Carnarvon Gorge, Carnarvon National Park Capricorn | Outback Queensland

Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Like to become a campground host?

The department is seeking volunteers to act as campground hosts at Carnarvon Gorge section, Carnarvon National Park over the Queensland school holidays. Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Beyond brilliant—an adventurers’ guide to Carnarvon Gorge

Read more on the Think outside blog Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

About Carnarvon Gorge

    Park features

    Carnarvon Gorge is an oasis in the semi-arid heart of Central Queensland.

    Here, towering white sandstone cliffs form a spectacular steep-sided gorge with narrow, vibrantly-coloured and lush side-gorges. Boulder-strewn Carnarvon Creek winds through the gorge.

    A wealth of cultural and natural heritage lies within this special place. The gorge is home to a range of significant plant and animal species, many of them relics of cooler, wetter times.

    Remnant rainforest flourishes in the sheltered side-gorges while endemic Carnarvon fan palms Livistona nitida, ancient cycads, ferns, flowering shrubs and gum trees line the main gorge. Grassy open forest grows on the cliff tops. The park's creeks attract a wide variety of animals including more than 173 species of birds.

    Rock art on sandstone overhangs is a fragile reminder of Aboriginal people's long and continuing connection with the gorge. Ochre stencils, rock engravings and freehand paintings include some of the finest Aboriginal rock imagery in Australia.

    Ranger interview

    Hear Ranger Alistair Hartley talking about what makes Carnarvon National Park so special (and why you should visit!) (Courtesy ABC Radio).

    Audio transcript


    You're with Cat Feeney on ABC Radio Brisbane in Queensland.

    Did you know there are more than 250 national parks in Queensland but how much time have you spent amongst the more than 6.5 million hectares of park in this state and what do you know about what is really out there seeing as Queensland is your oyster right now Robbie and I thought it'd be fun to explore some of the incredible natural wonders of this state, might inspire you road trip wise perhaps. Or at least just checking out what is in your very own backyard helping you get going this afternoon a gentleman by the name of Alastair Hartley, who is a senior ranger at the sandstone ational park Carnarvon Gorge Alastair thank you so much for joining us I understand you're a second generation ranger tell me more.

    Yes good afternoon yeah um I'm second generation my dad was a game ranger in South Africa and a park ranger in the northern territory and yeah I've kind of followed the family tradition I suppose.

    Well that's just marvellous I want to know a bit more about how one becomes a ranger in a tick but tell me about your neck of the woods what is so special about the sandstone national parks sell it to me Alastair sell it to me.

    No worries so I'm actually the senior manager for the sandstone management unit which includes the sandstone belt um which is across the central highlands uh area of Queensland and includes places like Carnarvon National Park uh Mount Moffat section of Carnarvon National Park and yeah it's very spectacular changes wherever you go um you've got uh the western arid zone areas of Carnarvon National Park right through to the lush rainforest oasis around Carnarvon Gorge and yeah it's pretty unique pretty specky and yeah it's um quite a nice part of the world I reckon probably no flamingo to be found but I read that it is home to the world's largest living fern yes it is yeah so we've got the king ferns at uh or in and around Carnarvon Gorge.

    How big are they?

    Uh we've got some species up to two and a half uh meters like they're quite old and they can grow very slow growing ferns and prefer the moist areas so they're actually remnant from past areas like Gondwanaland when most of Australia was covered in rainforest.

    Extraordinary now tell me about some of the other special trees I understand that you have the northernmost Sydney blue gum found anywhere in Australia.

    Yes that's correct so um up on top of the consuelo tablelands now consuela tablelands it ranges in height between 1200 meters above sea level and 12 or basically 1300 meters above sea level and yeah all through there you've got the Sydney blue gum. It's the same exact same species that you'll see in and around Sydney and hence the name uh and they're quite tall and very big in diameter and again it's a remnant from a bygone era.

