01 Sep Lawn Hill National Park
Lawn Hill or Boodjamulla National Park has been referred to as the jewel in the crown of QLD’s national parks. Wow that’s quite a statement given QLD is home to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island National Parks. We were finally on our way to see this place in the flesh and to make our own minds up on exactly how good it is.
The trip to Lawn Hill is a challenge in itself. We came from Normanton to the north where it was a 500km+ journey. Not epic by Australian terms, but big enough given the last 100km of the journey are listed on Google Maps and our Navman as taking as long as the previous 400km (Google thinks it is as quick on a pushbike as it is by car!). The nearby Century Mine closed in 2015 and the maintenance it provided to the road stopped and the road has degraded severely since. In saying this, in the dry it’s passable by any vehicle, but it’s rough.
We split our journey up and stayed at Gregory on the river. It was beautiful and we’d highly recommend it; some people even rate this camp over as being better than the National Park itself. While I was in love with this little haven in the dust, I wouldn’t go quite that far. After a very pleasant 12 hour stopover, we resumed our journey to Lawn Hill and were well rested to tackle the last 100km to the park.
There are two places to stay at Lawn Hill itself. One is Adels Grove, a private campground on the fringe of the park and the National Park itself. The major differences is the price and the facilities. Adels Grove costs more than the National Park itself, however it offers better facilities including cabins, glamping, tent sites, caravan sites, laundry, showers, shop, restaurant, bar, etc while the NP offered sites, pokey sites be all accounts and basic amenities.
We stayed at Adels and liked it, but felt the $50 per night price tag was a bit steep for an unpowered site. We got a lovely spot on the river in the Grove, Adels eco area. There was tonnes of shady spots and no gennies were allowed down here. THere aren’t any powered sites at Adels, but the gennie permitted area had water connections.
The river at our doorstep was gorgeous. At first we were apprehensive about swimming given we’d heard there were crocs about, but after seeing others do it, reading lots of literature on how freshwater crocs were harmless and with the mercury climbing above 35deg, we decided that it was OK. There were steps in as the bank was quite steep, a pontoon, numerous rope swings and tubes to amuse both young and old. The temp was perfect to cool off on one of the many, many hot days this region experiences each year.
Saturday saw us drive the 10km from Adels Grove into the National Park to experience Lawn Hill proper. We started the day with a walk to Wild Dog Dreaming, an Aboriginal rock art site, and the lower gorge lookout. I’ll admit to not being super-impressed with the rock art, but the walk itself and the lower gorge was nice. We had morning tea/early lunch on the banks of the creek and the kids were kept entertained by feeding the many fish below in the water slivers of corn chips. I’m not sure if it was great for them, but they attracted quite a crowd of fish and every little bit was accounted for during the feeding frenzy.
From here we walked back to the car to do the piece de resistance of what Lawn Hill has to offer, a canoe journey to the source of the river and a swim in the falls, albeit on our SUPs instead of the standard canoe option. After a few minutes setting up the inflatable SUPs, we were off up the river in what can only be described as magnificent conditions. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, no sound other than our paddles breaching the brilliant green mirrored surface of the river; it was magical and easy to understand why this is so highly revered a place by European and Indigenous peoples alike.
The trip up to the source took around an hour. The views were spectacular with the deep red rock of the gorge walls closing in on us for a good proportion of the journey with palm, pandanus and escarpment lined banks for the remainder. As with the rest of the creek, there was an abundance of fish life ever present and the intermittent bubbling on the surface where the artesian bores fed into the waterway or it was freshwater crocs slowly expelling air from their huge lungs (I prefer the bore concept).
Before heading back to the main carpark we had a long swim at Indarri Falls. The falls are quite wide and is comprised of many small waterfalls that flow into the head of this part of the creek. I found out that what lies behind a waterfall isn’t mystical, magical or filled with fairies as many children’s novels would have you believe; these were actually filled with sandflies and spider webs and when you break through the torrent of water and open your mouth to take in some much needed air, you end up with a faceful of web and a mountful of small flying insects! Maybe they were fairies, but I didn’t hang around long enough to find out for sure. Urgh!
If you make it up here, be sure to take something for the many Archer Fish you’re bound to see swimming around. Simply hold the food (bread is good, corn chips appear to work too) and hold your hand just above the water surface and it will be shot at by these opportunistic freshwater hunters. It’s quite amazing to see these fish trying to dislodge food items from your hand with blasts of water from their mouths.
After the fish feeding session from the canoe docks at the falls we were on our way back down the creek. I’m not sure it was more special, but with the sun disappearing from view due to the height of the cliffs on the western side of the creek, the gorge took on a whole new look and was well worth taking on at different times of the day. We might have come back up again at first light if we were staying on for a few more days just to experience that contrast.
Finally back at Adels we swam some more with the kids taking on the rapids in the tubes and hitting the rope swing and pontoon again. We missed the memo about no hot water, but given it was still above 30degs, it wasn’t really a big deal. The Telstra service at the restaurant was good enough and drew in people from all around the site to make their phone calls, download emails and catch up on social media. We didn’t eat there, but the food and service was rumoured to be excellent. All in all, Adels, Lawn Hill and even Gregory on the way in (and out on the way to Cloncurry) was an excellent experience and one we’re all glad we didn’t miss out on.
NB: See the full photo gallery here