Adels Grove has been on my to do list ever since I arrived in Mount Isa at the start of 2016. But for one reason or another, I'd never found the time to go there. I thought I might have missed my chance when the main building was destroyed by fire last year but it was miraculously kept open and a rebuild commenced. It has always been a popular spot and even more so since Chris Hemsworth lent his star quality to a tourist ad filmed there which featured in the US Superbowl in 2018.
So we booked this trip for July this year as part of a long journey around North Queensland nice and early back in November when no one had heard of the word COVID19. When the pandemic hit in late March and everything started to shut down, the prospect of our trip actually happening seemed remote. And even when the rest of North Queensland started to reopen in May, Adels Grove remained steadfastly shut as part of the mainly Indigenous pandemic declared area of Burke Shire.
And while we toyed with cancelling the booking we left it as long as we could and the state government finally relaxed restrictions a week before we were due to travel. Adels Grove reopened just two days before we went. But that was good enough for us. And after a 370km journey that took us past Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil site we arrived at the Resort at the edge of Boodjamulla National Park. Boodjamulla is the Waanyi word for rainbow serpent dreaming.
Adels Grove Resort occupies 30 hectares from Lawn Hill Creek (pictured) to Louie Creek at the other. In Waanyi Country, it was gazetted in 1904 as a miners homestead lease. In 1920 Albert de Lestang took up the property as an experimental Botanical Garden and gave the Grove its name through his initials. De Lestang planted many species of trees and shrubs and supplied the Botanical Gardens of the world with the seeds produced by his nursery.
2019 wasn't the first major fire at Adels Grove. An even bigger fire swept through in the early 1950s while de Lestang was absent. He lost his building complex, all his written records of plants and hybrids, his stores and most of the planted and he died broken-hearted in a Charters Towers nursing home aged 75. However the remaining vegetation did recover including natives gums and acacias and exotics like African Sausage trees, bamboo, Fried Egg Flower tree from South Africa, Gooseberry trees from India and the Cassia Siamea from Indonesia providing great habitats for birdlife. Adels Grove camping ground opened in 1984 and has been run as a resort since.
After a quick swim in Lawn Hill Gorge (there are freshwater crocodiles about but we didn't see them), it was time to take a short evening walk to the lookout before dinner and check out the National Park from a distance. We would be taking a closer look in the morning.
The kitchen is operating again after last year's fire but we brought our own food which we cooked up on the camp stove. The following morning was fresh but warmed up quickly. We were soon ready for the 10km drive down the road to the entrance to the National Park.
Boodjamulla National Park, formerly known as Lawn Hill National Park, features spectacular gorge country, sandstone ranges and World Heritage fossils. Lawn Hill Gorge is formed by Lawn Hill Creek, fed by freshwater springs from the limestone plateau to the west. The sandstone cliffs lining the gorge,form a stunning contract with its emerald waters and lush vegetation. The Park lies on ancient sandstone of the Constance Range, between the Barkly Tablelands to the south-west and the black soils of the Gulf Savanna Plains to the east. Lawn Hill Creek and the Gregory and O'Shannassy rivers flow all year round, contrasting starkly to the dry, parched landscape during the dry season.
The red, hard sandstone was originally a blanket of sand deposited in an ancient shallow sea, one and a half billion years ago. Ripple marks from that ancient seabed are still visible in places. Surrounding life was just bacteria and algal-like stromatolites. Around 530 million years ago a new shallow sea formed, lapping up against the old sandstone. Sediments rich in lime and silica and remains of sponges and trilobites formed layers of limestone.
Water continually alters the Boodjamulla landscape. Over millions of years the sandstones and limestones have been stripped away by erosion. The Constance Range is being eroded westward by the Gulf streams. Lawn Hill Creek has cut down through the limestone and sandstone along prominent fractures, forming gorges. Pictured below is the view from the Duwadarri lookout over Middle Gorge.
At Riversleigh younger pale-grey limestones, deposited 25 to 15 million years ago lie on the older Cambrian limestones deposited in small rainforest lakes that flourished in a wetter climate. This limestone has become home for innumerable fragments of fossil vertebrate animals it contains. Early relatives of today's fauna fell, or were washed into those lakes preserved in the lime-rich sediments.
Our first walk of the day is a long one. We head west to Duwadarri Waterhole climbing up to Duwadarri Lookout (pictured below) then down to Indarri Falls before climbing again to the Upper Gorge lookout and then back to the camp site.
Where lime-rich water flows over rocks or vegetation debris, it evaporates and deposit skins of calcite (calcium carbonate). As the calcite is deposited in the creek, plant and animal matter can be trapped and fossilised. The calcite forms a porous, brittle rock known as tufa and builds up into fragile formations. Indarri Falls (shown below) and the Cascades are tufa formations.
You can swim in the creek at the base of Indarri falls and often spot turtles, catfish, long toms and barramundi. Sadly for us the wildlife decided not to play ball and we didn't see any.
We then walk along the creek bed of the Middle Gorge for a kilometre or so keenly watching out for freshwater crocodiles. But like the turtles and long toms they kept their social distancing.
It was time to catch breath before another climb to the lookout of the Upper Gorge (pictured below). We then walked back to the information centre a different way to complete an 8km morning walk.
After lunch we went trekking again, this time eastward to the 2.6km Island Stack circuit. It starts with a steep climb up the prominent sandstone stack before a circular walk on the tabletop with great views from every angle.
The plan was to do the Wild Dog Dreaming walk on completion of the Island Stack walk. But as we looked down on the Middle Gorge below and saw the kayakers head upstream in the distance we decided we had to do that too. So there was an abrupt change of plan.
Adels Grove hire out kayaks from the information centre below and for $54 we had a two-person canoe for two hours. The route takes us down the Middle Gorge to Indarra Falls. From here there is portage that allows kayakers to paddle up to the Third Gorge. Gliding through the gorges was a magic feeling. It was a lovely way to end a great day in one of Queensland's natural wonders.