I was scrolling through the National Parks website a few months ago checking on the “park alerts” page for any closures that may thwart my future travels, when I noticed a couple of parks that I had never heard of. I turned to their geographic display to see where these were, and several parks popped up south and south-west of Mt Garnet. These places were called Wairuna Campground, Canyon Resources Reserve, and Rungulla National Park. The Parks website alluded to some interesting country of big rivers, lookouts, and potentially nice camping experiences. I had an acquaintance from America spending some time with us who was eager to explore some new country, so an adventure was planned. I was mildly excited, as I didn’t know anyone who had been to these places, there was a paucity of images available on-line, and it was the perfect time of the year. A quick look at the campsite availability table on the Parks website showed that no one had booked sites anywhere – ever! This was getting intriguing, and I sensed virgin territory.

I planned a figure-of-eight trip that took us through the amazing Einasleigh to the Canyon Resources Reserve along that beautiful stretch of road between Einasleigh and Forsyth – it’s a great drive if you haven’t done it. We turned in to the well-signed road to Canyon to arrive at a very recently constructed campground with a shiny new toilet and short walks to great lookouts. Our plan was to spend two nights here, and though it was a nice place for a sunrise and sunset and some casual strolls through the woodland, one night would have sufficed.

The next part of our drive took us through Forsyth on one of those beautiful, clear, winter mornings. We stopped to soak up some sunshine and had a great brunch and coffee at the Goldfields Hotel. Our next destination was Rungulla, which took us past Cobbold Gorge. We stopped there for a short look around and drink, but weren’t interested in tourist resorts and guided experiences, preferring to discover places at our own leisure and pace.

Finding the Rungulla campground later that day proved to be a challenge. Following the National Parks directions, we arrived at Orton Station and appeared to be exiting the park, so we went back up the road in case I had missed the turn-off. I asked a grader operator and the locals at the Agate Creek campground, and no one knew where to find the entrance! Did I say intriguing? We persevered and eventually found the Rungulla sign within Orton and past the “all visitors must report to the station” sign that threw me initially – the turnoff is before the station. Before you arrive at any dwelling you go past the entry sign and turnoff at the signed entrance to the park a few kilometers down the road on the right. One dry creek crossing on the way in could be tricky, so a 4WD or high-clearance vehicle is recommended. On our two nights at Rungulla we camped at two of the three campsites along the mighty Gilbert River, which were quite far from each other. Again, we found a brand-new toilet that looked like it had never been used! The Gilbert was rapidly drying out, with only a little water left in some pools. Visitors probably have a brief window of opportunity to see Rungulla at its best – between its opening at the end of the wet, and the hot, dry, and dusty late spring. There are no other facilities or tracks but as the Parks website says, plenty of opportunities for exploration along the river.

After helping a grey nomad get his van out of the dry creek crossing, we set off for Wairuna via Georgetown and Mt Garnet. Wairuna is accessible from the south and the Valley of Lagoons, but we were running out of time to risk unfamiliar roads and decided on the easy, mostly bitumen route. Following directions, Wairuna proved easy to find and we arrived just on dark. Three campsites are on offer but no other facilities – at all. More signage to introduce visitors to the area would have been helpful, as you are otherwise on your own journey of self-discovery. The camps are all along a deep lagoon on the Burdekin River which provides a nice outlook, but to see other places of interest we had to find our own way around. Long grass impedes access to the river, so a canoe would be handy to explore the long stretch of mostly permanent water.

We went for a drive past a “road closed” sign which took us through some wonderful country, but found no river access even though it was only a couple of hundred metres away according to the GPS. We did stumble across an unsigned road into a beautiful freshwater lagoon teeming with birdlife, and the GPS showed many other lagoons just out of sight.

Like Rungulla, Wairuna is closed during the wet season, and a 4WD or high-clearance vehicle with good tyres is recommended to get through a few riverbeds. I concluded that there is a lot to see at Wairuna if you are prepared to drive and walk around with a GPS or drone in your hand.

Our 8 days in the wilderness concluded with an unplanned night at Princess Hills, just off Wairuna Road. There are two, sometimes three camps available within Girrigun National Park along the Herbert River, and like Wairuna, there are no facilities, good canoeing, and mainly self-guided exploration. Camp number 2 is particularly good for canoes and the river scenery is impressive. In early August 2019 both the Burdekin and the Herbert were flowing with plenty of water.

Some National Parks are well-frequented but run down, while others – like these – are the opposite, with very little traffic but brand-new infrastructure and well-maintained campsites. So take the opportunity to enjoy some wide open spaces, relish the peace and quiet, explore some unfamiliar country and sit on those great toilets!

Article written by Paul Curtis, local wildlife tour guide and photographer. Call anytime to book a tour: 4093 0379 or 0408 835 160, paul@nqwildscapes.com, www.nqwildscapes.com

(Printed in the September 2020 issue of What’s On & Where to Go Magazine)


A picture containing grass, nature, outdoor

Description automatically generated