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About Carnarvon Gorge

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Getting there and getting around

The road into Carnarvon Gorge allows excellent views of the park's cliffs. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

The road into Carnarvon Gorge allows excellent views of the park's cliffs. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

Carnarvon Gorge is between Roma and Emerald. From Roma, drive 90km north to Injune then a further 160km along the Carnarvon Highway. From Emerald, drive 65km south to Springsure then 70km east to Rolleston, and a further 61km to the Carnarvon turnoff.

No fuel is available after leaving Rolleston or Injune. The nearest vehicle and tyre repair facilities are at Roma and Springsure.

The 45km road to the park has 15km of unsealed gravel surface. This road can become impassable after rain and is suitable for conventional vehicles and caravans in dry weather only. Please check with Queensland Government traffic and travel information (13 19 40) or RACQ for the latest road conditions.

Wheelchair accessibility

The Carnarvon Gorge visitor area has wheelchair-accessible toilets, picnic tables and disability car parking.

Park features

Carnarvon Creek has carved a winding course through sandstone over millions of years. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

Carnarvon Creek has carved a winding course through sandstone over millions of years. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

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.

Camping and accommodation

Sunset above Boolimba Bluff, from the visitor area. Photo: Michael O'Connor, NPRSR.

Sunset above Boolimba Bluff, from the visitor area. Photo: Michael O'Connor, NPRSR.

Camping

Camping is only permitted in the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area during the Easter, winter and spring Queensland school holidays. Big Bend camping area, reached by a 9.7km walk, is open all year. Before walking in to Big Bend to camp, record your trip details in the registration book at the park's visitor centre, and log out of the book when you have completed your walk. Bookings for Big Bend camping area and camping at the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area cannot be made at the visitor centre.

For all camping within the park, camping permits are required and fees apply.

Other accommodation

Commercially operated campsites and holiday accommodation are available all year round, close to the park. Takarakka Bush Resort and Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge are 4km and 3km respectively by road from the Carnarvon Gorge visitor centre. Both have cabins and Takarakka also offers camping facilities with powered sites.

For more information see the tourism information links below.

Things to do

The main walking track crosses Carnarvon Creek many times. Photo: Adam Creed, EHP.

The main walking track crosses Carnarvon Creek many times. Photo: Adam Creed, EHP.

Walking

Take a walk at Carnarvon Gorge and explore the natural beauty of this rugged wilderness. A minimum of three days is recommended to walk the tracks, explore side gorges and visit Aboriginal art sites. All tracks are fully signposted and lead either from the main road to the park information centre, or from the main track that starts in the Carnarvon Gorge visitor area.

Carnarvon National Park's walking tracks have been classified to help you select a walk that matches your bushwalking experience and fitness. Take time to read these class descriptions before walking in the park.

Key to track standards

The classification system is based on Australian Standards. Please note that while each track is classified according to its most difficult section, other sections may be easier.

Class 3 track
  • Gently sloping, well-defined track, usually with slight inclines or few to many steps.
  • Steep sections occur.
  • Caution needed on creek crossings, ladders and steps.
  • Reasonable level of fitness and ankle-supporting footwear required.
Class 4 track
  • May be extensively overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rocks likely to be present.
  • Caution needed on creek crossings, cliff edges and naturally-occurring lookouts.
  • Moderate level of fitness required.
  • Ankle-supporting footwear strongly recommended.

Short walks—from parking areas along the road into the park

Baloon Cave—1km return (45 minutes) Class 3

Located within a gap in Clematis Ridge, Baloon Cave is part of an entry point to the gorge used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years. This short walk among the fan palms and cycads leads to a small sandstone overhang featuring a fine example of stencilled Aboriginal rock art.

Mickey Creek Gorge—3km return (1.5 hours) Class 3

Wander along Mickey Creek and into narrow side gorges where the walking track becomes a rock-hopping adventure. Swamp wallabies are often seen resting here. Rocky sections of this track are slippery and caution is needed on creek crossings. The formed track ends 1.5km from the Mickey Creek car park.

Rock Pool—600m return (1 hour) Class 3

The Rock Pool has been carved from the bed of Carnarvon Creek by the turbulent water of past floods. Rest in the shade of fig and casuarina trees and watch for platypus and turtles. The picnic area includes toilets and gas barbecue. This is the only place in Carnarvon Gorge designated for swimming. If swimming, please do not jump or dive into the pool.

