Visiting White Mountains National Park

White Mountains National Park straddles the high point of the highway between Hughenden and Charters Towers. There is a lookout on the crest of the range – the Burra Range, part of the Great Dividing Range. It presents great views over wild country to the South of the road, but it is a bit sad that that is all that most people ever see of the park.

View from Burra Range lookout
Looking roughly South from the Burra Range lookout

Apart from the lookout, the park’s facilities are limited to a camping ground ten km off the main road, accessed by a dirt track recommended for 4WD vehicles only and comprising eight camping sites and a composting toilet, all neatly maintained in standard National Parks fashion (camping fees, in equally standard fashion, are a not-too-whopping $10 per night). There is no water supply, though, and the creek rarely runs so visitors have to bring all their own water.

The publican at Prairie reckoned my vehicle (a soft-roader, not a real 4WD) should have no trouble on the road ‘except for maybe the creek just before the campsite,’ so I cautiously gave it a go. The going was good until I got to the creek, which was only a trickle but its bed was deep soft sand perhaps four or five metres across.

view of Cann's Creek
Cann’s Creek just after the Wet – a trickle of water and lots of lovely soft damp sand

Walking across, I found I had the camp completely to myself and decided the possibility of a 10 km hike for help was less attractive than the certainty of a little extra walking, parked beside the track and carried my gear across to the campsite. After the tent was up, I had a quick look round then pointed my camera at the twilight sky:

Trees silhouetted against the sky
Twilight skyline, Cann’s Creek campground

Three things about the park struck me very forcibly: that it was a botanist’s paradise, that the vegetation was subtly but critically dependent on the geology (especially soil type and drainage) and that the animal life was completely dominated by ants.

I’m no botanist so I can’t say much about the plant life but I did enjoy all the flowering trees and shrubs, especially the wattles and grevilleas. This link will take you to a collection of my photos of them on Flickr.

As for the geology, it is all sandstone country – called the ‘white’ mountains for the pale grey-yellow of most of the rock – but the various sedimentary layers laid down over a couple of hundred million years are different in hardness and mineral content and have been exposed and weathered differently, resulting in a patchwork of micro-environments.

The clearest medium-size example was the area on the track to Sawpit Gorge which supported a veritable city of termite mounds (here and here). On a much smaller scale, I found an isolated patch, less that a square metre, of sundews beside the track near the Sawpit Gorge lookout:

Sundew plants in sandstone gravel
Sundew plants in sandstone gravel

There must have been a tiny seepage of moisture from up-slope, to encourage them here but nowhere nearby. (A better view of individual plants is here.)

As for the ants, I had camera problems (reduced to a point-and-click by battery failure on the SLR) so I didn’t try to take many pictures of small subjects but I did record some of the amazing variety of ant-hills along the road.

The guide to the park is replete with warnings about waterless, trackless wilderness and the very real chance of getting lost or injured. Roaming around the park is recommended only for ‘experienced, well-equipped bushwalkers’ in strong parties. However, a walk along the road from the highway to Sawpit Gorge and back (or a shorter part of that trip) would be a very easy, enjoyable and safe way of seeing a good selection of what the park has to offer. Camping a night or two at Cann’s Creek will be possible for most people, most of the year  (it’s not recommended in the Wet) and offers a complete break from urban life as well as an extended opportunity to explore the diversity of the area.

Park information: http://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/white-mountains/about.html

Related posts on Green Path: Easter break, Life in ‘the outback’ (more to come).

Normal service will resume shortly

There has been a bigger gap than usual since my last post, simply because I have been away from home. Over Easter and the next few days I was ‘out West’ as we say, to stay with relatives on a cattle property ‘near’ Aramac (nowhere is ‘near’ anywhere else out there, by most standards), then to Porcupine Gorge National Park to the North of Hughenden, then to White Mountains National Park between Hughenden and Charters Towers on the way home. The round trip was roughly 1200 km.

The country was at its absolute best, just after the Wet with everything green growing and flowering. I had a wonderful time and took more than 1000 photographs. That, of course, means a big job sorting them before I can post the best here on Green Path, as I will over the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, here are a couple of samples:

Old wooden stockyards
Stockyards
Rockface and river
The Pyramid, Porcupine Gorge

Update, 12.5.12: A bit about the cattle grazing property is now here and White Mountains is now here.

Forestry in Tasmania – a photographic souvenir

• This is one of a few articles I published elsewhere long before Green Path was begun or even conceived but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2005, the date of first publication, although the article was only added to GP in 2016. 

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Tasmania for a mixture of business and social reasons at the end of March 2005. The Tuesday after Easter was a perfect Autumn day in Hobart and my host suggested a trip to Hartz Mountains National Park, just over an hour’s drive South-West of Hobart (more info here). By the time we arrived it was nearly lunchtime, but we set off towards Hartz Peak anyway.

Hartz peak

We walked as far as Lake Esperance and stopped for a sandwich. While we were there, another hiker pointed out to us a small cloud of smoke rising from a valley over to our East, between us and the Huon Valley. Continue reading “Forestry in Tasmania – a photographic souvenir”

Western Queensland

• This is one of a few articles which I published elsewhere long before Green Path was conceived or begun but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2005, the date of first publication, although the article was only added to GP in 2016. 

If Australia is little known to the rest of the world, North Queensland is little known to the rest of Australia – and Western Queensland is little known even to most North Queenslanders. Most of the NQ population lives in the provincial cities along the coast (Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Bowen, Rockhampton) and most of the rest live in the roughly 50 km wide strip between the coast and the Great Dividing Range. These pictures introduce some of the country on the inland side of the mountains. Continue reading “Western Queensland”