10 things that you need to know about Carnarvon Gorge and why you need to walk it
1. First of all, where is Carnarvon and why don’t people know about it?
Carnarvon national park is nearly 1000kms by road north west of Brisbane and completely off the tourism industry’s radar and probably yours. Wild west Queensland out in the middle of no-where, with the next stop being the never never is not easy to sell so the industry doesn’t.
It’s the splendid isolation that creates the atmosphere that makes this place so special. It also was once a secret spot which you will learn about more if read on. The park stands as it has for the last 30 million years or so, the tyranny of distance saving it from the harm of high visitation. Anyone who bothers to walk Carnarvon is going to see it as it always has been, in its’ true natural state.
2. What makes Carnarvon unique.
Carnarvon Gorge is Queensland’s answer to the Kimberley. With towering cliff faces, endless views, prolific wildlife and unsurpassed indigenous art sites are as good a walking destination as you find anywhere in the world. The gorge system in the National park is also one of the largest in Australia. Carnarvon Gorge, the park’s namesake, is quite possibly the most stunning of all of them, but certainly not the only one of interest. So much of the park remains inaccessible, not surprising given there are 3000 kilometres squared to explore. It kind of feels like one of those rare places that are largely still undiscovered.
In reality, there is no need to go off track, Carnarvon Gorge is both massive and simply magnificent. There are crystal-clear waters of ankle depth flowing the entire length of the gorge at throughout the year. The 10000 years old water flowing in the creek filtered through sandstone over time simply never stops flowing. The rainforest that once covered the whole region is gone now, but the artesian fed creek is the main reason that the rainforest has remained intact at the Gorge.
3. Why do people have such a good time walking at Carnarvon?
The rarefied atmosphere at Carnarvon is a product of it remoteness, the geological natural beauty and the endemic fauna that grows here. Walking through the gorge is like stepping back in time. This rare pocket of ancient untainted rainforest in concert with its surrounds creates an experience that is reminiscent of taking a stroll through ancient Gowandland or even the Jurassic period, thankfully without the dinosaurs.
4. The walking tracks and what you’re in for
With each step along the well-maintained tracks at Carnarvon Gorge, you will be captivated by the raw beauty of this untouched wilderness landscape. At Warrumbah Gorge there a bit of rock scrambling and it pays to have a guide. It is well worth the trouble as you get can get right up inside the gorge. There’s a huge variety of walks that come off the spine of the gorge system, small sidewalks into magnificent side gorges. There are also walks up onto the plateau with outstanding views down through the gorge and out to the surrounding plains
5. Carnarvon Gorge indigenous history
This is one of the most powerful places in Australia according to indigenous legend, being significant to the Bidjara, Karingbal, and Kara Kara people of Central Queensland. As the story goes, this region was so powerful that the local inhabitants felt that they couldn’t live there and only visited for ceremonies or trade. It is home to a prodigious amount of indigenous art. The indigenous stencil art in the gorge, such as those at the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave are some of the best in the world. Because of vandalism, Carnarvon Gorge was one of the first Aboriginal art sites to have a gallery successfully “salvaged” by deleting its’ presence from brochures and maps and camouflaging access tracks. It effectively was a secret spot adding to the mystery and lack of a profile.
Incidentally, Kennif cave in the Mount Moffat section of the park was the first archaeological site in Australia to return carbon dates of occupational evidence that predated 20,000 years ago, 10,000 years earlier than previously thought.
6. European arrival and influence
It wasn’t until the 1840’s that Europeans arrived. We, of course, made a real mess of it almost wiping out the native marsupial population. There are many stories of competition for land and resources that led to open warfare between the original inhabitants and the new immigrants, all of them horrendous, with both sides suffering severely. There are also many stories of interesting local characters, some of whom came to the area to avoid unwanted official scrutiny. The Ward brothers hunted fur in the Carnarvons year round at a time when there were restricted open seasons. If you have time you can visit the very cool Wards Canyon, cool in that it was a good place to store their pelts. The Kenniff brothers (Kenniff Cave’s namesakes) became notorious local horse thieves, and later murderers. But there’s many that say that they were provoked by being targeted by the British squatters because of their Irish heritage. It certainly makes for a good story what-ever way you look at it.
7. The perfect winter escape
If you live in a temperate zone this will matter to you. Through the winter the average temperature is a pleasant 24 degrees. Remember Queensland is perfect one day and beautiful the next. How could you forget?
8. How to prepare and how to get there
If you wish to prepare for the walking it would good to practice with a leisurely 10kms stroll a few times a week for a month or two. If you want to do all the walking out to Big Bend then try walking a little further than that at least a few times before you go. There is only one walk, Boolimba Bluff, which involves a slight incline, but nothing to be concerned about. Don’t forget the sturdy walking shoes and a sun hat. If you want to drive to Carnarvon take the M1 or the M2 out of Brisbane and ready yourself for 14 hours of driving. You can also fly to Roma and be picked up and driven to Carnarvon shortening the journey to just over 2 and 1/2 hours
9. Options to make the most out of your visit
You can stay right in the park and be guided by local guides who know this place backwards, adding a whole new layer and an enigmatic dimension to the overall experience. In addition, doing it this way means you don’t have any of the stress of organising or roughing it in any way. Hot showers, a la carte 3-course meals and a comfortable bed in rooms with ensuites. Doing it this way means you can concentrate on the important things, the exploration aspect and relaxing in the natural setting. And there’s no long drive either that has been taken care of.
10. What do walkers say about Carnarvon Gorge
” the most awe-inspiring and serene walking destination in Australia”
“This is a walk that provides a remote wilderness experience without the anticipated wilderness deprivations”
“For anyone who contemplates getting out of their comfort zone just a bit to discover places well off the beaten track in the company of friendly, helpful people, just get in touch with Auswalk and start walking Carnarvon!”
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