    Extraordinary I've never been but maybe you have the sandstone national park region Carnarvon Gorge area Alastair Hartley is with you he's the senior ranger with the management committee up there. If you've got a great memory to share about this park why don't you tell me about it? 1300 222 612, you can call now or send through a text message 0467 922 612. This is your new park life segment on ABC Radio Brisbane and Queensland celebrating the wonderful national parks that we have in this state and what makes them so special and unique. Alistair, the art gallery struck me when I saw that you had an art gallery in the national park. I thought oh this must be some sort of tourist kiosk. It's absolutely anything but. Tell me about your art gallery. It sounds incredible.

    Yep so one of the features across the whole sandstone landscape is the first nations connection to it and there's a very strong connection there's quite a number of heart sites right through the whole landscape and the art gallery is a key site for the first nations people of the area and it's basically a sandstone overhang with quite a number of important um art that's been put on the that the first nations people have put on there and it varies from hand stencils through to other significant art pieces.

    And is this part of cathedral cave or is that separate?

    That's separate yes so cathedral cave is a bit further on uh walking up the up to gorge um and that's it's another significant cultural site for the for the first nations people.

    And tell me about this ambitious hike. I understand ambitious is key here for ambitious explorers you could do an overnight hike to big bend now this isn't the clock on the other side of the world that would quite be quite ambitious what's your big bend and how well do you need to be able to walk to be able to see it okay so the big bend's actually not the ambitious part of the ambitious walk that we have at Carnarvon that would be the great walk but the big bend is still an overnight trip um so you need to be prepared to camp on the ground basically so you need to carry enough food water um you've got we highly recommend you carry some emergency beacons or a way of contacting someone if you injure yourself because it is a strenuous walk it's not something that people should undertake just by like arriving at canal and gorge and then to say oh yeah well we'll go up there it's something you've got to plan for um it's a good starter for the great walk. uh the great walk is seven days 87 kilometres the big bend walk all up there and back is around about 20 kilometres but it's recommended for an overnight stay.

    And lots of places to swim I mean who wouldn’t want to travel to this part of Queensland anyone it seems you've got something for everyone.

    Yeah we've got something for everyone um so the only place you can actually swim at Carnarvon Gorge or anywhere in the Carnarvon is at the rock pool at Carnarvon Gorge the main reason for that is there are quite a few platypus that live in canal creek and so swimming in the waterholes upstream of rockpool if people have got sunscreen on or insect repellent that chemical actually gets into the water and then affects the quality of the water for the platypus in particular but also their prey. um but yeah we've got walk we've got everything for everyone so we've got nice easy trails for the very young family.

    Oh dear I feel as though we have lost contact with our ranger Alastair Hartley. Alastair, can you hear me? no we'll see if we can find a way to connect back with Alistair Hartley. he is the senior ranger with the sand stone management committee. they help keep an eye on things around Carnarvon Gorge in the surrounding national parks including the Nuga Nuga, Lonesome, Minerva Hills national parks it just sounds like an extraordinary part of Queensland five minutes to two news at two o'clock. Alastair are we back in touch. hello


    Hello uh it's not Alastair it's Mark who's just pulled up outside Townsville you've been visiting these national parks for your first time what have you found.

    Oh we have got so much natural treasure out there it is unbelievable about 10 days ago I flipped a coin to see if I was going to head back out to the Isa which is where I grew up many, many years ago or head north to um up to vanguard which I've been up and down that way quite a few times over the years but never stopped to browse through the national parks we've got the most spectacular piece of geography going on around us Kat it's just unbelievable.

    This is it. I mean I feel I've I've got to break this habit that I've formed of thinking okay I want to do a big holiday gearing up to go overseas see some of the great wonders of the world and forgetting entirely that there are great wonders right here.

    Look it's amazing I've done a lot of travel overseas you know I'm sad that I've done that in and ignored my own state here I mean everything start start around safe places like Maleny and Mapleton and that those great national parks there. start coming up the coast tonight and look I just I haven't got them in front of me but like I've been to Byfield, Hillsborough, Cape Palmerston, Paluma and today are actually a random one out there I'm going up to called Mount Fox which apparently there's an extinct volcano there which I didn't even know was going on.

    Oh gorgeous now what's that what is the best thing you've seen many great things but what is the big standout thing that you've seen that comes to mind?

    I can't give you one that's too many things has been so fabulous one thing I will say though it's been most noteworthy there must be about a million caravans and camping trailers and things like that on the road but look we just got to get it out there and realise what a jewel we've got here this this is honestly perhaps the very best place in the world not that I'm biased or anything like that.

