Sawpit Gorge revisited


White Mountains National Park was named for the pale grey sandstone of its rugged hills and it earns its name even from space, as this satellite image  of its North-west corner shows. (The river at top left is the Flinders; this map puts it into context.) The whole of the park is difficult country; easy public access is restricted to the SE corner of it, where the highway between Pentland and Torrens Creek cuts across the park.

But for all its forbidding landscape it is a botanist’s paradise, as I said after a previous visit, and at the right time of year the not-so-bare parts of it are bursting with flowering shrubs and trees. I returned to the park last week and found grevilleas, wattles and several other plants in full flower, with more wattles ready to burst out soon. Those photos later; first, some views of Sawpit Gorge, about 10 km on a generally-good dirt road from the park entrance.

Sawpit Gorge

Sawpit Gorge, White Mountains National Park
Sawpit Gorge
Sawpit Gorge, White Mountains National Park
Looking roughly SE from the lip of the gorge
lip of sawpit gorge
This diving board has not been certified for public use

My “diving board” is completely natural, and of course you would be silly to test it, but the thin layer of tough stone of which it is made is the key to the formation of this part of the gorge. The stratum is only a few inches thick  but it is so much harder than the white sandstone above and below it that it protected the lookout from the erosion which created the dramatic drop to the gorge floor.

Between the gorge and the turn-off to Cann’s Creek camping ground is another geological oddity, a whole Lost City of what I originally took to be termite mounds but have since discovered are alluvial rock formations.

An abundance of flowers

Grevillea sessilis
Grevillea sessilis growing near Sawpit Gorge lookout

On this visit three grevilleas were common and flowering well: the red Grevillea decora, the golden Grevillea pteridifolia, and the pale cream Grevillea sessilis. (Links are to the excellent website by the Townsville branch of Native Plants Queensland, previously SGAP, showcasing and – importantly for me – identifying the native plants of the Burra Range.)

As usual, clicking on the small images will bring up full-sized images in a light-box.

There was also an unusual snake-leaved tree which we thought was a grevillea but turned out to be a Hakea – Hakea lorea, the Bootlace Oak. We had seen it a few days earlier near Porcupine Gorge but it wasn’t flowering there, making it even more of a mystery.

Another mystery was this beautifully colourful small shrub; it may be the Thread-leaf Hop-bush, Dodonaea filifolia, but I am by no means sure of my identification. The colour comes from its seed-pods, not its flowers.

shrub
Small shrub with red seed capsules

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