isa or not far from the Qld / NT border.

Around 1920, Adel's Grove was taken up by Albert de Lestang, a French botanist.
By 1930 he had some 1,000 species of exotic and native plants, shrubs & trees growing here & supplied the Botanical Gardens of the world with the seeds produced by his nursery.
The Botanical Gardens in Brisbane still has 536 different samples of seeds sent to them by Albert.

Unfortunately in the early 1950's, much of his Botanical Gardens was accidentally  destroyed by fire  from the nearby mine. By this time Albert was in his early 70's & having lost all of his lifetime work & written records he succumbed to great depression & a broken spirit.

Due to so much tree planting, much of the large camp ground called The Grove is shady.
The top campground also has sites in a bush setting for those who have pets or want to run their generator.
We of course chose 1 of these sites as our caravan batteries need charging from the sunshine via solar panels.

Adel's Grove run tours to the Lawn Hill Gorge, Riversleigh Fossil Fields or the MMG Zinc Century Mine. There's also a Harry's Hill Sunset Tour.

Harry's Hill is just a 2 km walk from the campground. This hill gave us magnificent views of the Constance Range in the distance. This is also the only place to get mobile phone & internet reception if staying at Adel's Grove. (Boodjamulla NP also has mobile phone service)

Adel's Grove sits beside the Lawn Hill Creek. This section of the creek is a part of the Lawn Hill Gorge further up stream. Our Hobie Kayak has been sitting on the roof of our car & hadn't been used in months as we were mostly around crocodile infested waterways - including the ocean.
So with much anticipation we were able to take it in turns to paddle up & down the pretty creek.

Our next stay was with in the Lawn Hill NP (new name Boodjamulla NP), just 10 kms SW of Adel's Grove. Most people choose to stay at Adel's Grove & drive to & from the gorge.
We love to stay in national parks in more natural surroundings.
We had to prebooked our camp site via the government website, however there are only 20 sites available, so it is advisable to book in advance & no generators are allowed here.
There is a lovely amenities block, but cold showers only.
The advantage of being here is that we are much closer to the gorge & don't have to take the kayak off the roof all the time to return to our campsite as opposed to Adel's Grove which is 10 km away.

Boodjamulla NP is a 2,820 square km National Park that was established in 1985.

The park contains several creeks, waterholes, gorges & sandstone ranges.
Millions of years of erosion has stripped away the sandstone & limestone to leave behind rugged escarpments, gorges & rocky outcrops.

Lawn Hill Gorge, the primary attraction of the park, cuts through the sandstone plateau of the Constance Range, on the Eastern extremity of the Barkly Tableland.
The gorge has been carved our by Lawn Hill Creek, which flows all year & is fed by numerous freshwater springs from the limestone plateau to the west.
The Gregory & O'Shanassy Rivers also flow through the park.

There are spectacular 60 m high sandstone walls through the 2 parts to the gorge.
Crystal clear green water that feeds lush vegetation which includes Livistona palms, Leichhardt trees, paperbarks, figs, pandanus & white cedar trees - remnants of the ancient rainforest that covered the Gulf Savannah millions of years ago.
There is also  diverse wildlife including agile wallabies, wallaroos, possums, bats, olivine pythons, water monitors, tortoises & much birdlife.
There are also 2 Aboriginal Art viewing areas that we didn't see.

The NP has over 20 kms of walking tracks. The most popular walking tracks are to visit the gorge from above.
The daytime temperatures are in the mid 30's in July (the coolest time of the year), so we started out early for our Upper Gorge Lookout walk.....those distances are 1 way !
The information sheet also rates this walk as 'difficult'.

Views from atop down to the Indarri Falls from a side track.

We came across this little lizard sunning itself.....I'm rather impressed with it's very long 4th toe on the back foot.....

The Upper gorge Lookout was worth the long walk. Spectacular views of the gorge, watching canoeists paddling by.

Parts of the return walk is back along the Lawn Hill Creek where we had wonderful views of the gorge walls mixed with the pretty vegetation.

Indarri Falls from another lookout. Walkers can take a swim in the creek to cool off before the walk back.

From up top, I took a series of  photos as a panorama.

Then decided to take a panorama shot as well :-)

The spinifex & native shrubs are still green & very pretty against the red brown rock.

We also visited Duwadarri Lookout, that gave similar views of the lower gorge.

Part of the camp ground below.

