Did you know that one of Australia's most important wetlands is in far western Queensland in a remote, arid and isolated area ?.
Well 900km west of Brisbane just above the Wild Dog Fence ( formally the Dingo Fence ) is Currawinya National Park and at nearly 155 000 hectares it’s a great place to visit and explore the hidden secrets within the park. It’s camper trailer friendly but you need to be well prepared as in this remote, harsh yet beautiful park you may not see another soul for days.
From the north, head out to Eulo in western QLD along the Adventurer Way and then south for 100km along the Hungerford road. This unsealed sandy/rocky road is wide and generally in a reasonable condition as you travel on the western side of the Paroo River. Passing through private stations for mile after mile in this remote area I wondered, ‘Why would you live out here ?’
For much of the 100km, the road is fairly flat with only a few large undulations which gives you views across the plains. Probably the biggest hazard is the wildlife or stock along the way with Emus, goats, kangaroos, cattle and right down to snakes and lizards that need to cross the road in front of you can be a surprise sometimes.
The southern entry is via Hungerford, 220km north west of Bourke- right on the NSW QLD border. The roads within and to the park can be impassable when wet due to the flooding from the Paroo river but information can be sourced from NPWS website or local information at Eulo, Cunnamulla or Hungerford.
Hungerford doesn’t have much these days, except for the pub, a few houses and a local cop shop which also doubles as an animal refuge.
When the pub is open, the meals are huge, beers are cold and the walls are jam packed with old pics and memorabilia from the past. Having a few here is like a walk back in time, in fact the Hungerford Pub was once a stop over for the Cobb & Co coaches dating back to 1873.
A tin shed was erected to give the locals and travellers respite from the flies, heat and floods. It’s reported that Henry Lawson walked from Bourke to Hungerford looking for work in the middle of summer, only to find none, he then walked back to Bourke.
Midway along the Dowling Track within the park you'll be greeted by Currawinya’s stunning rock formations and park information boards. A great spot to sit down for 5 and read the history, facts about the flora and fauna, park features and then walk amongst the sandstone sculptures. After getting the heads up about Currawinya, the road to the camping area is just opposite the sculptures and it’s an easy 2km drive to stunning spots on the Paroo River system.
But midway along a must do is to stop at the old shearers shed to explore the history. Entry into the massive shearers shed is allowed and it’s fantastic to see everything still in pristine condition. 60 000 sheep were shorn here back in the day with up to 20 shearers at any one time.
Walking around the stalls, monkey press, scales, sorting rack and slips it looks like it wouldn't take much for it to fire up again. In the surrounding area you can wander around other outer buildings, meat house, accommodation blocks and the wool-shed pens.
Not many people realise is that Currawinya is also home to the endangered Bilby and within the park there’s a 25km square secret compound where the Bilby’s can roam and breed away from humans and other wild predators.
A viewing shed and info boards highlight the importance of what local rangers and volunteers are doing in the park to protect this little marsupial.
For those who are after a little more secluded camping away from others, head another kilometre or two down past the wool-shed and camp beside one of the Ourimperee waterholes on the Paroo River. You can fish, throw a yabbie pot in or even kayak, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon.
Camping under the huge river gums while birds float by or dip down for a drink is a real eye opener with Pelicans, Swallows, little Finches and whistling Kites make this area home. Further north and west of the old Caiwarro homestead, Pump Hole campground can be found near some old pumping station relics.
Also right on the Paroo River you can have this whole area to yourself but the only facility’s here is a park bench and chairs. This park only sees around 2000 visitors a year, so finding a spot with water views should be pretty easy. All of the areas are camper trailer friendly, although if heading across the Paroo river just check the depth of the river according to the side markers.
As well as the great camping options in the park, QLD dept of National Parks has open the area to explore other park features. From the wool-shed it’s a 30km drive north to the old Caiwarro homestead.
Walking around the mangled building ruins and old gear it’s still hard to understand how people survived and gelled out here. But with a tennis court, cricket pitch, school and shop near the grand homestead of Caiwarro it must off been a tight knit community.
Walking around the homestead you can still see pieces of machinery still on the ground, chimneys still stand and the structural bones of several buildings are struggling to stand up. Caiwarro dates back to the mid 1800’s when it covered nearly 1 million acres running sheep and cattle through the billabong system and sand dune country.
At one stage, when more than 100 workers were on the station, three cricket teams were formed and matches were played every Sunday. Caiwarro station was eventually shut down in 1971 after many severe floods and droughts, even though as many as 25 bores were sunk looking for good water.
Over the years the pastoral land was reduced and in 1991 the QLD government purchased the land to protect the wetlands and historical features. Currawinya is a special place for the local Budjiti people having a salt and fresh water lake within 5km of each other, 4WD recommended along the 28km road to the lakes.
This red sand based road winds its way over small dunes and both sides are lined with harsh Mulga trees and silver leafed Acacia’s. Occasionally there are small breaks where you have views across the low level plains past the salt and turkey bush. Separated by only a few dunes the first lake you come to is the fresh water Lake Numalla. Access to this lake is permitted as well as swimming, kayaking, canoeing and fishing in selected areas.
A short 6km drive further west leads you to the lookout station over the salt water Lake Wyara. The viewing area can be disappointing if the lake is low as this is as close as you can get towards the lake, but it’s reported that 3/4 of the parks birds can be found here. Lake Wyara normally dries up first and leaves a vast white salt-pan, leaving the birdlife no other option but to move further north.
When Wyara is full and times are good Spoonbill, Seagulls, Ducks, Pelicans and Swans feed on fish and shrimp that are in abundant numbers in the lake. In a good year it’s reported that nearly 100 000 birds frequent these lakes either looking for food or breeding purposes. Unfortunately when we went to explore the lakes the road was closed due to some minor flooding from localised rain.
Another area to explore in Currawinya is 15km west from camp along the Boorara Road where you can spend time wandering around an outcrop of massive Granite rocks. From the car park you'll stroll past Mulga, Gidgee, Turpentine and Hopwood bush towards the ever increasing rocks that seem to leer at you the closer you get.
Wild goats use these rocks for shelter and protection, but sometimes you'll see them scamper away as you get closer or for the unlucky ones that fall between the rocks, their skeletons lay where they have fallen wedged between rocks. The views from the top are nothing short of spectacular north towards the Hoods Range.
As you drive the last kilometre towards the Granites the road winds its way around huge mounds of what seems like pushed up dirt, but in fact are old mud geysers. Pushed up through faults from the great Artesian Basin where the mud is rich in minerals. Some of these mounds are up to 6 metres tall and Budjiti elders recall hearing explosions and seeing mud shooting high in the sky. Walking around them there’s still a few with thick gooey mud inside but we reckon they haven’t fired for years.
Currawinya just isn't another National Park. It’s home to the endangered Australian Bilby, has some of the best waterside camping in the state, one of the few parks where you need a 4wd to explore the outer reaches, has two completely different lake systems, a massive granite boulder area, historical ruins and a wool-shed where you can explore- throw in some recreational activities with fishing, kayaking, birdwatching and walking trails most people wont be disappointed visiting the area. We can definatly say that Currawinya is one of our favourite parks to visit.