Expedition NP is known for its ruggered gorges, sandstone cliffs and spectacular views of the Carnarvon ranges to the west. This is one stunning park which is often overshadowed by the better know Carnarvon Gorge nearby.
A good days drive NW from Brisbane led us towards to the small town of Taroom in central QLD. Today Taroom is a rural town servicing the many properties in the Banana shire, but it's the gateway for us into Expedition NP.
Taroom’s claim to fame is that in 1844 Prussian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt marked a tree as LL44 when he was in the area. The tree is in the main street, yet the markings have since grown over and trying to decipher what there is now can be a little difficult.
Leichhardt was on his way towards Darwin from the Darling Downs area near Brisbane opening up new pastoral land. He discovered and named the nearby Dawson River as well as Expedition NP. Another feature in Taroom is a rare windmill made around 1900 by the Steel Wings company in Sydney.
The windmill has a rare steel frame holding up the blades that was supported by a timber frame. This one at Taroom came off a property nearby and was in service until late 1950. Unfortunately a fire burnt the base causing it to collapse, but was moved into town and restored in 2003. There are only two examples of this windmill left in the world.
There are several ways into Expedition but our entry into the park was halted at the Glenhaughton Road section with closed roads from recent heavy rainfall, but we found that Bradmere Road was open detouring around the flooded lakes and road sections.
Heading towards the Robinson Gorge section is where the main features are found, with high sandstone cliffs, stunning gorges with the river lined with Dawson River palms. Other options to enter the park are from the Beilba and Lonesome sections where both give different views across the ancient landscape.
Our plan was to find the remote Starkvale campsite ( within the Robinson Gorge area ), explore the cattle dip gorge and find the heritage cattle yards along the way. Joining back onto Glenhaughton Road past the flooding we stuck to the main road that passed through cattle stations and eventually to Expedition.
The final road to Starkvale was well sign posted but its 4wd only for the last 16km drive in. Midway along we found the old cattle yards and took time out to wander around checking out the build quality all held together with wire and interlocking poles.
Starkvale campgrounds along side the creek has to be one of the best grounds I’ve ever come across. Clean, plenty of room plus some pretty flash toilets as well. This is remote camping so make sure your totally self sufficient here.
A track just near the campground takes you across to cattle dip gorge where you stunning views down into the water filled rock areas. The track to the parking area to the gorge is at times low range 4wding with several steep sections, but the gorge walk is well worth it.
If you're keen for a hike, you can tackle either the Robinson gorge lookout walk, the Gorge access track, Shepherds peak track or walk to Cattle Dip. A detailed info board is a must read before you do any of these for your safety.
Back in 1844 when Ludwig Leichhardt crossed through here he found many features including images made by the local Jiman people, he named several creeks and climbed many of the peaks to obtain a better view of this countryside.
Through central QLD its known as sandstone belt country, covering at least 82,000 sq km with varied landscapes formed by millions of years of uplift where huge sheets of sand that was deposited 190 million years ago has worn away leaving tough basalt rock formations. This wild landscape is a result of a long and turbulent geological history.
Today we are left with a complex of scenic gorges, waterholes, springs and the park conserves a range of plants communities with threatened animal species. The park is home to 10 different species of animals that are classed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’. Some of the bigger rock plateaus are over 1000 m high earning a nickname as “the roof of Queensland”.
After Leichhardt went through the settlers and pastrolists moved in causing decades of conflict with the local people, and by 1920 European diseases took their toll and the remaining Aboriginal were forcibly moved out. Formed in 1852 Glenhaughton sheep station covered all of the NP and surrounding forests. At one stage the station employed over 50 Shepards to look after the sheep, but by the late 1890’s the sheep were replace by cattle. Old shepherd hut ruins and their sites can still be found through the park.
After an extremely quiet night at camp we decided to head up through the park along the Robinson Gorge track and to the north. Sign posted as slippery when wet was a good into to the track as for the entire length it was low 4wd.
There’s a stack of creek crossings, rutted and narrow roads, definatly wouldn’t recommend towing a large trailer through here. The plan was to cut across Oil Bore Road towards the wetlands of Lake Nuga Nuga in the Arcadia Valley.
The lake is the largest natural waterbody in the central QLD sandstone belt, created 140 years ago when Browns Creek silted up. Today it's a natural haven for birds, water plants and more. There's bush camping on the lake shores all over shadowed by Mt Warrinilla on the south western end of the lake.
With a few hours under our belt counting numerous different bird species we decided to keep heading up the Arcadia Valley towards the Lonesome section of Expedition NP.
It's a spectacular drive through the valley with sandstone cliffs in the distance on both sides, created after millions of years of weathering down the soft sands leaving only the hardened rock behind.
Like them or hate them, gas plants are scattered through the valley pulling natural gas from the earth. Our final camp was at the Lonesome bush camp area, there’s no facilities but easily accessible from Arcadia Valley road. Set high above the Dawson River and with high sandstone mountains above, it's a beautiful setting to kick back and relax.
Sunrise on the high rocky cliffs with glowing colours from the ancient rocks is worth waking early for, but before leaving Expedition, we decided to do a couple of loops around nearby plateau’s.
By heading straight out of the camp and turning right, the loop around Mount Jiman is spectacular where we were graced by massive rock formations that are nearly 600 metres high, vivid earth colours graced the bare rock as we passed around the mountain.
Leaving Mount Jiman loop we followed the National park boundary trail to the top of Karingbal Pass. This trail is 4wd only with several steep pinches and a multitude of creek crossings. It's well worth the drive where you’ll see huge age old bottle trees, a variety of bush settings and different cycad plants.
At then top of the pass, a quick turn right to the Lonesome lookout will leave you with breathless views eastward through the beautiful Arcadia Valley. Ideally the perfect time to be here would be sunset where rich colours would light up the surrounding sandstone cliffs.
Ending our explore here it was an unexpected surprise finding history, 4wding and spectacular scenery through Expedition Np where it often gets overshadowed by nearby Carnarvon Gorge. Well worth the effort if you have a few days on your hands through central QLD to explore this ancient landscape. #woolgoolgaoffroad
Expedition NP is 500km NW of Brisbane in the heart of sandstone country covering just over 1,000sq km. Some sections are accessible by a 2wd vehicle but for the full experience a 4wd is highly recommended. It's a remote park so you’ll need to be totally self sufficient.
WHAT TO SEE
The park is all about serenity, where hiking trails lead you through the park and to different features, there’s 4wd tracks to explore, remote gorges and waterholes shadowed by huge sandstone plateaus.
WHERE TO STAY
Expedition has several official campsites. Lonesome bush camp has no facilities and accessible by 2wd, but the Starkvale campsite in the heart of the park is only accessible by 4wd but has toilets, fire pits and non-potable water. On the western side of the park, Beilba camping area offers remote camping away from the crowds. For the hiker there’s walk-in camping areas throughout the park. Bookings are essential online through
OTHER INFO AND MAPS
Most relevant and unto date info can be found at https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/expedition which includes closures, park management programs, maps, camping info and costs. Taroom visitor information centre has relevant info when open. They can be found in the main street of Taroom. PH (07) 4628 6113.