The information sheet gave us advice to go anti clock wise when visiting these gorge was great advice as we came almost straight down from up top of that hill ......

We had just 1 kayak with us for our Qld trip......we own 2 & both would have been handy for this 6 km return trip up both gorges.
We chose to not hire another canoe & just take a rubber inner tyre tube instead & take it in turns of paddling.

The sandstone walls were spectacular & every curve of the creek revealed another pretty scene.

I didn't take any photos of us moving our kayak, but the whole gorge is separated in 2 gorges - Upper & Lower - the Indarri Falls separate both gorges.
We made it to the end of the Upper gorge where natural springs feed the gorge & Lawn Hill Creek.

This section of the creek is quite narrow & as the water flows faster here to get up stream, Rod had to paddle quite strongly to get was hard work with me being pulled behind.
I took this photo on our way back, so the water is taking us down stream & as I was paddling now, I didn't need as much effort as Rod did to get through earlier.

These are the Indarri Falls. To the left of this photo is the section where we had to take the kayak out of the water & walk 50 m to the upper gorge section & paddle another couple of kms.

The reflections of the 60 m high walls in the water on the way back were quite pretty.

There were several harmless fresh water crocodiles - Johntsone's Crocodiles - sunning themselves on many rocky ledges along the gorge creek.

On another day, Rod took the kayak back up the gorge in the morning & I did the same after lunch as far as the Indarri Falls. This time I was able to take more photos at leisure & use my binoculars to do some bird watching.

There a few other walks not far from the gorge. We walked along the Lawn Hill Creek, down stream  & across to find the Cascades.

We found fascinating tufa formations along this section. Tufa's are a variety of limestone, formed by precipitation of carbonate minerals. Lawn Hill Creek has a high concentration of calcium.
Much further down stream closer to Adel's Grove, we could see the white film on the surface of the water.

I was constantly on the look out for birds during our stay at both Adel's Grove & Lawn Hill NP.

The Buff-sided Robin was found mostly along the Lawn Hill Creek in both places. These non shy birds were easy to photograph.

Not far from our campsite @ Adel's Grove was a beautiful flowering eucalypt tree.
Varied Lorikeet  were in abundance as they fed from the blossums.

A Banded Honeyeater.

I encountered many Great Bowerbird's Bowers. This one was an active one......

The male shows off his bower to catch a suitable female

She inspects his handiwork & if she likes it enough, they will mate.

Lawn Hill Gorge is home to the Sandstone Shrike-thrush. I was lucky enough to not only hear a couple of them, but get to photograph 1 of them high up on a rocky ledge.
Full zoom & cropped photo.

Another endemic bird to these parts is the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren. I saw plenty of them along the creek during our walks & kayak trips, but was unable to get decent photos as they hopped about the ground & pandanus palms looking for insects.
On our last morning I birded around the camp ground nice & early just after sun rise & I came across a family playing around someone else's car mirrors........

I took a series of about 10 shots of this fellow looking at his reflection....

During my slow solo kayak trip up the gorge, I came across a group of Spinifex Pigeons coming down the sloping rocks for an afternoon drink.

Once we left Lawn Hill National Park, we chose to take the more direct route south towards the Barkly Highway & Mt Isa & travel through Riversleigh.

We had been told that sections of the road had recently been graded......trouble is the grading chopped up rocks into smaller shards of rocks, where driving was more hazardous....fortunately we managed to travel this part of the road with out any punctures or cut tyres due to Rod's careful driving.
I think that this road was by far the worst we had travelled on during our 14,500 km trip.

Just south of Lawn Hill NP is the Riversleigh Fossil Fields. This is a world heritage listed section of the Boodjamulla NP. The fossil field is of enormous significance.
Palaeontologists have discovered creatures formerly unknown to science.
Pale grey limestone, formed in spring fed lakes & pools once nourished a vast rainforest, encase the fossilised remains of strange animals, birds reptiles & plants that span 25 millions years ago.

A purpose built cave to house information boards inside.

I'll let the placards do the talking......

Outside as we walk around, there's more information boards & bones.....

whilst up on a hill, panoramic views to the north

& to the south

The drive through Riversleigh & further south finally came to an end.....

Camooweal has a very popular free camp just on the western side of town along the Leichhardt River. Here the drying up river forms several lagoons that is very popular for the birds & campers to enjoy the serenity.....though not so peaceful as we were to find out.
This free camp is called Camooweal Lagoon.
Campers were lining the river for a few kilometers, but finding a camp spot wasn't that difficult.
When we arrived mid afternoon, a southerly wind was blowing.
Dozens of Little Corellas were trying to warm themselves as best they could.....fluffing their feathers up to try & get some more warmth.

