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Nature, culture and history
A complicated beginning
The origins of the Herbert River Gorge and falls are anything but humble. Several major geological events created today’s landscape.
About 50 million years ago, movement of the earth's crust formed the edge of the continent that lies against the Coral Sea and the formation of the present landforms began. An earlier Herbert River flowed towards the west. It is not known when it reached its present east-flowing course.
Continuous erosion caused the Herbert River Falls to retreat by around 40cm every 100 years. As the gorge became longer, tributaries were left suspended, creating waterfalls like the Herbert Falls, which in turn eroded their own gorges.
Animals and their habitats
In the open forest, look for elegant whiptail wallabies Macropus parryi and gangly emus Dromaius novaehollandiae as they rest from the heat, and listen for laughing kookaburras Dacelo novaeguineae or screeching sulphur-crested cockatoos Cacatua galerita. Australasian darters Anhinga novaehollandiae and little pied cormorants Microcarbo melanoleucos can be seen along the banks of the Herbert River while white-bellied sea-eagles Haliaeetus leucogaster, brown falcons Falco berigora and peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus soar above.
In the creeks and rivers, Krefft’s river turtles Emydura macquarii krefftii and freshwater crocodiles Crocodylus johnstoni bask on logs and branches.
Girringun National Park boasts spectacular scenery and an array of plant and animal life. Open forest dominates the escarpments and river she-oaks Casuarina cunninghamiana line the Herbert River. The gullies and upper slopes of the Herbert River Gorge are cloaked in vine-thicket rainforest.
This country is rugged and one of extremes. During the drier months, the land is parched and vulnerable to fire. Grasses die and some trees lose their leaves. Large granite outcrops add to the starkness, completing the appearance of a dying landscape. With the arrival of the wet, the countryside is inundated with water and the plants spring back to life.
Ted Condon pioneered Princess Hills as a Pastoral Holding in 1952. The Condon family originally grazed shorthorn cattle before moving to a Brahman cross breed. The original homestead was established on the banks of Pannikin Spring, which lies below the current Princess Hills ranger station.
- Wet season closure: Princess Hills section, Girringun National Park 1 December 2020 to 31 March 2021