Cruise an Outback Oasis

Hidden in the dusty outback of the Gulf Savannah is a spectacular oasis where tall cabbage-tree palms and pandanus frame dramatic red sandstone cliffs separated by emerald green water.

Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park, 100km west of Gregory Downs, was once accessible only to those who enjoyed canoeing and bushwalking.

While adventurers can still have their fun, the addition of solar powered boat tours by Adels Grove has opened the Gorge up to all ages and abilities without losing its peaceful serenity.

Adels Grove manager Michelle Low Mow says the wide gorge is best explored by boat, allowing those on board to see up close the lush vegetation at the water’s edge where much of the wildlife is, and be awed by the height of the dramatic sandstone cliffs, which appear to plunge into the water.

“The silent boat cruises along at three knots, which is about the same speed as a canoe, so the wildlife is not disturbed,” she explains. “In fact, people on the boat are more likely to see a freshwater crocodile as the slap of the paddles against the canoes often scares these timid creatures away.”

Michelle says the hour-long guided tour of Lawn Hill’s middle gorge has become so popular, bookings need to be made well in advance to be assured a seat. “Lawn Hill Gorge has incredible birdlife including darters, cormorants, buff-sided robin, red-winged parrots, lorikeets, and the beautiful purple-crowned fairy wren.

“In the water are turtles and a variety of freshwater fish, while wallabies, the arm-waving Gilbert’s dragon, and olive pythons may be seen on the banks. The cruise to Indarri Falls will introduce you to the flora, fauna and history of the national park and many of our guests take this tour before hiring a canoe so they can explore the Gorge further.”

Canoeists can cool off with a swim at Indarri Falls and climb up to the lookout for a spectacular view of the lush oasis carved into the outback by Lawn Hill Creek. Return to the water’s edge and carry your canoe along the track to the upper gorge where more spectacular scenery and enjoyable paddling including a small rapids section await.

Fed by freshwater springs from a limestone plateau, Lawn Hill Creek remains an outback oasis even in the dry season ensuring lush vegetation and plenty of wildlife. The water has a high calcium content that not only results in its amazing deep green colour, but means you will still be thirsty after drinking it.

Boodjamulla National Park has several walks ranging from easy to difficult that offer different perspectives of the Gorge in less than half a day.

The close cultural ties of the Waanji people are evident on the Wild Dog Dreaming walk, an enjoyable 1-and-a-half hour walk beneath shady trees to ancient Aboriginal rock art and stone engravings.

Another easy one hour walk takes you along the creek to an area called the Cascades where the clear water runs over amazing limestone tufa formations. You can continue on from this walk to the Island Stack, a steep climb that leads to the “table top” of the Gorge where you can wander around the top of the stack to see different parts of the Gorge below. This return walk takes two hours.

Experienced bushwalkers will enjoy the challenge of the three-and-a-half hour walk to the upper gorge where you are rewarded with spectacular aspects of Lawn Hill Gorge as you follow the creek’s edge.

Lawn Hill Gorge is a true outback oasis that can be enjoyed in a day or explored at depth over three days or more.