Carnarvon National Park

Barbecue Disabled Drinking water Shower Toilets Wildlife Aboriginal site Camping area Information Lookout Picnic area Ranger Walking
Violet Gorge, Carnarvon National Park, Van Roon Jaime Plaza / Auscape International

Introduction

Tucked away in this vast, rambling park in Queensland’s Central Highlands is the magnificent Carnarvon Gorge. Boasting towering white sandstone cliffs, breathtaking side gorges and some of the finest Aboriginal rock art in Australia, this 160-million-year-old natural wonder is the region’s most popular tourist attraction.

The Carnarvon Gorge area, the most accessible and most visited part of the park, is only one of four sections of Carnarvon National Park and occupies only a fraction of the total park area. The other, less accessible sections are Mount Moffatt, Ka Ka Mundi and Salvator Rosa, which offer visitors a remote wilderness experience.

Fact file

Access

From Roma via Carnarvon Hwy; from Emerald via Gregory and Dawson hwys; park access road is 21 km of unsealed gravel surface, suitable for 2WD in dry weather but impassable following rain; check road conditions before travelling; nearest fuel stations are in Rolleston and Injune

Best season

April to September

Location

550 km north-west of Brisbane; 270 km north of Roma via Injune; 196 km south-east of Emerald via Springsure and Rolleston

Park information

NPRSR 13 7468

Permits

Camping permit and fees apply; bookings essential

Size

298 000 ha

Visitor information

Roma (07) 4622 8676

Injune (07) 4626 0503

www.visitmaranoa.qld.gov.au  

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • View the amazing Aboriginal rock art at the Art Gallery, Cathedral Cave or The Tombs

    Walk to Violet Gorge to see the enchanting Moss Garden

    Marvel at the ancient king ferns in Ward’s Canyon

See Also

A look at the past

Ludwig Leichhardt lead the first European expedition into the Carnarvon region in 1844, and Thomas Mitchell and Edmund Kennedy followed shortly after in 1846–47. Mitchell gave the region its current name, possibly after the Caernarfon Ranges of Wales. Pastoralists moved into the area in the 1860s, with the nearby settlement of Springsure surveyed and gazetted in 1863. After lobbying from the the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, pastoralists abandoned their leaseholds and the national park was declared in 1932. The Ka Ka Mundi section was grazed for more than a century before it became part of the national park in 1974, and the old cattle yards by the Bunbuncundoo Springs are a reminder of early pastoral history.

Aboriginal culture

Carnarvon Gorge is a significant Dreamtime area, said to have been carved out of the rock as the rainbow serpent Mundagurra travelled through the area's creek system. There are three main rock-art sites at Carnarvon Gorge: the Art Gallery, Cathedral Cave and Baloon Cave. In the Art Gallery, dated at over 4000 years old, 62 metres of rock wall provide a natural canvas for more than 2000 ochre stencils, freehand paintings and rock engravings. The even larger Cathedral Cave is one of the most extensive rock-art sites within the gorge. Here there are depictions of human hands, spears, boomerangs, goannas and emu tracks. There is more ochre stencilling at the smaller Baloon Cave. In the plateaus above the gorge, in the Mount Moffat section, rock art of the Bidjara people can be found at The Tombs and Kookaburra Cave. All of the rock art sites in the park are fragile and of tremendous cultural significance, so please remain on the boardwalks provided and refrain from touching the art.

Natural features

Part of the massive Consuelo Tableland in central Queensland, this vast, rambling park extends east–west for some 160 kilometres. The 200-metre-high cliffs of Carnarvon Gorge have been carved out over millions of years by the continually flowing Carnarvon Creek, which makes the gorge an oasis amongst the dry heat of central Queensland. Along its 30-kilometre length are numerous, narrow side gorges – complete with waterfalls, pockets of rainforest and natural wonders such as the Moss Garden, the quiet, almost claustrophobic Amphitheatre and Ward’s Canyon, with its ancient king ferns. By contrast, the Mount Moffat, Salvator Rosa and Ka Ka Mundi sections of the park are characterised by grassy plateaus and sandstone cliffs, bluffs and spires.

Native plants

Hundreds of plant species thrive in Carnarvon Gorge, which shelters endemic cabbage palms (Livistona nitida), ancient cycads, ferns, flowering shrubs and gums. Remnant rainforest flourishes in the sheltered side gorges with mosses, lichens and other small plants. On the plateau above the cliffs and bluffs and throughout the Mount Moffat section is open eucalypt forest with an understorey of native grasses – a compelling reminder of why this area was attractive to pastoralists. The Ka Ka Mundi section of the park is part of central Queensland's 'brigalow belt', and is dominated by brigalow, bonewood and softwood scrub as well as patches of poplar box and silver-leafed ironbark. Further west, the Salvator Rosa section contains beatuiful specimens of the large-fruited yellowjacket (Eucalyptus watsoniana), whose vivid rust-coloured bark provides the bush with bursts of brilliant colour.