Short walks—from the visitor area

Nature trail—1.5km return (1 hour) Class 3

This short stroll along the shady banks of Carnarvon Creek provides a snapshot of the plant life on the gorge floor. You can see turtles basking in the sun, and if you're quiet enough you may see the elusive platypus. Dusk and dawn provide the best opportunities for watching wildlife.

Boolimba Bluff—6.4km return (2–3 hours) Class 4

Discover what lies above the cliff line and gaze out to distant ranges at Boolimba Bluff, which towers 200m above Carnarvon Creek. This is the only formed lookout track from the gorge. No other track passes through such a diversity of habitats. Early morning is the best time for this walk. The track involves steps, steep sections and one very steep section with 300m of steps and short ladders.

Main gorge walking track

The main gorge walking track crosses Carnarvon Creek many times as it winds the 9.7km from the visitor centre to Big Bend. Side-tracks from the main gorge track lead to a range of sites. The track is mostly flat, although the side-tracks involve steeper sections.

The featured sites on side-tracks can be combined to create one-day walks. For example, the Moss Garden, Amphitheatre, Ward's Canyon and the Art Gallery sites can be visited on a 14km return one-day walk.

Download a copy of the Carnarvon Gorge walk planner (PDF, 100K)* to help plan your walks.

Moss Garden—7km return (2–3 hours) Class 3

Water drips constantly from the sandstone walls of the Moss Garden, supporting a lush carpet of mosses, ferns and liverworts. Beneath tree ferns straining for sunlight, a small waterfall tumbles over a rock ledge into an icy pool.

Amphitheatre—8.6km return (3–4 hours) Class 3

Hidden inside the walls of the gorge is a 60m deep chamber, gouged from the rock by running water. Resounding acoustics add to the awe-inspiring atmosphere within the Amphitheatre.

Ward's Canyon—9.2km return (3–4 hours) Class 3

Ward's Canyon is a cool place to visit on a hot day. It is home to the world's largest fern; the king fern Angiopteris evecta. These impressive green 'dinosaurs' have strong links with the ancient flora of Gondwanan origin. A short, steep rise up through spotted gums leads to the lower falls and then further into the shaded canyon.

Art Gallery—10.8km return (3–4 hours) Class 3

Over two thousand engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings adorn the 62m-long sandstone walls of this significant Aboriginal site. The Art Gallery contains one of the best examples of stencil art in Australia.

Cathedral Cave—18.2km return (5–6 hours) Class 4

This massive, wind-eroded overhang sheltered Aboriginal people for thousands of years. A panorama of rock art reflects the rich cultural life of those who gathered here.

Boowinda Gorge—18.4km return (5–6 hours) Class 4

Rock-hop into this sculpted side-gorge, 100m upstream of Cathedral Cave. The first kilometre of this boulder-strewn gorge is the most spectacular.

Big Bend camping area—19.4km return (7–8 hours) Class 4

A natural pool in Carnarvon Crrek lies in an elbow of the gorge beneath looming sandstone walls. Rest here in the shade of large spotted gums and watch catfish and turtles swim in the tranquil waters of the upper reaches of Carnarvon Creek. A composting toilet and picnic table is located here. If you are planning to stay overnight at Big Bend, visit the park's visitor centre before you start, to record your trip details in the registration book, and log out of the book when you have completed your walk.

Remote walking

Remote walks at Carnarvon Gorge must be carefully planned, well in advance. It is essential that all remote walkers:

  • check the Park Alerts section of this website for current information on tracks and conditions.
  • speak to a ranger about current conditions before departing on the walk.
  • record trip details in a registration book at the park's visitor centre, and log out of the book when you have completed your walk. You should include the following information in the registration book:
    • your name, address, number of people in your party, ages and any medical conditions
    • vehicle registration, make, model, colour and parking location
    • the route you are taking, expected times of departure and return.
  • carry a topographic map, compass and adequate drinking water. A GPS is also a valuable aid, but may not function in gorges. Make sure you know how to use any equipment before heading out.

Refer to staying safe for more information on safe walking in the gorge.

The Carnarvon Great Walk is an 87km remote circuit walk that leads up and out of Carnarvon Gorge and across the rugged plateaus and valleys of the Consuelo Tableland and the Mount Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park. Permits and campsite bookings are required. Visit the Carnarvon Great Walk web pages for more information.

