Exploring Queensland, July 2006. Part 7. Lawn Hill to Burketown.

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2006 at 16:16

Member - John and Val

Dry clothes were required after our canoeing adventure, and we were ready for lunch too. Dry again and fed, we set off to walk some of the gorge rim to get a different view of where we went on water this morning. So we set off towards the falls on a very scenic but at times challenging walk on a track that was quite steep in places. We were struck by the contrast in the vegetation up here – spinifex, gnarled gum trees, hardy wattles and some lovely red flowering grevilleas. Very different from the lush green growth only metres below us.

Back at our campsite it was time for a well-earned swim to cool off, before doing a few chores and making dinner. Two neighbouring couples joined us for a drink around the fire to cap off a memorable day.

There was a mini exodus from Adel’s Grove as the school holidays came to an end, and we joined onto the end of it although we had no school commitments to keep. We decided to head towards Gregory Downs, though shortly after leaving Adels Grove we pulled off on a small hill from where it was possible to get a good view looking back over the river and towards the gorge.

The road was in reasonable condition and was good beyond the turn-off to the big Century Zinc Mine. There was very little traffic with the notable exception of a truck carrying a very large bit of earth moving equipment.

When we reached the Gregory River crossing, where we had been told there was good camping, we found about 30 other campers and caravanners already there. This was hardly surprising as it looked to be a delightful spot, despite numerous “No Camping” signs. After exploring around we found a spot across the river where a rough access track kept caravans out. We had lunch and settled in for a lazy afternoon that included a quick dip in the water, which was very clear, fast flowing and rather cool. There were a lot of birds and also lots of butterflies that seemed to be clustering around damp spots on the riverbank.

We liked this place so much that we decided to stay a second day. We walked up to the pub, saw that there were fewer vans near the old bridge and watched as a canoe crewed by 3 people and a dog came hurtling past us on the strong current – they returned about an hour later, this time paddling very hard.

Next day we set off north heading for Burketown, along a good gravel road. The country here is very flat and covered with tall grass, although there do not seem to be many cattle about. The Tourist “I” place at Burketown is very informative and has good displays covering the early history of the area, so we spent some time there learning about the colourful characters and events from the past. There is a very small supermarket where we stocked up on essentials, then set off to explore. We headed out of town to the wharf. A tourist boat had just come in and we learned that it was a good trip to go down the river 25km to the mouth.

There are huge salty mudflats so we drove out across some of these towards the mangrove lined river banks, although there was not much to see except a couple of fishing shacks. In this almost alien environment we were glad to have OziExplorer working as the tracks in places were almost non-existent, and the flat country appeared almost featureless to us. Val was anxious about getting bogged in a sudden hole and then getting stuck as the tide came in, but that was a drama that didn’t happen.

We saw some signs to an historical site and found a heap of old machinery that had once been a boiling down works to extract tallow from otherwise worthless sheep, that were the original grazing animals introduced into the area. The site dated from 1867 and saw numerous attempts at meat processing and tallow production. It also saw a number of explorers pass through as well as serving as a supply depot for some of the search parties looking for Burke and Wills.

In our wanderings we also found a number of good campsites overlooking the river, so we decided to make one of these our camp for the night. Before setting up camp though we drove back into town to book onto a fishing tour tomorrow, and to see the old bore. This draws hot water from about 700 metres down and has been established for a long time so that it is now encrusted in rocky material and coloured by algae and slime that is able to survive in the hot mineral water. Water from the bore flows out into what is now a permanent wetland where lush green grass supports wallabies and water birds.

We spent a quiet night beside the rather muddy but neverteless picturesque Albert river. We were up and away early to get to the wharf in good time. When we went on board we found that there were 5 of us on the trip plus our Skipper, Pete. We took off downriver quite fast, watching the Albert River become wider and the mangroves becoming bigger and thicker. There were occasional open grassy areas viewed between the walls of mangroves, and a few fishing huts and places where there were many mangrove covered islands. Our first stop was about 20km downstream to try our luck at fishing. But there was no action there so Pete moved us down to the mouth of the river where we had open sea as an horizon. The water here was still shallow but its colour had changed from brown to greenish. The fish were biting and a few were caught, mainly by Pete. John and I caught 4 toadfish between us, maintaining our impressive fishing record. Pete took pity on us and gave each of us a bream to land.

After about 3 hours we had caught about a dozen good sized fish between us. Pete cleaned and skinned these and divided them up between everyone. It was time to head back, between the mangrove walls where by now a couple of crocs were out sunning themselves on the banks. Finally we were back at the wharf saying our farewells. It has been a different trip and even if the fish weren’t biting for us, it has been a good way of seeing a little of this very different coast. Fish for dinner tonight.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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