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.
I haven’t been able to locate any photos of Porcupine Gorge in flood. Much as I would like to see some, I don’t really expect to, since everyone in the region would have had more pressing things to do at the time, and the access roads were probably cut anyway.
Six months on, what we found was a creek at its normal levels in a channel which had been thoroughly scoured. The difference is most apparent in this pair of shots looking down the gorge towards the Pyramid.
The colours of the more recent photo are duller merely because it was taken late on a cloudy afternoon but the other differences are real.
Firstly, the extensive loss of vegetation (mainly bottlebrushes) on the gorge floor has exposed far more of the sandstone base and dark grey drifts of rocks, gravel and sand. A closer view reveals that many of the trees are beginning to show new growth, so recovery may not take too long, but it all looks very bare at present.
Another creek runs into the gorge from the left to run along the face of the Pyramid and the combined flow of the two creeks continues in that direction for about fifty metres before swinging left again to continue south. There has always been a big alluvial bank covered with small trees on the inside of the curve beside the Pyramid, but the recent flood overwhelmed it and then dropped an enormous quantity of stone and timber debris on it. At the same time, it stripped a couple of metres of sandbank, and an entire row of mature trees growing on it, from the outside of the curve.
I couldn’t find a vantage point for a photo to adequately convey the result, but have to describe it as messy. In a few more years, though, it will re-shape itself into something beautiful – and there are still beautiful views now, of course.
The Gorge Lookout
From the Lookout, ten kilometres downstream, the countryside was looking good, the cliffs were as dramatic as ever, and the ribbon of water at the bottom still sparkled when the light caught it.
A careful look at the gorge floor, however, shows that it has been completely scoured of any loose material, and a little thought suggests that the water speeds must have been much greater in this narrow channel than in the relatively broad section near the Pyramid.