Walking the Dalrymple Track up to the Stone Bridge

Four years ago I walked the inland end of the Dalrymple Track (see Wikipedia for its history) with Wildlife Queensland  folk, then took a quick look at the coastal end by myself. As I said in a blog post at the time, I always hoped to complete the rest of the walk eventually, and last week I almost made good on that plan, walking from the coastal end to its highest point a couple of hundred metres past the old Stone Bridge.

At that point the track begins to descend, following Dalrymple Creek down towards Broadwater, but I stopped. That much, with the return trip, is a two or three hour walk, and that’s all the time I had. The section I still haven’t seen isn’t very long but it includes half a dozen bouldery creek crossings, back and forth over Dalrymple Creek, so I expect it would be relatively slow going.

coastal eucalypt woodland
(Very) dry coastal eucalypt woodland at the foot of the track

The Track begins a kilometre from the highway near Damper Creek and rises quickly from the dry coastal eucalypt woodland into rainforest. The path is what remains of the 1860s bullock track so it is reasonably wide and well graded but it’s strenuous; Derrick Stone’s ever-useful Walks Tracks and Trails of Queensland’s Tropics says that the elevation gain from carpark to range crest is 260 metres and notes that the easiest walking (if you’re doing the whole track) is from the other end.

dalrymple track
The track through rainforest very close to the top of the range

Rainforest is an enclosed world of green and growing things, with comparatively little wildlife to be seen. I did enjoy watching the Ulysses and Orchard Swallowtail  butterflies in the clearings, and there were plenty of smaller butterflies on the path (mainly Bush Browns, Evening Browns and Chocolate Soldiers) but there weren’t many birds to be seen.

That makes the Stone Bridge, built in 1864 and apparently the oldest surviving civil engineering project in North Queensland, even more of a highlight than it would be otherwise. Spanning a deep but narrow rocky creek bed (it is right up at the top of Damper Creek), it would be notable enough anywhere; being so far from any other construction work doubles its impact. Its brick culvert is about 1.5 metres in diameter and must create an impressive waterfall at its lower end in the Wet season.

Stone Bridge on the Dalrymple track
Stone Bridge from its downstream side
stone bridge on dalrymple track
Looking through the brink-lined culvert

At this time of year even the biggest creeks are barely running but one section about halfway up the range is still worth exploring, as huge boulders just upstream from where Damper Creek crosses the path form beautiful miniature waterfalls and pools.

The Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus, I saw peacefully hunting among those rocks was a special pleasure – once I had assured myself that it wasn’t too close to me or frightened enough to attack me. Actually, it seemed to be hardly aware of me, continuing to flow between and around rocks for a minute or two before vanishing into a crevice.

The Australian Museum Fact Sheet on the the species notes that it is a “shy snake and will generally only deliver a serious bite under severe molestation,” and that, “For its size, the Red-Bellied Black Snake is probably the least dangerous elapid snake in Australia. Despite the number of bites received every year, very few human deaths have resulted … Many bite victims experience only mild or negligible symptoms.” I didn’t know all of that at the time, of course, but I did know enough to be able to relax and enjoy watching this beautiful creature.

Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus
Red-bellied Black Snake

Porcupine Gorge after the floods

My recent visit to White Mountains was an add-on to a longer visit to Porcupine Gorge, north of Hughenden. I’ve been to the Gorge several times before and wrote about the area at some length after my visit in April last year, covering the Gorge, its wildlife and nearby points of interest in three separate posts.

The main focus of this post, therefore, is the effect of the monsoonal floods early this year. Townsville was hit hard, but so was Western Queensland. The Flinders River had 50-year floods and was 200 kilometres wide at its peak; and the Flinders, of course runs from the Burra Range and the northern corner of White Mountains National Park through Hughenden to the Gulf, picking up the waters of Porcupine Creek on the way.

Continue reading “Porcupine Gorge after the floods”

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, Continue reading “Sawpit Gorge revisited”

A stroll up Mount Marlow

Perfect winter weather enticed fifteen walkers to join the Wildlife Queensland monthly excursion on the Sunday just past. The group met at the Freshwater bird hide (see Town Common map (pdf) if you’re not familiar with the park) at 9.00 and ambled along the causeway (someone called it a “dam wall”) to the foot of Many Peaks range near Bald Rock, then up to the top of Mount Marlow, the highest point of the range. I walked down it a year ago and commented that “I would rather go down it than up” but really, going up wasn’t too demanding. Continue reading “A stroll up Mount Marlow”

Visiting Turtle Rock on Hervey’s Range

The Townsville branch of Wildlife Queensland has resumed its monthly-except-wet-season excursions and their April trip was to Turtle Rock, an indigenous rock shelter high on Hervey’s Range. It’s a site I had known about for years but never seen, so I was very happy to be able to join the expedition.

Turtle Rock is on private land between Sharps Rd and Edward Rd; access is across the paddocks from the former, a 20 minute walk which can be shortened by driving part-way (as most of us did) or to the foot of the rock (as one of us did). The landowners, the Fryer family, are happy to have people visiting the site at any time but a courtesy phone call is a good idea and may avoid any difficulties with the access track.

Turtle Rock
Turtle Rock rising from a sea of trees

Continue reading “Visiting Turtle Rock on Hervey’s Range”