Out of the desert and into the Hell Hole.

HELL HOLE HAS OPENED ITS GATES TO VIS­I­TORS, AND RON AND VIV MOON WERE BRAVE ENOUGH TO VEN­TURE TO THE HID­DEN PARK IN RE­MOTE OUT­BACK QUEENS­LAND.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOS RON & VIV MOON

THE BULLDUST BE­GAN SOON AF­TER, BUT IT WAS ONLY SHORT AND WASN’T HID­ING TOO MANY POT­HOLES

THE TRACK was start­ing to get deep in bulldust, but as sud­denly as it had be­gun it pe­tered out and we were again on a rea­son­able dirt track that be­lied the huge warn­ing sign we had stopped to look at as we turned onto the park’s ac­cess track.

We were in south-west­ern Queens­land, north-west of the small town­ship of Adavale, head­ing for the lit­tle-known Hell Hole Gorge Na­tional Park. We had left Adavale an hour ear­lier and, af­ter cross­ing a dry sec­tion of the Bul­loo River just west of the town and pass­ing through the Milo Sta­tion prop­erty for most of the way, we had opened the gate and en­tered the park. The bulldust be­gan soon af­ter, but it was only short and it wasn’t hid­ing too many pot­holes or rocks, so the route re­mained easy.

The track dropped down a low es­carp­ment and crossed a small, dry creek, which was a trib­u­tary of the much big­ger Pow­ell Creek, which makes up the ma­jor catch­ment in this 127km² park. We took the more mi­nor track into Spencers Water­hole which is on Spencer Creek, a ma­jor trib­u­tary of the Pow­ell. Both creeks have cut deep in­ci­sions through the

sur­round­ing high­lands, re­sult­ing in a dis­sected and tor­tured land­scape with ver­ti­cal cliffs up to 45 me­tres high.

Af­ter we found a spot to park close to the edge of the cliffs bor­der­ing Spencers Water­hole, we went for a walk to ex­plore the rugged coun­try. It’s no won­der the area wasn’t used by pas­toral­ists, as you have to be a moun­tain goat to get any­where – and there’s a dis­tinct lack of any­thing re­motely re­sem­bling cat­tle fod­der. Still, there’s no doubt this is an im­por­tant refuge for na­tive wildlife and birdlife, with per­ma­nent pools of wa­ter dot­ted along the creek and shaded by high cliffs. While red ’roos and eu­ros are com­monly seen in the sur­round­ing area, yel­low-footed rock wal­la­bies have been recorded in the more rugged and re­mote sec­tions of the park. Sur­pris­ingly, na­tive wa­ter rats have also been recorded from the two ma­jor creeks pre­vi­ously men­tioned, but you have to be sharp-eyed to see one.

Birdlife is com­mon and, while there have been few sur­veys to de­ter­mine how many va­ri­eties live in the park, the va­ri­ety we saw in­cluded small bush birds flit­ting amongst the scrub, birds of prey wheel­ing over­head, and wa­ter­birds – ducks, wa­ter hens, herons and egrets – around the wa­ter­holes. In spring or af­ter rain, the park is coloured with wild­flow­ers.

Back on the main ac­cess track we en­tered ex­posed rock coun­try, with the track drop­ping over a se­ries of low steps that would stymie many low-slung SUVS. The route swings along the edge of a deeply rut­ted Pow­ell Creek, crosses it at a smoother spot, and then climbs an­other se­ries of steps that lead to the camp­ing area close to the edge of Hell Hole. There are some pleas­ant walks around here, and you can

