Exploring Adels Grove in Outback Queensland — Part II

Posted on June 18, 2014 by


 I’ve just returned from a four-day glamping trip with Adels Grove that got me out and about in the Boodjamulla National Park and Riversleigh area of Outback Queensland. Here’s Part II of my story on the trip.

Read Part I: Exploring Adels Grove in Outback Queensland

Day 2: Hike, paddle and drive

The next morning, I awoke just in time to see the sun slowly rising above the tree canopy. With my guide, John Warren, I headed for Boodjamulla National Park (just 10km from Adels Grove) first thing in the morning with the hope of avoiding the blazing mid-day heat.  A kind and wise man in his early fifties, John has worked at Adels Grove for seven seasons now, and he’s a certified Savannah guide just like Rod. I asked what was it about the area that keeps him coming back every season, he explained, “I love being outdoors and active and I enjoy learning. With this job, I never stop learning.” It was clear that I was in great company.

Covering an extensive area of over two million acres, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is a fauna sanctuary with rich geological and ecological diversity as well as Aboriginal history. The Aboriginal Waanyi people have lived in the gorge area for over 30,000 years and know this place as Boodjamulla or Rainbow Serpent country. It is sacred to the Waanyi people who believe that Boodjamulla, the creator of all the animals in the Dreamtime, made all the animals in the Lawn Hill area and created the rivers as healing waters. Waanyi people believe when Boodjamulla is disturbed, he will cause thunderstorms, hail and floods; and he will stop the water.

Lawn Hill Gorge

When the European explorers arrived, they opened up the area and started the pastural industry. Until December 1984, the park was part of Lawn Hill Station, which was once one of Queensland’s largest cattle properties.Sebastian Maia, a Brazilian prospector who owned the land, returned 122 square km on the lease to the state in 1984, on the condition it be managed for the public’s benefit. In 1992, another 1,350 square km was given to the crown to extend the park’s boundaries. Today, the Waanyi people help manage the park along with the mining companies who help fund the maintenance.

The main attraction in the park is the Lawn Hill Gorge, which cuts through the sandstone plateau of the Constance Range, on the eastern extremity of the Barkly Tableland. The gorge has been carved out by Lawn Hill Creek, which flows all year and is fed by numerous freshwater springs from the limestone plateau to the west. There are six hiking trails that weave in and around the gorge and most of which are easy to do on your own. They’re relatively short well-signposted — but it can be very easy to get dehydration or even a heat stroke in the extreme heat. Even in winter, temperature can rose to 39 degrees Celsius at noon, making hiking quite a challenging feat.

View of the creek

Island Stack Walk

John chose to bring me on his favorite hike, the 4km Island Stack walk that island that leads to the top of the island stack. The first part of the hike took us through shaded flat land past cascades composing of unusual concrete-like tufa formations. As John explained, tufa are porous, spongy rock made up of calcium carbonate, which accumulated when the water level around this middle gorge was higher. We weaved our way through a wet river forest packed full of cabbage palms, fig trees, melaleuca and pandanus trees. “This gives us a glimpse of how the area must have looked like 20 million years ago when it was full of thick tropical rainforest.” John explained.

At the bottom of the island stack, we started the steep climb up the rocky trail that meandered it way up the surface of the stack. It didn’t take long to get to the top and within half an hour we were on the lookout point approximately 250 feet above the ground, overlooking the surrounding gorge and Lawn Hill Creek. The panoramic views were impressive: acres of green forests rose alongside the orange sandstone cliffs that seemed to surround us. I stood there with John, drinking in the view and counting my lucky stars for being here.

Island Stack lookout

At the Island Stack Lookout

Flora and Fauna

We then continued on the 1.7km loop walk  that took us around the table top of the stack to get a 360-degree view of the area. It was a different world out here: spinifex burst out from within the red rocks, tiny termite mounds popped randomly, while pink turkey bush flowers and red holly grevillea flaunted their colors. Every turn we took revealed even more stunning views and I couldn’t stop snapping photos, only to have John remind me to put down my camera once in a while and take in the view with my eyes.

As soon as we reached the bottom of the stack, we headed to the water’s edge for a 6km canoe trip on Lawn Hill Creek. I learned from John that the water in the creek flows all year as it is fed by the underground Georgina basin. Even though this area is extremely dry, almost like a desert, the creek remains a year-round oasis where visitors can paddle and swim in. It’s also home to several different types of fish including the archer fish and black striped grunter, as well as the Gulf snapping turtle and freshwater crocodile.

“Don’t worry,” John assured me. “Freshwater crocodiles are timid and they only attack when provoked.” I gulped, praying that our canoe wouldn’t capsize.

The gorge as seen from the water

Kayaking in Lawn Hill Creek

Deeper into the Wild

The spearmint water glittered under the bright sunshine, with so much clarity that I could see the fish swimming beneath us. According to John, the water is green because it has between 70 and 80 milligrams in every liter in the form of calcium carbonate. Limestone waters lack particles like sand and clay and there is no rain during winter months to wash those silty particles into the river, therefore ensuring the water is clear as glass all year round.

As we paddled towards the gorge, I felt like we were leaving the world behind and heading deeper into the wild. Thick forests flank both sides of the river bank, spilling onto the water surface. The sandstone walls towered overhead, as we glided in between them. There was silence except for the sounds of our paddles moving through the water. When I spoke to John, the sound of my voice echoed into the distance.

