Highlight of The Carnarvon Gorge National Park.
A Place Where Aboriginal History Meets Stunning Scenery
Carnarvon Gorge is found about 600 kilometres north west of Brisbane in the Australian State of Queensland. The gorge runs for nearly 30 kilometres and in places is 600 metres deep. It is a dramatic landscape carved over millions of years by wind and water. You will find that stunning scenery combines with Aboriginal history to create a place of outstanding interest.
The Carnarvon Gorge is the centrepiece of the Carnarvon National Park which received this designation in 1932. Like most things in Australia it is simply huge, it covers 298,000 hectares of land, that`s nearly 740,000 acres. Much of this area is still wilderness, yet to be properly explored. Despite the fact that the journey to see the gorge is not easy it still receives over 65,000 visitors a year.
The asphalt road ends 18 kilometres from the gorge. That final stretch, down a dirt road that includes a number of creek crossings, can sometimes become unpassable after rain - even witha four wheel drive vehicle.
The gorge was carved by the waters of the Carnarvon Creek over millions of years. In a country where even large rivers can often dry up the flow of the creek has only dried up twice since records began.
This is because the Carnarvon Gorge is part of the Great Artesian Basin. This is where the combination of porous and non-porous rocks leads to the appearance of springs. The creek in the gorge is an example of this artesian water.
There is a feature within the gorge called the Moss Garden where visitors can see this natural spring water filtering from the rocks. Beautiful mosses, ferns and lush palm trees give the site an oasis like feel.
Although there was no permanent occupation in the Carnarvon Gorge, the Aboriginal history connected to this sacred place goes back thousands of years.
The Dreamtime Stories tell that the gorge was created by the great Rainbow Serpent who even to this day lives in the waters of the gorge.
Evidence of the aboriginal presence in the Carnarvon Gorge can be found at a number of sites where there are rock drawings.
There are significant examples of this at a place now known as the Art Gallery. Other sites include the Cathedral Cave and Baloon Cave. Of special interest are the stencil-like pictures of hands.
The first white Australian to reach what is now the Carnarvon Gorge National Park area was the explorer Ludwig Leichardt in 1884. However, it was two years later that Thomas Mitchell named the land the Carnarvon Range after Caernarfon in Wales. His report about the quality of the land and the presence of plentiful water soon brought the first white settlers.
The Carnavon Gorge area is a centre for the most incredible range of plant life. Over twenty types of the plants found in the gorge are listed as being rare.
A famed tree is the Carnarvon Fan Palm, one of the tallest types of palm tree to be found in Australia.
As they stand tall beside the waters of the creek you could almost imagine that you are in a desert oasis.
The aborigines who visited the Carnarvon Gorge knew all about the medicinal properties of the many rare plants to be found.
They knew how to use them to assist in everything from contraception to helping babies who are teething.
They even knew how to detoxify the seeds from the plant Macrozamia. The seeds were an important source of food for them, but they contain lethal amounts of the poison cyanide! Unaware of their fatal potential people have eaten these seeds, the last fatality from this cycad poisoning was a ten year old boy
Another interesting plant to be found in the gorge, at a site known as Ward`s Canyon, is the King Fern. These are among the largest ferns in the world and their presence there is a mystery. The nearest place where other examples occur is hundreds of miles away on Fraser Island.
As well as being a centre for an extensive range of plant life the gorge is home to sixty species of mammals, ninety different types of reptiles over two hundred types of birds and twenty types of bats.
There is also something unusual called a glider. There are only six types of glider living in Australia, five of them live here in this one habitat which is remarkable.
For those who have never seen or even heard of such a creature, a glider is a rodent-like Marsupial that lives in trees. It has aerofoil like membranes of skin between its limbs which when it stretches out act almost like wings. This allows it to glide for some distances, hence its name.
The Greater Glider can grow to almost a metre in length. They are an amazing sight to see and there are many "Night Life Tours" that take place in the Carnarvon Gorge when you can see them swooping about.
The Crnarvon Creek teems with life and you can often see turtles basking on the rocks, however, you will rarely see any fish in daylight. They are there but stay well hidden for fear of the many predators.
The lower creek is a great place to see that fabled animal the Platypus, the only mammal to lay eggs! They burrow into the river bank just above the water level.
If you are lucky enough to spot one remember that they react to sudden movements but not to noise. So its OK to talk but don`t jump around with excitement.
Whenever anyone visits somewhere such as one of these outback gorges they often ask about snakes. They are here in Carnarvon Gorge but are inactive during the winter months, which is when the majority of visitors go to the gorge. So you are highly unlikely to come across one. However, the gorge is home to the notorious Cane Toad. Many Queenslanders kill this creature on sight as it is such a poisonous pest.
There are many "must-see" sights in the Carnarvon Gorge. These include the Aboriginal drawings at the Cathedral Cave and the springs of the Moss Garden. Also the Amphitheatre has to be seen to be believed, fifty metre high cliffs dwarf you and the silence and tranquility of the place is overwhelming. If you visit Ward`s Canyon take note of the remarkable drop in temperature!
As well as being an incredibly beautiful and dramatic place, the highlight of the Carnarvon Gorge is definitely the concentration of wildlife to be found there. During a dry summer the permanent water there becomes a magnet for birds and animals throughout the region.
The Carnarvon Gorge really is a gorge not to be missed when you visit Australia.
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