Wednesday, Jan 04, 2012 at 16:07

Navigator 1 (NSW)

2nd – 14th August, 2011
With an early morning start from Tambo we headed west 247km via the Landsborough Highway to Blackall then the Isisford/Blackall Rd to Isisford – into Channel Country. We met old friends right in town at the Isisford free camp, however decided to camp at Oma waterhole on the Barcoo River - BAD IDEA! The annual yellowbelly fishing competition, with prize money of over $6,000, had finished only several days before and the ground had been left bare by the 100s of competitors. Just love that bull dust!

The original concept of the competition was devised by the Isisford Shire Council to promote Isisford and the surrounding district. Council believed that the Barcoo River and fishing were an integral part of the lifestyle of the district and that the event would (hopefully) become a 'Signature Event' for the district. The original event was held July in 2002 and continues to this day.

Our friends had to head out the next morning so we went back to the town’s campsite for several days, right on the river - $2 per day or $10 per week. The ‘Grey Nomads’ settle in months! There were drop toilets on site and in the beautiful town park, only 500m away, was a $2 hot shower. Also in town was a modern coffee shop with museum, a Laundromat, basic grocery shop and the old bakery museum. A great place!

From Isisford we travelled 159 km west to Lochern National Park with its 20km Thomson River frontage fringed by huge old coolibahs. The owners of Lochern Station offered it for sale as a national park in 1993 when the state government was seeking land to help protect bioregions unique to semi arid western Queensland. The park was gazetted in 1994 and protects 24,300 hectares of important habitat with many lagoons and waterholes. We did not get to see Emmott's short-necked turtle that lives in the park's waterholes.
This is Queensland's channel country, where flooding rains and devastating droughts are part of western Queensland life. Lochern's inhabitants adapted to the cycles of wet and dry: Aboriginal people took advantage of a seasonal bounty; Pastoralists built dams with long wings and stone-pitched ends to catch extra rainwater. At the station the unusual hen-house and motor room were set high to keep dry in the wet. Note also in the picture the unusual base on which the water tank once stood.
We camped at Broadwater Waterhole, the only designated bush camping site. There were no facilities. The surrounding mulga woodlands and Mitchell grasslands were tinder dry and really not very pleasant. In no time at all we had the place looking like a Chinese laundry and then sat back and watched the birdlife on the river. If we return in a better season we will do the Habitat Drive, approximately 40 km return. We did visit the homestead site, the old shearing sheds, the shearer’s quarters and the unusual hen/pump house.

There is a well maintained Ranger Station with a small display room giving information about the park but like most of these remote parks, the Ranger only visits on his rounds.
We continued 152 km further west till we reached the Winton/Jundah Road and then north to the Mayne River. On the northern side of the river, on the eastern side of the road, we found the track that led us to a great campsite that had been recommened by other travellers. With many sites to choose from along the river bank we settled into one and lit a small fire. There was nothing else to do but sit back, have a drink and watch the bird life .

Early morning and we were on the road to Bladensburg NP but first, a stop off at Lark Quarry just 79 km north. The amazing building that protects the site of the dinosaur stampede, situated inLark Quarry Conservation Park, is set amongst absolutely beautiful country – red earth and
Spinifex with broken escarpments and flat top mesas. It is only 7km west of the highway but it is like entering another world.
Lark Quarry, in outback Australia, is currently the only recorded dinosaur stampede on earth. In this place, around 95 million years ago, a large herd of small two legged dinosaurs gathered on the banks of a forest lake to drink.
The herd was stalked by a large Theropod – four tonnes of sharp-clawed, meat-eating dinosaur. The herd panicked, stampeding across the muddy flats to escape the Theropod’s hungry jaws.
A record of those few terrifying minutes is cast in more than 3300 fossilised footprints. The footprints tell us about a cooler, wetter world, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the mammal’s time is yet to come.’ I have just read a recent article, http://www.dinosaurtrackways.com.au/ which states that this monument is closed until further notice due to the second rammed brick wall now showing signs of collapse. A new announcement regarding the re opening will be made early April 2012.

After looking at this amazing site we headed another 100 km north to the Bladensburg National Park, the turn off being only 7 km south west of Winton. (We tried to enter the park from the south but we had to turn back when the track passed through private property).
Pastoralists established a large station at Bladensburg but in 1984 the 84900 hectares was declared a national park. The homestead and out buildings, consisting of staff quarters, meat house and store, have been restored as a Ranger base. For the Bladensburg homestead walk allow 30-45minutes.
Flat-topped mesas and sandstone ranges provide a lovely backdrop to the park's Mitchell grassland plains and the river flats. It is home to a wonderful variety of wildlife, including tiny mammal called a dunnart. The park is important to Traditional Owners, the Koa people, and also contains reminders of the area's pastoral history.

We camped at Bough Shed Hole, a permanent water hole on Surprise Creek, 12 km south of park boundary along the ‘Route of the River Gum tourist drive’. A drop toilet was the only facility provided, open fires and generators were not allowed and camping fees applied. There were lots of camping sites along the river but we chose to be right at the end on the rock shelf where we could look right up the river.

In the morning we explored the homestead complex and then ventured out onto the property. The country was in drought and it made us realize the hardship once faced by the property owners. There were reminders of the station life along our drive – old windmills, drinking troughs, waterholes and fencing. We didn’t visit Skull Hole where an aboriginal tribe responsible for the murder of a teamster near 20 mile hole, was massacred. The track to Scrammy Gorge and Scrammy lookout, with its impressive views, was a little enclosed for the truck with overhanging trees so we had to miss this one.
For those interested Scrammy lookout walk is1.8 km return and a moderate grade. Allow one hour. Scrammy drive is 40 km return. Allow 2–4 hours.
Within the park is the site of the Winton Strike Camp established during the shearer’s strike of 1991-1994. The outback Queensland workers of this era were instrumental in the formation of the Labor Party . (Now we know who to blame!)

The final leg of this part of our journey was the short drive into Winton where we stayed for several days. We were able to surprise a friend in the Variety Bash.The bash treated to lunch at the Primary School; visit the famous Waltzing Matilda Centre where we also caught up with family members; visited the Diamantina Heritage Truck & Machinery Exhibition and spent a pleasant time at Long Waterhole, a free camp just 2 km out of town.

Look out for our next blog that takes us to Diamantina National Park.

The outback calls
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