Within half an hour, we reached our destination: the Indarri Falls, a series of small cascades that separate the upper and middle gorges in Lawn Hill Creek. John explained that it was a natural tufa barrier built up over a period of many thousands of years from the bedrock gorge floor. The falls remain about 1.5meters high whilst during flooding, increased river discharge reduces the height of the falls. We took a break and paddled close to the falls, taking the chance to splash some water on our faces to cool off from the heat.

Approaching Indarri Falls

Swimming in Indarri Falls

Day 3: No pain no gain

Since I couldn’t get enough of Boodjamalla National Park, I decided to head back to the gorge area the next morning to explore more of its hiking trails. There are seven trails in the national park all together — this time I chose to do the 7km hike to the Upper Gorge, which would join two other trails and end at the highest lookout point in the park.

It was the first day I could sleep in since landing in Australia, so I started my hike only at 9am, foolishly thinking I had the full day ahead of me. It was silly of me to be so naive as the sizzling temperatures at noon would prove too much for me to handle during my hike.

The first part of the hike was easy and pleasant as it led me through flat land and forest, running parallel to the creek. I could hear the sound of the creek and catch glimpses of the emerald green color of the water. Then I found myself at the foot of another red sandstone mount — it was time to climb. The trail was similar to the Island Stack walk from yesterday, snaking its way up the craggy rock mount with naturally carved steps on the rock face. It wasn’t difficult, just a short upward descent.

Time to climb

Trail that snakes up the mountain

Unearthly landscapes

Soon enough I was on the top of the mount surrounded by rose red boulders and the verdant greenery of the forests beneath my feet. The landscape reminded me of Uluru and Kings Canyon, except that the Red Center was much more barren and harsh. Here, it felt more like an oasis with lush green forests, a running creek, waterfalls amidst the dry, hot conditions.

A further walk up the steep ridge through the unearthly landscape brought me to the Duwadarri Lookout, where an outrageous view of the creek and gorge awaited. Only superlative words could describe the scene before me — it was serene and calm yet dramatic and mind-blowing all at once. The green color of the jungle, juxtaposed by the rose red mounts and turquoise water, was such an artful assemblage. Beneath my feet, the cliffs plummeted vertically straight down to the creek. Besides the railing, there was nothing separating me and the drop-off.

The hike towards Duwadarri Lookout

Duwadarri Lookout

An Oasis in the Desert

After taking time to soak it all in, I continued on the trail which would first brought me right along the rim of the gorge, at a dizzying height above the creek. Eventually, the trail veered off towards a flat, open area studded with spinifex and snappy gum. By now, the sun was right above my head and the temperature was soaring above 35 degrees Celsius. This was winter in Queensland, just imagine how it would be like in summer!

Thankfully, it took me just under 45 minutes to get to the Indarri Falls Lookout, where I drank in panoramas of the entire creek below me. From here, the picture-perfect view of the creek cascading into a series of small falls off the tufa formations looked spectacular and tempting, so I didn’t waste any time lingering around and carried on down the trail to get to the creek’s edge. I was running out of water — even though I’d brought 3L with me — and my head was aching; I needed to cool down immediately.

As if on cue, the foliage cleared up to reveal the Indarri Falls before me. Without hesitation, I peeled off  my clothes and plunged into the fresh creek water. The water was such a fresh respite and I could feel my body temperature slowly going down to normal. I also met a few other friends who were staying at Adels Grove and they were kind enough to spare me some extra water for me to continue on my journey.

View from Indarri Falls Lookout Indarri Falls from above

A Long Walk to the End

Not long after, it was time to head further up the gorge. I knew I had to get to the end of the gorge, if not I just wouldn’t be satisfied. The trail continued along the water’s edge under the shade of palm trees. It was pleasant to escape from the sweltering heat for a few moments, but of course it didn’t last long. A few kilometers later, I was trudging up steep craggy rocks again without any shade and my water supply running low. It wasn’t a long climb, only 790m to reach the Upper Gorge Lookout, but under the extreme heat, I was seriously struggling.

Eventually I made it up there for the best view of all — the long creek meandering through the thick forest like a snake, between tall red mountains and through brown earth. Despite the exhaustion and dehydration, the view proved to be a great distraction. I soon forgot about the heat, sat down and contemplated life.

Best view in Lawn Hill NP The walk here wasn’t easy, but this view at the end made it all seem worthwhile. Isn’t that like life itself? The journey towards achieving a dream is never simple but once you get there, it’s always worth the pain.

More Information on Adels Grove:

Adels Grove is a large camping park located 10 km from the Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park and 50 km from the world heritage Riversleigh Fossil fields. Lawn Hill Creek runs through the campsite, so there’s plenty of swimming spots to relax in after a day of exploring.

There are various accommodation options available: from camping in their large, spacious tents (equipped with double bed and porch) to air-conditioned rooms. Meals are provided at the on-site restaurant where delicious and high quality food is served.

You can also sign up for tours at Adels Grove which are led by licensed and experienced Savannah Guides. Some of these tours include catching the exclusive 4WD Escarpment Tour, Harry’s Hill Sunset Tour and hiking/kayaking Lawn Hill Gorge (as described in my story above).

I was on the four-day tour that included transfers to and from Mount Isa (four-hour journey each way). It was also fully inclusive of accommodation, all meals and tours of the World Heritage Riversleigh Fossil field and Lawn Hill National Park.

Cost: AU$1,220.00 per person twin share.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Tourism and Events Queensland and Adels Grove for making this trip possible! While the trip was sponsored, all opinions expresses above are our own.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

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