    That's fine yeah that's good I love it I'll take that mark thank you so much for calling to share that enthusiasm that's exactly what I hope to be able to bring to you through this segment parklife ABC Radio Brisbane in Queensland. just before the two o'clock news. back on the phone now senior ranger with the Carnarvon Gorge Park area Alastair Hartley. what do we need to know if we want to come up and visit these parks? camping what are the rules if anyone's listening and they're thinking yeah I’ll check it out what do they need to know Alistair hello.

    Hello sorry about that um look to come up and camp we encourage people to come up and camp but we encourage people to book online so go to our park alerts system and book online. look at our park alerts that will have the most the latest information concerning roads or within the park or any issues that uh people need to be aware of within the park but we strongly um people need to book online. book a campsite online and that guarantees that they're going to have a as someone just put their tent or the camper trailer when they arrive to enjoy the park.

    And finally how did you get to be a ranger what do you have to do it sounds like a great job.

    Um so the actual qualifications just to be a base level ranger you only need a manual driver's license. you need to have a desire to be outside and working in the hot sun when it’s 45 degrees and the cold when it's minus two. um a love for the love for being outside. um if you go and do an environmental studies course then that'll that helps it's not something that we you require and basically do some volunteer work and come and work with us and see if you actually enjoy it.

    Alastair thank you so much for joining us this afternoon and taking us to the parks that you get to spend your days in.

    Um just quickly Cat. Interesting that the caller is talking about the extinct volcanoes that’s what Minerva Hills just outside of spring shore is in Minerva Hills National Park um so we've got extended volcanoes right through Queensland and there’s quite a few national parks that are actually extinct volcanoes so and that's one of the beauties about sandstone um the sandstone belt we’ve got volcanoes we've got um natural sedimentary rocks formed from the inland ocean millions of years ago.

    You've got it all thank you so much.

    You're listening to ABC Radio.

    Looking after the park

    Please help to care for Carnarvon Gorge by following these guidelines.

    • Use a fuel stove or the gas barbecues provided at Carnarvon Gorge day-use area. Open fires are not permitted.
    • Do not feed or leave food for animals—human food can harm wildlife and cause some animals to become aggressive. Keep your food packed away when your campsite is not attended.
    • Leave domestic animals at home. Pets disturb native wildlife and other park visitors.
    • Leave all plants and animals undisturbed.
    • Use toilets if available. Away from toilets, ensure all faecal matter and toilet paper are properly buried (15cm deep) well away from tracks, campsites, watercourses and drainage channels (150m). Take disposable nappies and sanitary products out of the park and dispose of them appropriately.
    • When washing cooking equipment, always wash at least 100m from streams and lakes. Waterways should be kept free of all pollutants including soap, detergents, sunscreens and food scraps.
    • Rubbish bins are not provided. Do not bury or leave rubbish—take it with you when you leave. This includes cigarette butts, which do not decompose.
    • Cycling is not permitted on any walking tracks.
    • Climbing and abseiling is not permitted anywhere in the park.
    • Do not bring firearms or other weapons into the park.

    See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

    Park management

    The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manage the Carnarvon Gorge section of Carnarvon National Park under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to conserve its natural, cultural and historic values.

    The Carnarvon National Park Management Plan: Southern Brigalow Belt Biogeographic Region (PDF, 1.7MB) , details how this park is managed.

    Tourism information links

    Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge
    4043 O'Briens Road, Carnarvon Gorge Qld 4702
    ph (07) 4984 4503
    freecall 1800 644 150

    Takarakka Bush Resort
    Via Rolleston, Qld 4702
    ph (07) 4984 4535
    fax (07) 4984 4556

    Sandstone Park Carnarvon Gorge
    ph (07) 4984 4679

    Australian Nature Guides
    Carnarvon Gorge Discovery Centre
    O'Brien's Road, Carnarvon Gorge Qld 4702
    Ph (07) 4984 4652 (March to October)

    For information on road conditions check with the Department of Transport and Main Roads or phone 13 19 40 before setting out.

    For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.