Guided tours and talks

QPWS rangers at Carnarvon Gorge run a variety of activities during Queensland school holidays (except Christmas-New Year). Take part in a range of hands-on activities and learn how to help look after this special park. Activities are offered for families, adults and children. Connect with Nature activities are free and visitors can register during the holiday period at Carnarvon Gorge visitor centre. For more information contact the Carnarvon Gorge office.

Picnic and day-use areas

At the entrance to Carnarvon Gorge main walking track system, a large, grassy picnic area is set among towering eucalypts and cabbage palms. Wheelchair-accessible toilets and tables, gas barbecues and drinking water are available. Parking is provided for buses, cars and includes allocated wheelchair-accessible spaces.

The visitor centre is a short walk from the picnic area and car parks. It is staffed from 8am to 4pm, seven days a week. This can change during summer months as rangers attend to field duties. Speak to a local ranger for up-to-date track information and collect a map before embarking on walks.

Viewing wildlife

Opportunities for birdwatching are plentiful, with over 173 bird species inhabiting or visiting the park. A night walk with a torch can reveal gliders, possums and bush stone-curlews.

Catch a glimpse of platypus and other creek life on an early morning or twilight stroll along the 1 km Nature Trail. See the description of the park's natural environment for more details about Carnarvon Gorge's diverse wildlife.

Other things to do

Visitors can swim at the Rock Pool. Please supervise children and do not dive or jump into the water. To protect the Carnarvon Creek's delicate aquatic ecology, swimming is not permitted in other sections of the creek. Sunscreens, deodorants and insect repellents can degrade water quality, affecting sensitive habitat for turtles, frogs and platypus.

Things to know before you go

Careful planning will mean an enjoyable walk. The Moss Garden. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

Careful planning will mean an enjoyable walk. The Moss Garden. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

Essentials to bring

  • A first-aid kit and first-aid book
  • A sealable container for rubbish (bins are not provided)
  • A fuel stove and fuel if camping at Big Bend campground or in remote areas
  • A hat, sunscreen and sunglasses
  • A torch and some extra food
  • Sensible footwear—boots or strong shoes
  • Carry adequate fresh water when walking—at least 2 litres per person. Drinking water is provided in the Carnarvon Gorge day-use area. Bring water purification tablets to treat water before drinking if camping or walking in remote locations.

Drinking water

Drinking water is provided in the Carnarvon Gorge day-use area. If camping or walking in remote locations treat water before drinking.

Opening hours

The Carnarvon Gorge section of Carnarvon National Park is open through daylight hours for day visitors and 24 hours a day for those camping. Sections of the park are occasionally closed for management activities such as moving materials by helicopter and controlling pest animals. Notification of closures is posted on the NPRSR website and on boards and signs at the visitor centre.

The visitor centre, in the day-use area, is open from 8am to 4pm, seven days a week.

Please note: Carnarvon Gorge day-use area is only open for camping during the Easter, winter and spring Queensland school holiday periods. For more details, see the camping information page.

Permits and fees

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted anywhere in Carnarvon National Park.

Climate and weather

Temperatures in this region vary widely. Summer days generally exceed 35°C. If visiting in summer you should plan to walk early in the morning, as later in the day it can become very hot, with occasional thunderstorms and flash flooding. In winter the nights can be cool with temperatures falling to freezing point. Average yearly rainfall is 600–800mm per year, with most rain falling through the storm season of October to April. For more information see the tourism information links below or the Bureau of Meteorology.

After heavy rain, the unsealed section of the road may become impassable. Creeks are subject to flooding. Check with Queensland Government traffic and travel information (13 19 40) or with the RACQ for road conditions before setting out.

Fuel and supplies

Basic supplies can be bought from Takarakka Bush Resort, 4km by road from the park visitor centre. Fuel can be bought from either Rolleston, 106km north of the park, or Injune, 111km south. LPG fuel is only supplied at Emerald (196km north-west) or Roma (201km south). For more information see the tourism information links below.

Staying safe

Carnarvon Gorge is a wild place—walk safely. Looking east at dawn from Boolimba Bluff. Photo Michael O'Connor, NPRSR.

Carnarvon Gorge is a wild place—walk safely. Looking east at dawn from Boolimba Bluff. Photo Michael O'Connor, NPRSR.

To enjoy a safe visit to this area, please be well prepared and use sound judgment.

