Walking in White Mountains

Every time I have visited White Mountains National Park I have wanted to explore beyond the identified visitor areas. Camping at Cann Creek was lovely – but what lay on the other side of the ridge? Looking out over Sawpit Gorge wasn’t enough – I wanted to hike down into it.

But I was always suitably intimidated by the warnings saying things like, “Only suitable for strong, well-prepared groups of experienced bushwalkers,” and citing heat, lack of water, rough country, etc, which I always interpreted as, “Don’t try this on your own!” So when the Townsville Bushwalking Club offered an Anzac weekend walk in remoter areas, I made time for it.

The plan was to get to the park on Saturday morning, do a short walk along the Cann Creek gorge, and set up camp deeper into the park. Sunday was to be a full day walk from that point, down towards Torrens Creek and back to camp. On Monday we were to explore Sawpit Gorge on our way back to civilisation. As it happened, rain intervened so we did Monday’s walk on Sunday and went home a day early.

I came back with rather a lot of photos so I have reduced their size here for faster loading. Click on any of them to scroll through at full size in a light-box.

Cann Creek Gorge

There are access tracks, all 4WD, in some sections of the park. We drove in to the Cann Creek camping ground, backtracked and turned right until we hit a fence line, turned right again, and stopped at yet another unmarked side track. The gorge (map) was only a couple of hundred metres from the turn-off so we walked to it.

Cann Creek Gorge
Our first glimpse of the bottom
Cann Creek Gorge
The floor of the gorge
Cann Creek Gorge
Looking down from the edge
Cann Creek Gorge
Further upstream the gorge opens out
Cann Creek Gorge
Water stains on the gorge wall

Cann Creek is ephemeral, like most creeks in Western Queensland. When we got down to it we found only a few small pools (although I’m sure we would have found plenty of water if we had dug into the sand) but the walking along the gorge floor was easy enough. We climbed up and out on the other side and found that progress was slower along the top of the cliffs. But it was all beautiful, and well worth the effort.

Campsite

White Mountains National Park
The view from our campsite – this is where we were going to walk

Our campsite was on a bare plateau a few kilometres West of the gorge. It would have given us a good view of the sunset if the clouds and intermittent drizzle had permitted such a thing, but never mind.

We didn’t get much rain overnight but in the morning the weather looked as though it wasn’t going to clear. Hiking in wet conditions isn’t much fun, and the roads were already soft so we decided to drive to Sawpit Gorge, nearly back at the park entrance, and walk around there if the weather allowed. It did, and we did.

Sawpit Gorge

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The Sawpit Gorge area is much more open than Cann Creek. It’s really a fan of ridges running down from the lookout, with creek valleys (dry, of course) between them. We scrambled down into the thicker scrub of the gullies, climbed a couple of crags, and worked out how to go further next time.

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Exposed ridges are jagged, scooped out and worn away by wind and water to form hollows and shelters of every size.

The sandstone country, which extends far beyond the National Park, North to Cobbold Gorge and beyond, and South to the Galilee Basin is fascinating in its variety. White Mountains is known for its wildflowers around this time of year but there weren’t many to see this weekend. Perhaps that’s an excuse to go back, if I ever need one.

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