Isla Gorge National Park June 16 - 19 2023
  As we left Nathan Gorge, a fun place for us, we pondered upon the tortuous landscape.

Way back in 1922 there was a plan to dam the gorge. Which would have flooded Taroom, 45km to the south west.

Resurrected in this century as a dam at the entry to the gorge. A lower level. Saving Taroom.

That plan also seems to have lapsed. For now, simply because its not yet economically viable.

  The Nathan Gorge Road, became the Cracow Road as we neared Taroom. Wider and smoother.

We stopped briefly in Taroom to empty the loo cassettes, fill one diesel tank, fill our water tanks, and buy some food.

Lots of camping space, we'll return after a loop around Isla Gorge National Park.

  We looked across Downfall Creek at a corner of Precipice National Park. Northwest of that are a couple of nature reserves. And further northwest is Isla Gorge National Park.

This is our first glimpse from the campsite in Isla Gorge NP. Looking a bit east of north, towards Devils Nest.

  A few days ago it occurred to us to look at the satellite view of Nathan Gorge, and then of Precipice National Park.

It seemed obvious that this was a "karst" formation. Eroded by water.

I think the park is called precipice not because it has precipices but because it is formed of precipice sandstone. A major layer of rock in the Bowen and Surat basins. And beyond.

Deposited by fresh water flowing rather than under sea. Then, in the case of the park, later eroded. Perhaps uplifted a bit as the erosion is more obvious on the eastern side than west.

That's about the limit of what I could discover. The park is inaccessible to us, so no chance of knowing if the sandstone is more or less coarse on one side or another, indicating the direction of depositing water flow. And no chance of knowing where the very big mountain that was eroded was.

It must have been a very big range, precipice sandstone covers a vast, and thick, expanse of Queensland basins.

  We were reminded of the Bungles in WA. Similarly formed by flowing water. From the north. And similarly eroded by water. A karst formation.

This pic is at approximately the same scale as previous pic.

The similarity ends there of course. The sandstone layers in the bungles provide a distinctive banding, while the relative fineness at the southern edge allows the domes to form.

Precipice sandstone was laid down during the Jurassic, 145-200 million years ago. The Bungles are older at 360 million years ago. I have no idea if domes formed and have been further eroded, or never formed in Precipice. Precipice is "craggy" with scree like slopes. Unlike Bungles where the domes meet the floor, the eroded rock washed or blown away.

Interesting (to me) is that in the Bungles we were restricted to being at the bottom of gorges and formations. Looking up. Apart from the helicopter flight that is. When I asked a Ranger about access to the plateau the answer was "yes and no". Yes its possible, but no, not for you. At Nathan Gorge, and Isla Gorge, we are on the plateau, looking down.

Having compared them, simply as karst formations, the Bungles is obviously much more impressive and spectacular. But this sandstone area of Queensland is looking impressive in a different way. Both enjoyable in their own distinctive way. 

  Enough geology and philosophy.

We followed a track northwards from the campsite for a few hundred meters. Followed a ridge, with steep sides, to a lookout at the end.

  We can distinguish the ridges and shapes we could see in satellite views.

With the additional detail of cliffs and crags.

There's smoke in the air, from a fire at Kroombit Tops. Many km to our northwest.

  But turning away from the smoke and sun a little we can see a bit more.

We thought about whether we could descend from the end of the ridge towards the gorge creek. But perhaps a little steep.

  Next day we walked east from the campsite. Along another ridge.

Looking north towards Devils Nest.

  And the pyramid remnants of part of the plateau.
  Yesterday's track was along a finger reaching northwards.

This is looking back at a parallel, but less passable, finger.

  Just nice bush to walk through. Stony ground between the tussocks.
  Looking north again, with Devils Nest in the background.

A ridge sufficiently eroded that the tip has become isolated.

  Having reached the end of the track, for an uninspiring look down on the Leichhardt Highway, we retraced our footsteps.

Then followed yet another finger northwards.

Not far to its tip we found the slope sufficiently inviting, we began our descent.

Mostly like this, sometimes a bit steeper, a couple of rock outcrops to climb down rather than walk.

  At the bottom a level area, about halfway between plateau and creek.

