Gorge Fest

The mild off-road trails through the Con­damine Gorge lead to some mag­nif­i­cently scenic lo­ca­tions.

4 x 4 Australia - - Explore - WORDS AND PHO­TOS KEVIN SMITH

OF­TEN I hear of great places that oth­ers ex­plore and think, ‘one day I should do that’. So, with a lit­tle time up my sleeve, I headed to the outer skirts of the scenic rim in South East Queens­land to tra­verse the Con­damine Gorge area.

A two-hour drive south-west of Bris­bane landed me at the quaint vil­lage of Kil­lar­ney, a friendly town with a pop­u­la­tion of about 800. Ba­sic sup­plies can be pur­chased here for fur­ther ex­ploits. The plan was to head out to the Con­damine Gorge area, check out the im­pres­sive lo­cal wa­ter­falls – Daggs Falls, Queen Mary Falls and Browns Falls – and then con­tinue on to the 45km Con­damine River Drive loop.

The Cam­banoora Gorge, com­monly known as the Con­damine Gorge run, is part of the bi­cen­ten­nial trail and was once used to move sup­plies to the early set­tlers within the gorge. Cut through in the mid-1800s, it was also used to move tim­ber to nearby Kil­lar­ney where logs were loaded on the rail­way, but now it’s a pop­u­lar 4WD trail as it crosses the Con­damine River 14 times. Start­ing only a short dis­tance from Kil­lar­ney, the gorge drive is rel­a­tively

There’s nearly 20km of 4WD tracks lo­cated on the Cul­len­dore prop­erty

easy in most high-clear­ance 4WDS and can take as lit­tle as an hour to drive. How­ever, wa­ter lev­els will rise and make things more chal­leng­ing af­ter rain.

The fury in this area is ev­i­denced by the amount of de­bris left high in the trees af­ter big floods, while the steep­ness of the gorge walls pro­vides beau­ti­ful views as you pass through. It’s al­most prehistoric, with gnarly, twisted trees shaped by the floods, huge gran­ite boul­ders, and sheets of basalt rock that have stood the test of time.

In the sum­mer months there are plenty of dif­fer­ent swim­ming holes be­side the track, so be wary of peo­ple swim­ming nearby. Dust and wa­ter-wash may also be a prob­lem as you pass. In­ter­est­ingly, the wa­ter here from the Con­damine River even­tu­ally flows into the Dar­ling River sys­tem, the largest wa­ter catch­ment in Aus­tralia.

The land on both sides of the river is pri­vate prop­erty, so camp­ing isn’t pos­si­ble with­out prior per­mis­sion. How­ever, the locals at Kil­lar­ney pointed me to­wards a newly opened cat­tle sta­tion that al­lows camp­ing: Cul­len­dore High Coun­try.

An easy 30-minute drive south-west along the Mount Lin­de­say High­way soon led me onto Cul­len­dore Creek Road

It’s not un­til you chat to the sta­tion own­ers about the unique­ness of Cul­len­dore that you re­alise what lies within

and to­wards the sta­tion. Cul­len­dore is in the heart of gran­ite coun­try, and Cul­len­dore High Coun­try is a se­cluded sta­tion where you need to travel al­most 3km to get to the of­fice from the front gate – then a few more kilo­me­tres to get to the many camp­grounds on the prop­erty. Stu­art, Wendy and their son Matt will wel­come you when you ar­rive and go all out in typ­i­cal coun­try style to show you around; and Matt does a great job sup­ply­ing fire­wood and will even de­liver it to your camp­site. A prop­erty map with named tracks and an in­for­ma­tion sheet is pro­vided when you book.

Cul­len­dore is a 16km² work­ing cat­tle sta­tion, yet the own­ers have set aside nearly half of the prop­erty for camp­ing, moun­tain­bike rid­ing, ca­noe­ing and bush­walk­ing. There’s also nearly 20km of 4WD tracks lo­cated on the prop­erty, but don’t come here ex­pect­ing twin-diff-locked kind of tracks as this isn’t a 4WD park.

You’ll need to en­gage 4WD on some tracks, whether it be head­ing down to the Mary­land River for a swim or head­ing out to the Look­out to take in the most stun­ning views. The own­ers have spent the past three years get­ting this prop­erty up and run­ning with pris­tine camp­sites in sev­eral lo­ca­tions. They’ve also in­stalled flush­ing toi­lets and hot show­ers, and with the pop­u­lar­ity of this

CON­DAMINE GORGE TRACK, QLD

Need to re­move one shoe to keep count?

Daggs Falls is more spec­tac­u­lar when the river’s up.

Kil­lar­ney, last stop for a top-up of sup­plies.

Just one of 14 cross­ings over the Con­damine River.

Cul­len­dore’s a work­ing cat­tle farm, but camp­ing is five-star.

Like any ru­ral prop­erty, the farm needs sev­eral dams for stock.

Some locals are more friendly than oth­ers.

CON­DAMINE GORGE TRACK, QUEENS­LAND

Cul­len­dore is well sign­posted, so it’s hard to get lost.

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