1 of the smaller waterholes.

Zebra finchs foraged on the ground around peoples caravan site.

A Pink-eared & Pacific Black Duck.

On our journey back towards Mt Isa the next morning we flushed 4 Wedge-tailed Eagles off a dead road kill animal.

Mt Isa began life in 1923 when lead was discovered in the area.
Many mining leases were taken up by the end of the year & a township grew.  Mt Isa Mines was established by 1924. Initially the ore was transported to the Townsville port, initially by camel & then by rail. Eventually by 1931 smelter operations commenced.
Copper was mined in 1943 to meet the government's WW2 needs.
Due to increasing mining operations, more infrastructure was built as the town slowly grew from this main industry including Lake Moondarra that was built in 1958 on the Leichhardt River, 16 kms from town.

Mt Isa has much to offer through out this sprawling town.  Via the information centre, Underground mine tours to the "Hard Times Mine", galleries & art shops, Riversleigh Fossil Field, Bureau of Meteorology, School of the Air (distance education of a 80,000 square kilometre classroom with children from out of town properties), an annual Rodeo in early August & much more.
The town look out gives 360* views.

Also from the lookout.....a home perched on a hill with its own magnificent views.

The Underground Hospital is another popular attraction. The hospital was built in 1942 following the bombing of Darwin, fearing that Mt Isa too would be attacked.  The hospital was tunnelled into the side of a hill by volunteer workers from Mt Isa mines
The plaque below gives more information

The Underground Hospital is now a museum hospital with plenty of antique equipment on show that was used over the decades. Outside temperatures can reach over 40*c outside during summer, but the temps in the tunnels remain refreshingly cool 25* C.

Tent houses were a great example as a "quick fix" housing for the miners & their families. They had canvas walls, a tin roof 7 mostly dirt floors. They were cheap & easily built & capable of being relocated. Approximately 300 of these houses stood in Mt Isa until the early 1960's, with most have since been demolished.

This restored tent house is the only Tent House left & can be found next to the Underground Hospital.

The Information Centre has an art gallery up stairs that requires an entry fee. In the main foyer a couple of wall murals adorn the walls.

My main focus for staying in the area was to find 2 particular species of amongst the spinifex grass on rocky slopes outside town.

Searching for recent locations of these birds took some research from the birding website that I submit lists to.
The Carpentarian Grass-wren was approx 70 kms west of Mt Isa, & then 8 kms along a mining access road. (whilst I went looking for said bird, Rod heard on the CB radio from truck drivers commenting to each other that "tourists that must be lost" ......if only they knew how important these birds are as very few can be found now as they are listed as 'endangered'

I had to walk for approx 45 mins in the late morning heat around the open bush & rocky slopes for approx 800 m to find this pair.
They kept moving away from me if I got too close, so these pics were taken at a decent distance with my 50 optical zoom camera & then cropped.

I also found a Crested Bellbird singing his heart away (below) & a Black-tailed Treecreeper (no photo here)

A Grey-headed Honeyeater was also another "new" bird for me.

To find the Kalkadoon Grass-wren, we had to drive approx 30 kms south of Mt Isa towards a couple of creeks that these birds like to frequent.
Armed with a fairly good ( 2 month old) description of where to find this bird, I walked along a dry sandy creek. In the creek & up the hilly slopes were several rocky outcrops. It was difficult to know where the pair might be as they move about quite a lot. It's like "looking for a needle in a haystack".

I got lucky again.......2  Kalkadoon Grass-wrens were moving about a rocky outcrop approx 500 m from the road, not too far from the previous location given 2 months earlier.

Many birders envy sightings such as these, so I felt very privileged to have seen both Grass-wren species for the area.

Not far from our caravan park, along the drying Leichhardt River banks, were dozens of of Eucalypt trees with suitable holes for 100's of nesting Budgerigars.

We spent a day out at Lake Moondarra as I searched for more birds. The lakes water level is getting quite low. Lake Moondarra is Mt Isa's water supply.

