KROOMBIT TOPS ... Queensland
There’s a hell of a lot of history around and some unforgotten and totally unknown around our country for various reasons, but when you link it all together all of this history and hardship has made our country into what it is today. On our bucket list we have been wanting to checkout Kroombit Tops National Park about 3 hours drive west of Rockhampton in QLD and after much digging we found more than what we bargained for.
Generally most people who visit the park come in from the north but our explore begun from the east at a little town called Miriam Vale. After talking to some locals they suggested cutting across through the Boyne Valley and enter via Ubobo towards Kroombit as long as your totally self sufficient. As soon as you head west from Ubobo the road is narrow and unsealed passing through extremely dry paddocks with dried up creeks and dams. Following Cedarvale Road then into Clewleys Gap Road for a good 20 km there are a few small signs telling you you're heading in the right direction and eventually you’ll come into Kroombit cattle station. With information in hand we headed south from the station through their outer limits following Mahoon Creek Road through some pretty steep ridge line tracks and eventually onto Monal Road. It’s here along Monal road we were told to keep an eye out for some old mine relics and cemetery that QLD heritage association have signposted. Back in the 1890’s gold was discovered in this valley and soon another gold rush started and by 1892 things started to happen with a proper road cut in, a town emerged with hotels, store, PO, market gardens and a little school. Interesting to note that the Royal hotel was managed by Kate Hall, sister of the bushranger Ben Hall. But by 1912 the gold had all but dried up, some miners kept trying with little success but eventually the school and PO closed around 1916 and the buildings moved away in 1925.
Today you can walk around the mine relics that include a huge 10 head stamper, boilers, a steam driven engine, various wheels and tower buckets. Interesting to note that due to the extremely remote and rough conditions where this mine is, its reported that the boiler and stamper were bought here by a team of 52 horses pulling a single dray at any one time, and when they had to return the teamsters would fell a tree and it would be towed down hill so the horse team would not get away. It was low 4wd when we tackled the same hill both up and down. If you follow the track past the mine gear it will take you into the Monal valley where the main mine was located. Following another lead we headed back up the main road where we found the historical cemetery of Monal. A stark reminder with a memorial plaque where several dozen people have been buried in unmarked graves in the open paddock, obviously a hard life when you read the ages of the deceased.
Retracing our steps back to the property we passed earlier we turned left towards the sign posted Kroombit Tops NP. Coming in from the east the roads are very narrow, steep and rocky with diff busters along the way yet the views across the mountains are definably nothing short of spectacular. As soon as you hit the NP entry sign there’s an old still dray that was used to drag massive logs out of here in a previous life. The NP info gives you all of the relevant information on where you can camp, points of interest and other relevant details. One thing about Kroombit Tops is that there are only 3 roads in and out plus one loop road to a plane wreck. Our choice of camp was Griffiths Creek camping area ( due to towing a trailer ), which is around 50 acres of manicured grass with tall gums giving plenty of shade and there are huge fire pits scattered around, the grass is kept neat from the wild horses that roam around. Along the way to camp one highlight is to stop at the Griffith Creek lookout where you’ll have stunning views down into and across the Boyne Valley.
Heading out to the plane wreck is a simple as jumping back onto the loop track just 6km back from the camping area. It’s a rough 35 km loop track where you really need to knock some air out of the tyres due to the harshness and the sharp rocks on the road. Its been said that Kroombit Tops has some of the most hospitable mountains around and as you drive along its easy to see why with massive drops either side and sheer cliff faces. Mid way along you’ll come to the Bomber crash site parking area, and it’s here that you’ll wander down the 400 metre track to the wreckage. Story goes that back in 1945 8 crewman died when Beautiful Betsy crashed here on the mountain early one morning. What really happened remains relatively unknown but investigators have tried to piece the puzzle together with info boards around on the walk near the wreckage as it lays today. Beautiful Best was an American WW11 Liberator bomber who served its time during the way but after it was found to be unsafe for further missions it was de-commissioned for civilian life. Re-painted it was used to fly throughout Australia doing what was known as ‘fat-cat’ runs where it would collect fresh produce, ice-cream, alcohol and live animals for drops at Darwin. Named after the planes first pilots wife, Betsy, it was also used for several parachute training drops. Unfortunately on the night of February 26 1945 when it set out from Darwin towards Brisbane, it never made it and was never found for many years. Roll the clock forward to 1994 when a park ranger was conducting a burn off in the area the wreckage was found with all on board dead.
A team from the US was sent out to retrieve skeletal remains along with personal items, military goods and coins. The wreckage was left as it crashed all those years ago as a mark of respect to those 8 on board. One sad fact is that Flight Officer Cannon who was on board flying to Brisbane for his wedding day in four times time and Lieutenant Cook also on board was his best man. Walking around the stricken wreckage one can only imagine just how it happened but according to the experts the crew only had seconds notice hence why no SOS was sent out, landing gear was still up but the propellers were at full pitch speed. Around on the ground, the 4 engines area 100 metres away from the main wreckage, the main body exploded yet the tail section is intact in twisted amongst the trees and you can find old instrumental gear scattered around.
Leaving the site the track continues back down past the Wall camping area which is 4wd only and one way with steep rocky sections leading into camp. The Wall track follows the ridge lines along the western side of the park where there are plenty of views across sandstone escarpments and deep gorges. Kroombit is home to nearly 800 different tree species and home to the critically endangered Tinker Frog which experts say only 300 exist here in Kroombit. The one way loop track will eventually join back up to its starting point and back to camp. Heading out from Griffiths Creek Camping area you’ll pass the Forestry Barracks Camp and the 4wd only Razorback Trail back to Biloela and not recommended for trailers due to steep narrow sections.
The Tableland Track past the Barracks is the main track that most visitors use due to being well maintained as it wanders along past the Calliope Range with Mount Chapman, Mount Rideout and the impressive Amy’s Peak in the distance. Soon the road flattens out at Callide Creek and once out of the park its a good run through private stations until you hit the bitumen at Calliope.
Kroombit is a harsh place where you need to be totally self sufficient as there is little traffic and very minimal phone reception. It’s a park that demands respect and is aimed towards the visitor that is happy to take on the rough stuff.