The Dinosaur Trail suggested itinerary included Porcupine Gorge National Park as the highlight of its second day around Hughenden. That fitted well with Majella’s 2020 project to visit 20 National Parks that we have not visited previously. The video we saw at the Flinders Discovery Centre on Sunday piqued our interest as it explained the many geological layers that are visible in the walls of the gorge so we were keen to get out and make the most of it today.
We were on the road around 8:00 am, heading north on the Kennedy Developmental Road (Hann Highway) with Majella at the wheel and me looking out for the points of interest on the material we had collected from the Flinders Discovery Centre on Sunday. For some of the points we identified from signs we simply slowed a little to look as we passed or paused to read a descriptive sign from the car. For the lookouts we stopped to appreciate the views.
Eaglehawk Gorge lookout was easy access, just a pull off space on the right side of the road overlooking a heavily wooded gorge with a view to the hills beyond. Bottletree Ridge lookout was a different matter. There was a pull off space on the right side of the road but access to the lookout required following a steep trail up a rocky hillside. Once there, the flat top allowed good views in all directions for those prepared to walk to the relevant edges. We stuck close to the top of the track but were still able to see most of 270º around the ridge.
Porcupine Gorge lookout is close to the southern end of the national park and about 1.5 km off the highway. We were pleasantly surprised to find the road was sealed and there was a concrete path from the parking area to the safety fenced lookout about 100 m away. It would be wheelchair accessible but would need a strong carer to hold back on the downhill run and push back up the steep hill. There were great views over the narrow gorge with high cliff walls showing the different geological layers we had heard about. The creek at the bottom of the gorge is currently running over white sandstone but the cliffs include layers of other sandstones, some metamorphic rocks, and a basalt topping.
Access to the gorge is from the camping area which is about 11 km further on. Again we were pleasantly surprised to find that both the Emu Plains Road on which we left the highway and the park access road were sealed as far as the camping area. We parked and had coffee before setting off on the walk to the bottom of the gorge.
The path down to the bottom of the gorge is about 1.2 km. It is steep in places and the sign at the top warns of loose material. It was mostly not bad, with a lot of steps constructed on the steep sections to make it easier walking. We reached the bottom comfortably enough in less than 30 minutes. Once there we were able to walk on the wide sandstone platform beside the creek and spent about 30 minutes strolling down to the base of the pyramid, a triangular shaped cliff on a bend in the creek, and back to the trail. There were a lot of interesting features in the rocks, bands of different colours representing sediments deposited at different times and large cavities eroded by the action of water and the harder rocks that had been washed into depressions when the creek floods. There is much to see and keen walkers could go further up or downstream without too much difficulty but we were not that keen. It took us about another 30 minutes to climb back up the track.
We ate lunch in the van before setting off again on the 1.2 km rim walk. It wound north from the campsite, keeping some distance from the edge of the gorge and traversing sometimes rocky red soil. There was plenty of grass around the track and scattered trees but little enough of real interest that Majella wondered why we were bothering. I checked the notes which suggested a great view from the lookout at the end of the track. Fortunately by that time we were not far short of the end and it lived up to its publicity, with views from a promontory up and down the gorge. That must have cured Majella because she insisted on jogging on the smoother sections on the way back to the van.
By then it was a little after 12:30 and we headed back toward Hughenden as quickly as we could arriving a bit after 1:30. That was sufficiently early to catch FJ Holden cafe before it closed at 2:00 pm. We had coffee and enjoyed the decor – the front of an FJ hanging on the wall and the rear seat of a Monaro on the wall at the other end set at a height to allow sitting.
I checked the pub nearest the van park on the way back, hoping to find somewhere for dinner. It had signs announcing it was closed for COVID but the other pub was doing takeaway. We decided not to make another trip out this evening so stopped at the butcher shop a few doors up the street where Majella bought some steak that we can BBQ.
Our day out was done earlier than usual but some time to relax ahead of 3 days of driving toward home was welcome. Majella had spotted some loaner books in the laundry and went to get one of those to entertain herself for the afternoon. Then it was down to our usual drinks with nibbles and dinner preparations.