About Carnarvon Gorge
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.
Hear Ranger Alistair Hartley talking about what makes Carnarvon National Park so special (and why you should visit!) (Courtesy ABC Radio).
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, is a gentleman by the name of Alastair Hartley, who is a Senior Ranger at the sandstone national 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. Yes, I'm second generation. My dad was a game ranger in South Africa and a park ranger in the Northern Territory. 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, which is across the Central Highlands area of Queensland and includes places like Carnarvon National Park, Mount Moffat section of Carnarvon National Park. It's very spectacular changes wherever you go. You've got the western arid zone areas of Carnarvon National Park, right through to the lush rainforest oasis around Carnarvon Gorge. It's pretty unique, pretty speccy and it's 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. We've got the king ferns in and around Carnarvon Gorge.
How big are they?
We've got some species up to two and a half meters. They're quite old and they are 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. Up on top of the Consuelo Tablelands, now Consuelo Tableland ranges in height between 1200 meters above sea level and 12 or basically 1300 meters above sea level. 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. 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 unit 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.
Yes, one of the features across the whole sandstone landscape is the First Nations connection to it. There's a very strong connection. There's quite a number of heart sites right through the whole landscape. The Art Gallery is a key site for the First Nations people of the area. It's basically a sandstone overhang with quite a number of important art 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. Cathedral Cave is a bit further on, walking up the up gorge. 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?
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. So you need to be prepared to camp on the ground basically. So you need to carry enough food, water. 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 Carnarvon Gorge and saying ‘oh yeah, we'll go up there’. It's something you've got to plan for. It’s a good starter for the Great Walk. 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 would want to travel to this part of Queensland? Anyone it seems you've got something for everyone.
Yeah, we've got something for everyone. So the only place you can actually swim at Carnarvon Gorge or anywhere in Carnarvon is at the Rock Pool at Carnarvon Gorge. The main reason for that is there are quite a few platypus that live in Carnarvon Creek and so swimming in the waterholes upstream of Rock Pool, 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. We've got everything for everyone, so we've got nice easy trails for the very young family.
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?
To come up and camp, we encourage people to come up and camp. We encourage people to book online. So go to our booking system and book online. Look at our Park alerts, that will have the most the latest information concerning roads within the park or any issues that people need to be aware of within the park. But people need to book a campsite online, and that guarantees that they're going to have somewhere to put their tent or 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.
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. A love for for being outside. If you go and do an environmental studies course then that helps but it's not something that you require. 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.
Just quickly, Cat. Interesting that the previous caller was talking about the extinct volcanoes. That’s what Minerva Hills, just outside of Springsure is. In Minerva Hills National Park we've got extinct volcanoes right through Queensland and there’s quite a few national parks that are actually extinct volcanoes. That's one of the beauties about the Sandstone Belt, we’ve got volcanoes, we've got 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.
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.
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 , details how this park is managed.
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.