Wildlife

The Carnarvon Gorge section's permanent water source in the Carnarvon Creek provides a sanctuary for a wide range of birds, who come in summer to breed or stay over winter. Over 175 species have been recorded here, including azure kingfishers, red-backed fairy-wrens, apostlebirds, choughs, bush stone-curlews, bustards and Australian king-parrots. Other wildlife includes eastern grey kangaroos, whiptail wallabies, green tree frogs, freshwater snakes and eastern water dragons. If you are lucky you might spot a platypus in the clear, shallow waters of Carnarvon Creek. An evening walk with a torch may reveal possums, gliders and bandicoots. Those looking for an encounter with kangaroos should head for the grasslands of the Mount Moffat section, which are home to seven species of kangaroos and wallabies, including Herbert's rock-wallaby.

Introduction

Carnarvon Gorge visitor centre is about 3 kilometres inside the Carnarvon Gorge section of the park, and has wheelchair-accessible toilets and picnic tables. Three days is the minimum time recommended for a visit to the Carnarvon Gorge section. The other sections of the park suit experienced bush campers and explorers who relish setting their own itineraries, although there are established walking tracks in the Mount Moffatt section.

Aboriginal rock art

Of Carnarvon Gorge’s Aboriginal rock-art sites, the most accessible is Baloon Cave, which has a self-guided walk (500 metres return, 30 minutes). More effort is required to reach the Art Gallery (5.4 km return, 3–4 hours) and the Cathedral Cave (9 km return, 5–6 hours). All of these art sites have descriptive signs and interpretive material. Less well known but equally impressive rock art sites exist in the Mount Moffatt section: The Tombs (4.2 km return, 2 hours) or Kookaburra Cave (off the section's 4WD-only circuit drive).

Bushwalking

At Carnarvon Gorge, the main trails start near the visitor centre. A good place to begin is the short Nature Trail (2 km return, 1 hour). After that, there are the many side gorges: Mickey Creek Gorge (2 km return, 1 hour); Rock Pool (600 metres return, 1 hour); Moss Garden (7 km return, 2–3 hours); Amphitheatre (8.6 km return, 3–4 hours); Lower Ward’s Canyon (9.2 km return, 3–4 hours). For breathtaking views over the national park, walk to Boolimba Bluff (6.2 km return, 2–3 hours).

Experienced bushwalkers can take the Carnarvon Great Walk, a six-day, 87-kilometre circuit that takes walkers up from the mouth of the Carnarvon Gorge to the Mount Moffatt section and across the roof of the Consuelo Tableland. There are seveal places of stunning beauty, including Battleship Spur, which overlooks the Carnarvon Gorge, and the elevated savannahs of the Consuelo Tableland.

Campsites

Big Bend camping area (walk-in camping)

Great for experienced walkers and campers, this site is reached by a 9.7 km walk from the visitor information centre through the gorge; there’s no access for vehicles. Once there, you’ll find a small... Find out more


Bunbuncundoo Springs camping area (bush camping)

This campsite, deep inside Carnarvon’s Ka Ka Mundi section, is suitable for self-sufficient campers only; bring water and a gas/fuel stove. There is good wildlife-watching in the area so look out for king parrots... Find out more


Bush camping areas (walk-in camping)

Walk-in bush camping is permitted in all areas of the Mt Moffat section of Carnarvon National Park except restricted-access areas. There are no facilities and fires are prohibited, so bring all self-sufficient gear,... Find out more


Carnarvon Gorge camping area

Camping is permitted here only during certain Qld school holidays: Easter, winter and spring. There are 35 numbered campsites, plenty of room for large groups, and good shade under gum trees and cabbage palms. Visitors... Find out more


Dargonelly Rock Hole camping area

This campground is beside the rock hole at Marlong Creek and can be accessed by conventional vehicles and off-road caravans in dry weather only. Up to 35 people can camp at the site at any one time, and there is a water... Find out more


Nogoa River camping area (bush camping)

This bush camping site in the Salvator Rosa section of Carnarvon National Park is for entirely self-sufficient campers. Orange-barked yellow-jacket trees and beautiful wildflower displays are some of the highlights of... Find out more


Rotary Shelter Shed camping area

This camping area, about 17 km north-east of the park office, is accessible only by 4WD (suitable for high-clearance camper trailers). There are no defined sites, but a maximum of 15 people can camp at any one time.... Find out more


Top Moffatt camping area

Accessible only by 4WD and high-clearance camper trailers, this site is at the east branch of the Maranoa River. A maximum of 20 people can use the area at any one time, and it suits self-sufficient campers as the only... Find out more


West Branch camping area

This site is near the west branch of the Maranoa River and can be reached by conventional vehicles and off-road caravans in dry weather only. Open fires are permitted only at existing fire rings; check for fire bans. No... Find out more


See Also

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