THE MAIN AC­CESS TRACK DROPS OVER A SE­RIES OF LOW STEPS THAT WOULD STYMIE A LOW SLUNG SUV

THERE ARE PLENTY OF OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES FOR THOSE WHO WANT A LONE CAMP­SITE

walk the gorges be­tween the two main wa­ter­holes if you have the time and are nim­ble enough. There are great camp­ing spots around here and, while the des­ig­nated camp spot is close to Hell Hole, there are un­of­fi­cial camps be­fore you cross Pow­ell Creek on the rock slabs and at Spencers Water­hole on the cliffs over­look­ing the wa­ter. Back at Adavale we camped at the old Shire Hall, where the ex­ten­sive grounds have now been set-up as a free camp. On site is an in­for­ma­tive display with lots of old pho­tos, as well as brand-new hot and cold show­ers and flush­ing toi­lets. The camp­ing area is less than 100 me­tres from the Adavale Ho­tel, which is the fo­cus point of the small, scat­tered town. The town of Adavale was de­vel­oped around an im­por­tant cross­ing of the Black­wa­ter Creek, and the town was sur­veyed in 1880. By the turn of the cen­tury it had a pop­u­la­tion of 2500 and five ho­tels, the first one es­tab­lished in the early 1880s by the leg­endary cat­tle­man, Patsy Du­rack (made fa­mous in the book, Kings In Grass Cas­tles). Some of his rel­a­tives, the Costel­los, lie buried in the Adavale Ceme­tery. Patsy went on to found a cat­tle dy­nasty in the Kim­ber­ley. There’s a his­toric walk around the old town, while a min­imu­seum in the old meat house is worth a look. The two cause­ways across Black­wa­ter Creek were, rather sur­pris­ingly, built by Pol­ish work­ers be­tween 1949 and 1951, and a small memo­rial close by ac­knowl­edges their hard work that is still ap­pre­ci­ated to­day. The demise of the town be­gan in 1917, when the rail­way to Quilpie by­passed Adavale al­to­gether. In 1930 the town

was strug­gling when the shire of­fices were moved to Quilpie, and its fate was sealed in 1963 when a dis­as­trous flood nearly wiped it out. It’s hard to be­lieve, but there was so much wa­ter mov­ing over th­ese vast, bil­liard-ta­ble-flat plains, that some of the build­ings were washed down­stream. To­day the town has a pop­u­la­tion of around 25, boosted at times by back­pack­ers serv­ing at the pub, dog­gers pa­trolling the Dog Fence, and grader driv­ers work­ing on the roads. There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for those who want to get away from town and have a lone camp­site. South of town the road to Charleville crosses the chan­nels of Black­wa­ter Creek and, once across the first cause­way, a track on the south-east side of the road leads to a num­ber of good camps along the shady creek. Cross­ing the sec­ond cause­way brings you to the ‘Red Road’ from Quilpie and, just a short dis­tance down from here, an­other track on the north side of the road leads along the creek to some large camp­ing spots on the bank po­si­tioned above the stream. There’s good fish­ing in the streams around Adavale, which is made even bet­ter af­ter a flush of wa­ter has flown down the wa­ter­ways. Yel­low belly, span­gled perch and Hyrtl’s cat­fish are the main fish caught (bag lim­its ap­ply), while a good feed of yab­bies is al­ways on the cards. There are plenty of feral pigs through this re­gion as well, but to hunt them you need per­mis­sion from the lo­cal land own­ers. The po­lice based in Adavale don’t have much to do, so it’s best to en­sure you’re al­ways do­ing the right thing. Pick up a brochure at the pub in Adavale for ad­vice on short and fairly easy 4WD trips in the area. One route takes you along the old coach road, while an­other will take you to the

old dump (circa 1870) that sits on top of a mesa about six kays from town. An­other rarely vis­ited na­tional park, Mar­i­ala NP, can be found 50km from Adavale, along the main road to Charleville. The park pro­tects more than 270km² of rugged scarps, gorges and dis­sected coun­try that un­sur­pris­ingly has never been grazed. Es­tab­lished as a sci­en­tific re­serve in 1979, the park has 146 bird species, 26 rep­tiles, 27 mam­mals and 10 am­phib­ian species. There are a cou­ple of camp­ing ar­eas in this park; one close to the main road, and two deep in­side the park only ac­ces­si­ble with a 4WD. Af­ter three full days in Adavale – we had orig­i­nally planned to stop for a beer at the pub – we headed down the Bul­loo River Road to Quilpie. This route on the west­ern side of the river is good dirt all the way and par­al­lels the Bul­loo River, be­fore cross­ing it at Fish Hole Cross­ing some 30km north of Quilpie. Our un­planned stopover had been en­joy­able and in­ter­est­ing, and next time we’ll be stop­ping for longer.

is the The old ceme­tery for fi­nal rest­ing place many pi­o­neers.

leads The gate that to Hell ... Hole Na­tional Park.

a Kan­ga­roos are so com­mon sight, wear a bull­bar.

HELL HOLE NA­TIONAL PARK, QUEENS­LAND

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