The grass a bit more dense, and soil under our feet, but otherwise similar vegetation.

  We walked about half a km across it, to another edge.

And of course the Devils Nest in the background.

Useful to maintain our bearings, though we had our gps tracker.

  The closest we've been to the erosion of the sandstone faces.

I have no doubt there are rock shelters, and possibly rock art of some form, but they elude us.

I suspect the sandstone is a bit coarse for painting, but perhaps engravings. I may never know.

  We returned whence we came. A relatively easy climb up - simply being able to say that is enjoyable of itself.
  After two nights we sought to circumnavigate the park.

But first a detour along Dukes Plain Road. Along the north eastern side of Precipice National Park. The closest we can get to it without walking.

A solitary, rather odd looking (to us) bottle tree.

  An enjoyable drive, with fingers reaching out to us from the park.
  And on the other side of the road disconnected hills.

Just as we (and hopefully everyone else) would expect on the edges of a large karst formation.

  Having satiated a little of our curiosity about Precipice National Park we turned back and attempted to follow the edge of Isla Gorge National Park northwards.

On the edge of the park is Devils Nest State Forest. Andersons Road is shown as being through the state forest and into the national park. The peak that is Devils Nest is just outside the park.

It seems the Devil is in residence. We are not certain of the legality of the sign but are sufficiently discouraged. Which of course is the intent.

The conventional "no through road" sign at the beginning of the road helped our decision - the track north perhaps non-existent or impassable.

  We travel further north up the highway to hopefully have more success with the Glenmoral Roundstone Road. It leaves the Leichhardt Highway just 3km before Theodore.

It passed through Glenmoral Gap in the Dawson Range. A long, narrow, steep, ridge. More or less north north west to south south east, from Blackdown Tablelands for a couple of hundred km.

Once through the gap we see the northern part of Isla Gorge NP.

  This is the new road. At the bottom 60km/hr. Then 40. And then 20.

Not too steep. Third gear.

  A track northwards along the top of the ridge we've climbed, towards a couple of short walks.
  We are just about to look at an old paved road. Built to help carry wool from Roma to Rockhampton.

This pic was apparently published in the Illustrated London News, in 1863. Describing how difficult it was to transport wool from within Australia to London.

We hope the brakes worked.

  Also in 1863 the road up (or down depending on perspective) from our ridge to valley floor was paved. With large slabs of sandstone.

Quite impressive even now.

Designed for bullock carts, so wide corners (the bullocks are always in a straight line, with just a joint to the cart, so they have to shuffle sideways on corners).

Traffic declined in the 1930's as a new road was built between Taroom and Theodore, and a new toll road at Toowoomba allowed wool to be transported through Brisbane.

  Complete with a culvert, also built with sandstone, which avoids the road being washed away.

I've studied the map several times, in fact more than one map several times, and wondered which way the wool was traveling from Roma. Whether up this hill, or down.

A description on the park interpretive sign is of needing two bullock teams to haul heavy loads up steep hills.

But that doesn't feel right for this hill. Perhaps backloading supplies. Or my sense of direction is kaput.

I'm sure sense will be made in the fullness of time. Perhaps a visit to the Taroom Museum is in order.

  Not far from the paved road is a lookout. Eastwards across the valley.

In the distance the Dawson Range. Almost central in the pic is the Glenmoral Gap that we passed through earlier..

  A few km later, before Flagstaff, in the Theodore State Forest we happen on a derelict cattle yard. And decide its a good place to stop for the night.

We've seen a few concrete cylinders in the last few days and assumed they were wells.

Apparently not. Simply water troughs. An inlet pipe and a float valve to keep it full. I have no idea where the pipe comes from. Its no longer carrying water.

  Its next to Slaggy Creek.
  We've decided to have a laundry day. Whatever that entails. But a laundry day without internet when it is not far away would seem odd.

So we backtracked a few km and are hidden down a short track into state forest. Found a flat spot about 50m from the end of the track. Not far from the edge of the cliffs overlooking valley to east. Just a fence for edge of national park in the way.

Internet a bit iffy but usable. I'll put the phone up the pole to upload blog.

More importantly, lots of sun to dry the washing, stretched across the track, and fill the battery.

Taroom June 20 - 21 2023

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