  • Take care on the many rocky creek crossings. Stepping stones can be slippery or unstable. Serious injury has occurred to visitors as a result of falling on the rocks. Wear appropriate footwear with a good grip.
  • Take care and keep away from cliff edges—they can be deceptive and are often closer than you think. Sandstone is brittle and may crumble unexpectedly. Please supervise children at all times.
  • Carry plenty of water with you. Creek water is not suitable for drinking. The national park visitor area provides taps with treated drinking water. No treated drinking water is available on the walking tracks.
  • Falling trees and limbs, flash flooding and rock falls occur naturally. Avoid natural hazards by not walking in extreme weather.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt, even on cloudy days.
  • Wear insect repellent, clothing and sturdy footwear to protect you from stings, scratches and bites.
  • Never dive or jump into any creek or waterhole. Shallow water and submerged objects present a serious risk. You may be severely injured or killed.

Walking safely

No matter what type of walk you intend to do, you should always plan ahead. Judge your ability and conditions carefully before setting out, even on short walks. Do not expect to be warned of every possible danger. Learn as much as you can about the terrain and local conditions and make sure that you carry appropriate clothing and reliable gear. Choose walks that suit the capabilities of your entire group. Stay together and keep to the walking tracks.

Most importantly, you should always advise friends of your itinerary before departing for a walk, particularly if you are planning a remote walk. Whether on a day walk or longer trek, you should plan to finish walking well before dark. If walking in thick forest, it will get dark much earlier, so carry a torch, even if you are on a day walk.

Walkers should ideally carry the following on all remote walks:

  • map
  • compass
  • warm clothing
  • appropriate footwear and headgear
  • adequate water (treat any water collected from creeks before drinking it)
  • extra food and water
  • torch or headlamp
  • waterproof matches
  • first-aid kit
  • whistle
  • raincoat and waterproof pants
  • pocket knife.

When walking, stay together as a group and walk at the pace of the slowest person. Fatigue on long walks raises the risk of accidents and an injury in remote country can become life-threatening.

If walking in remote areas, or walking into Big Bend to camp overnight, first register your information at the Carnarvon Gorge visitor centre. This should include:

  • your name, address, number of people in your party, ages and any medical conditions;
  • vehicle registration, make, model, colour and parking location; and
  • the route you are taking, expected times of departure and return.

Walk with one or more friends. At least one member of each party should be a competent map-reader and bushwalker.

If you or members of your group become lost or injured, it is critical to keep warm and dry, and drink plenty of water. Try to find a place that is visible from both the air and ground and if possible put on bright clothing. Using a whistle will attract the attention of searching ground crews, and it should be used often.

By planning ahead, you will not only have a memorable trip, but also a safe one.

In an emergency

There is no mobile phone coverage within the Carnarvon Gorge section of Carnarvon National Park.

In the case of emergencies on access roads to the park, where mobile coverage may be available call 000 or, if you have difficulty connecting to 000 from your mobile phone, try 112. Advise the location and nature of the emergency, and stay on the phone until you are told to hang up.

The local UHF emergency repeater is tuned to Channel 2 and can be accessed through most of the park. Be aware that the many cliffs and side gorges can break up transmission. If walking in the remote high country (Mount Moffatt section), channel 8 can also be contacted in an emergency.

The nearest hospital, with a full-time doctor and access to flying doctor facilities, is at Injune, 111km south of Carnarvon Gorge.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the park

Carnarvon fan palms and sandstone. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

Carnarvon fan palms and sandstone. Photo: Robert Ashdown, NPRSR.

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

Camping in the Carnarvon Gorge day-use area is only permitted during the Easter, winter and spring Queensland school holidays. Big Bend camping area, reached by a 9.7 km walk, is open all year. Remote camping in other areas of the park is also available.

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A tag with your booking number must be displayed at your campsite.

Park-specific conditions

  • Bookings for Big Bend camping area and for seasonal camping at the Carnarvon Gorge day-use area must be made in advance and cannot be made at the visitor centre.
  • To book remote camping trips phone the rangers at QPWS Carnarvon Gorge.

Tourism information links

Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge
www.carnarvon-gorge.com
4043 O'Briens Road, Carnarvon Gorge Qld 4702
ph (07) 4984 4503
freecall 1800 644 150
email info@carnarvon-gorge.com

Takarakka Bush Resort
www.takarakka.com.au
Via Rolleston, Qld 4702
ph (07) 4984 4535
fax (07) 4984 4556
email takarakka@takarakka.com.au

For information on road conditions see www.racq.com.au or phone (07) 3361 2406 or 1300 130 595 for recorded information.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see www.queenslandholidays.com.au.

Further information

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Last updated
15 April 2014