Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park (NP) is a place of breathtaking beauty, with Lawn Hill Creek winding its way through steep sandstone cliffs and cascading down majestic waterfalls.
The magnificent landscape can be experienced on a challenging bushwalk or by jumping in a canoe. The Island Stack walk involves climbing a steep track to the lookout, where an adjoining 1.7km walk takes you around the ‘table top’ for impressive panoramic views. An easy walk to the Cascades leads you to tufa formations, where you can swim in the cool spas.
For those interested in Aboriginal culture, the Wild Dog Dreaming track provides access to Aboriginal art shelters.
One of the most popular walks would have to be the track to the Indarri Falls. Formed from delicate layers of calcium carbonate deposited by the river’s lime-rich water, Indarri Falls’ tufa wall extends up to 30 metres below the surface. The falls are a perfect place for a refreshing swim with the barramundi, turtles and archerfish in the icy, emerald-green water.
From Indarri Falls you can hike up to Duwadarri Lookout for an incredible vista over the impressive gorge, cliffs and surrounding country. Be prepared for a steep ascent or descent, depending on where you started this hike.
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For most campers, hiring a canoe is the preferred method of enjoying the cool watersof Lawn Hill Creek. Pushing off through the purple waterlilies that crowd Duwadarri Waterhole, you glide upstream past palm-fringed banks where crimson finches flit amongst the pandanus.
Halfway through Middle Gorge, the banks recede to be replaced by soaring red cliffs that blaze with the rising sun. Paddling to the Indarri Falls, you then have to carry the canoe around the tufa dam to be relaunched in Upper Gorge. Once afloat in Upper Gorge, the creek narrows, disappearing into a maze of fan palms and waterlilies before dramatically emerging in a new landscape of spinifex slopes dotted with snappy gums.
For bird-lovers, there is plenty to enjoy. The rare and beautiful purple-crowned fairy-wren can often be seen among the pandanus lining the gorge, along with the buff-sided robin with its distinctive high-pitched call. In the open grassland, the deep red of the crimson finch is unmistakable.
If you’re walking or canoeing along the gorge, you will be amazed by the variety of water birds, including the great egret, Australian darter and cormorant. Varied lorikeets and red-winged parrots are a stunning sight as they streak overhead.
The colonial history of Lawn Hill NP can be traced back to the 1860s, when pastoral pioneers, including Page, Mytton and Cooper, brought the first cattle here. But this was soon followed by an outbreak of ‘gulf fever’ that caused many graziers to leave the area.
In March 1975, the famous cattle king Sebastiao Maia arrived from Brazil and the story goes that he paid a Sydney taxi driver to be his interpreter and chauffeur as he travelled the country in search of potential cattle stations. He took over the lease of Lawn Hill Station, one of the largest cattle stations in Queensland (11,000km²) in 1976. In 1984, Maia surrendered 12,200ha of Lawn Hill Station to the state government as national park.
The story behind Adel’s Grove is a rather sad one. In 1920, French botanist Albert de Lestang took up the property as an experimental botanical garden; hence the name, Adel, from his initials. By 1939, he had some 1000 species of exotic and native plants, shrubs and trees growing on the property. He was also a blacksmith, carpenter and saddler, and bought and sold horses and cars.
Unfortunately, in the early 1950s, a devastating fire swept through the Grove while Albert was absent, destroying everything including his dwelling and trunk containing his research papers. His last years were spent in a nursing home in Charters Towers, where he died in 1959 at the age of 75, most probably broken-hearted.
Time permitting; you may want to pay a visit to the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, which protects one of the world’s richest and most significant fossil mammal sites. When travelling from Lawn Hill Gorge, it is a 51km drive. The fossils have been superbly preserved in limestone outcrops. Riversleigh’s fossil site has good interpretive displays, and the Miyumba Bush Camp is nearby on the banks of the Gregory River.
It is a long journey to Lawn Hill, but to experience an emerald oasis in the middle of dry savannah country needs to be seen to be believed, and it is a sight you’ll never forget.