July 31 Lawn Hill National Park, also known as Boodjamulla, is approx 100 kms west of Gregory Downs over dirt roads. It 340 km northwest of Mount Isa or 1,837 km northwest of Brisbane.
The main attractions in the park are the sandstone ranges with deep gorges and a limestone plateau with significant fossil fields. Other attractions include crystal-clear green waters, lush vegetation and canoeing.
The park contains several permanent creeks, waterholes, gorges, and sandstone ranges. Boodjamulla’s ancient sandstones and limestones have been gradually stripped away over millions of years leaving behind rugged escarpments, gorges, and rock outcrops.
Lawn Hill Gorge, the primary attraction in the park, 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. The gorge is a rich oasis with cabbage palms and other tropical vegetation.
We take in some of the walks in the park and enjoy a canoe trip up the gorge with a refreshing swim at the cascades. We assumed the fresh water croc was plastic !!
July 30 to Aug 1 Gregory Downs is our base to visit the picturesque Lawn Hill National Park (see separate blog post). The town has a population of 40 and is situated on the banks of the perennial Gregory River, a fast flowing small river that is fed year round by a large spring.
The town has a hotel that was originally built in the 1900s to accommodate travellers using the coach service to nearby Burketown. Previously the hotel also served as a post for the mounted police. The town itself is built on the homestead site of the historic Gregory Downs station, one of the first pastoral properties to be established in the Gulf Country.
The free camp site is on the river banks and can be found easily by turning left at the ‘No Camping’ sign !! The roads are now truly outback style, quite narrow but at least they are bitumen. Large road trains are the kings of the road.
We cannot emphasise how beautiful the free camp is with your own fresh water swimming pool on the doorstep.
July 27 to 29 Karumba at last … only too much wind, no bait and no fish. Everyone is waiting for the blue salmon to arrive. We are a little disappointed obviously and even more so when we have to pay $29 a night for a dusty unpowered postage stamp. However, there are some highlights – the free fish BBQ at the camp kitchen on Saturday night … the free entertainment to celebrate Christmas In July (fortunately the grey nomad belly dancers remained fully clothed !! … fresh barra and chips at sunset. Take a look at the amusing weather rock.
July 27 We make a day stop in Normanton on the way to Karumba to take a ride on the historic Gulflander train, a rail journey unlike any other. Originally built to connect the once bustling river port of Normanton with the rich gold fields of Croydon, today the Gulflander is a tourism icon and working tribute to the early pioneers of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Affectionately said to go from “nowhere to nowhere”, the Normanton to Croydon line was never connected to the state rail network. This isolated railway is heritage listed and the only line in Queensland still measured in miles.
The Normanton to Croydon line was laid in a fashion not found anywhere else in the world. With an innovative sleeper design, seasonal flood waters flow over the line to lessen flood damage. Testament to the ingenuity of this design is that today much of the line is still the original rail and sleepers laid between 1888 and 1891.
Note the flood markers along the line – take a look at how high the 1974 floods were.
Normanton is also home to a Big Barra and the largest crocodile ever shot. It is 8.63 metres long and was shot by a female crocodile hunter in July 1957.
July 26 Leichardt Lagoon is a free camping spot 25 Kms south of Normanton on a small cattle property next to a lovely lagoon full of bird life. (Well, not quite free, it is $7 per person). There are showers and toilets and the night sky is fantastic with no town lights to interfere. We camp here as the last stop before Karumba tomorrow.
July 24, 25 Now it is the turn of the Gulf Developmental Road heading towards Normanton. It is a little disconcerting to be driving on what is really only a one lane track and seeing big road trains heading towards the car. The secret is to give them a wide berth and give way in plenty of time (can be difficult on a single lane bridge though).
We stop in Croydon for 2 nights. The historic goldrush town of Croydon is located in the heart of the Gulf Savannah, Croydon was first settled in the 1880s. The town’s name is derived from a pastoral run name, used by Alexander Brown and William Chalmers Brown, pastoralists, who reportedly were born in Croydon, England. Gold was discovered in 1885 and by 1887, the town’s population had reached 7,000. Gold was to be the main economic production of the area for four decades. The Mining Warden left in 1926 as there were too few miners left on the field. During its heyday, Croydon was the fourth largest town in the colony of Queensland. Today only 266 people remain. We found Croydon to be full of interesting history and really enjoyed our short stay, including a trip to the local Lake Belmore only 4 kms out of town.
A couple of interesting notes from Croydon – the sheep who joined us at the camp fire every night and the plastic grass greens at the local golf course (yes, plastic grass!!).
July 22, 23 So now we make a concerted effort to finally head for Karumba. Still a long way to go. An overnight stop at Bluewater Springs, sharing a camp site with all the road workers working on the Harvey Range Developmental Road (and it does need some work !!). Then another stop in Mount Surprise which lies 1,722 kilometres north west of Brisbane and 285 kilometres west of Cairns. At the 2006 census, Mount Surprise and the surrounding area had a population of 162. The GPS got lost on the way (see photo).
July 19,20, 21 Had a small problem with the caravan awning – spring needed to be replaced. Tried lots of places in Townsville but all booked up for ages. Finally found a Coromal dealer who could look at it after the weekend. So we had to hang around Townsville for 3 nights. First night was a free camp in a field next to a service station – more than adequate. Second night at a very busy free camp at Rollingstone Beach. They were so busy that we had to double park in front of a motor home who was leaving after us in the morning. Third night was at a free camp at Balgal Beach. This must rank as one of the best we have stayed at in terms of its position right on the beach.
We took a trip up to Paluma which is 3,000 feet up a mountain. The road was built by unemployment relief workers in the depression in the early 1930’s. Beautiful views with a lovely stream with waterfalls and swimming holes on the way up.
July 19 After 37 days of fishing and friends it is time to move on from Groper Creek. Last memories … Queensland winning State of Origin … Loud Shirt night around the campfire … last Jaffle iron night … farewell dinner with friends at the Home Hill Motel (3 course meal for $15.00). Special thanks must go to Kevin, Richard and Allan for letting us have a spare spot in their boats to make the fishing so memorable. (Kevin – I thought you making me wear a blindfold until we got to your favourite spots was a bit over the top !!)