Cobbold Gorge is young and very beautiful. It was born about 10,000 years ago when a creek in Western Queensland was blocked and needed to find another way down into the Robertson River.
This is sandstone country so erosion proceeds quickly and the gorge is now many metres deep – still very narrow, and fantastically carved by floodwaters and the debris they carry. The creek water is some metres deep, we were told, and is darkened to a rich jade green by sediments it carries.
But let’s start a bit further back, for context, and zoom in from far above…
The greyish area to the south and west of the river is exposed sandstone. The gorge is a hairline crack almost exactly in the middle of the image; clicking on the map will take you to Google Maps and zooming in will reveal the roof of a shed which is the starting point of the guided tour. Zooming out, on the other hand, will show the sandstone extending more or less all the way down to White Mountains National Park.
The sandstone supports scattered shrubs and small trees, clinging to life in whatever tiny pockets of soil and moisture they can find.
Tour guides lead visitors through the bush, introducing flowers and bush tucker as they go, then up the escarpment and around in a loop made possible by two foot bridges across the gorge, before descending to a pontoon for the boat trip.
The cruise is beautifully calm and quiet, thanks to electric motors on the boats. (They are powered by solar-charged batteries, which earned them another tick of approval from me.)
The human context
Cobbold Gorge is named for a pioneering pastoralist but was only discovered rather recently – by white people, that is; the indigenous people must have known it well. It is on a cattle property, i.e., private land, and the owners have developed a tourism business around it by building a self-contained village about 7 km away and bringing in professional guides (there is no access to the gorge except on their guided tours). They also operate a camping ground at nearby Agate Creek and a hotel in Forsayth with links to the Savannahlander and Gulflander tourist trains, so it has become quite a big operation. For more information, visit their website.
I wondered whether the gorge, at least, had been given National Park status but no; it’s in quite a large declared Conservation Area with a management plan agreed with the state government, but that’s all.
Self-guided walks around the village offered plenty of opportunities for wildlife and plant spotting but I will save most of that for another post.