Diamond Dove sat waiting to be photographed :-)

The Mt Isa Rodeo was on in the next few days, so we made a hasty exit out of town.
Corella Dam free camp was just 50 kms east of Mt Isa & made an ideal spot for our next stop.
The dam was built to supply water for the nearby Mary Kathleen Uranium mine. That mine closed down in the 1982. The dam is mostly used for recreational purposes now.
A large Free Camp around the dam where travellers stay awhile. Whilst the water level seems low in this photo, the water is actually deep in the main section & was enjoyable for Rod to try some fishing & me to paddle a kilometre away for some bird watching. I spotted several Fresh water crocodiles in the water & some sunning themselves on the bank of the dam.

That's the dam wall near the centre of this photo.

10 kms west of Cloncurry we came to a road block. Some travellers had been waiting 30 mins.
We waited another 45 mins whilst workmen removed a wrecked semi-trailer that veered off the side of the road during the night.

Later in the day we stopped for a cool drink at this famous pub that's practically in the middle of nowhere.
It was made famous by the movie Crocodile Dundee starring Paul Hogan.

The original hotel was set further back from the road for the movie & due to WPH&S rules,
a timber floor has been added after the pub was moved.

The surrounding district between Cloncurry & Longreach is mostly flat grassy plains.
Many of the paddocks we drove past looked very sad with little to no grass due to the current long drought with no rain fall falling during the previous summer.

We did encounter the occasional "jump up". A jump up is an Australian term used  for a slight but abrupt rise in the landscape - mesa.

Some of the drive was rather uninteresting, but I found these cloud formations fascinating.

We stopped for the night @ a tiny town called Kynuna.
Besides the small caravan park, service station come pub, there was little else.
Sadly we had no mobile internet service....we are in the middle of no where - 200 kms west & 200 kms east to the nearest town. There's a mobile phone tower, but it costs $10,000 to connect to mobile service via satellite.
Sadly this is common & is another example of how remote we are & how much the govt's ignore the needs of the thousands of travellers & semi-trailer drivers using this road each day.

This Brolga has decided to make the caravan park his home.

We made our way through Central Qld fairly quickly & stayed on a family cattle property near Charleville for a week before heading south to Cunnamulla.
We stayed @ Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary outside Cunnamulla for about 4 days whilst I did lots of bird watching.
Bowra is renowned to most Australian bird watchers as being an important birding site to find the "western" bird species. I didn't come away disappointed.

Plum-headed Finches were common around the camp ground during our stay.

Chestnut-crowned Babbler found in this region only for Qld.

White-browed Woodswallows & other Woodswallows were common @ Bowra whilst we were there.
Many of them were breeding in any decent tree hollow they could find.

A pair of Bourke's Parrot were breeding not far from the Camp ground.

Hooded Robin.

I got lucky with this Red-browed Pardolote photo as he sat on a dead tree not far from where I was standing.

A pair of Collared Sparrowhawk were nesting a few kms from the homestead / camp ground. This one has food beneath it's tallons.

Splended Fairy-wrens were difficult to photograph.

A Major-Mitchell cockatoo feeding a nut at the top of a tree was an easy shot for me. these birds are also mostly seen in more western regions of Qld.

A pair of Red Kangaroos coming in for a drink. Red roos are male.....their females are Blue. Red's & Blue's aren't as common as the Grey seen everywhere.

I was rather fascinated by the sign on the fence at this "dump site" for travellers near the township of waste water dump.

We stayed at another Free Camp on the fringes of Nindigully Pub, another iconic Western Qld Pub between St George & Warwick.

1 of the original buildings.

We stayed a night next to Lake Coolmunda, about 80 kms west of Warwick.
Sadly our peaceful afternoon was interrupted by an afternoon storm

The pretty sunset later was worth a few photographs.

We timed our visit to this area for some bird watching with Birds Queensland (BQ) w/e camp not far from Lake Coolmunda.....
A striking White-winged Fairy-wren

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater after taking a bath in the dam we sat beside to watch the birds come in.

I rarely get to see Little Lorikeets down this low in the trees.

A Squatter Pigeon after it was flushed from the roadside.

Yellow-rumped Thornbills feed mostly on or near the ground have the prettiest of calls.

Our Qld tour finished after this BQ w/e camp. We were just 4 hrs from home.

We travelled 14,500 kms of roads all the way up the east coast of Qld to the tip of Cape York, Atherton Tablelands, west along the Savannah Way towards Karumba, further west to Lawn Hill NP & back through central & western Qld.

We had a thoroughly amazing time. The landscape is diverse, but hundreds of kms have to be travelled to get from A to B.

No comments:

Post a Comment