DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
These two national parks are close together and offer an excellent sandstone escarpment experience for visitors.
Cania Gorge has no 4WD tracks, but a series of walks to eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops. Kroombit Tops, in contrast, has kilometres of steep 4WD access roads and circuit drives inside the Park.
Both venues are easy drives from great camping spots: Byfield National Park to the north and Boondooma Homestead to the south. This latter spot is an historical 1846-vintage property that has great bush camping for the self-sufficient and part of the package is a tour of the buildings and museum.
Our trek started with a visit to Cania Gorge, where there’s a choice of two camping areas. There’s also nearby Cania Dam, with picnic facilities and a boat ramp.
The walks at Cania Gorge vary from short 300-metre to 1.4km return trails, to 3.2-5.6km return hikes. There’s an extended 22km, eight-hour
jaunt for the bush-fit.
Your 4WD adventure to Kroombit Tops begins with retracing your tracks from Cania Gorge as far as Wongalee Road, north of Moonford. This connecting road joins an undulating track that runs north, through cattle properties. The track name changes several times along its length, but is generally known as Mahoon Creek Road and critical intersections are sign-posted ‘Kroombit NP’.
The track is narrow and winding, and drops down into numerous rocky creek crossings. Softroaders can manage it, with care not to hit the many large rocks.
The southern entrance to the Park is on a level section, but the stony, dusty road soon climbs very steeply. (We can thank early loggers for the original road that gave access to many desirable timber species.) At the summit is a rainforest walk and, soon after, one of the most spectacular lookouts in Queensland.
There’s a toilet and picnic area at the lookout and an emergency mobile phone connection point. A 70-metre walk to the lookout is dotted with warning signs about the proximity of sheer stone cliffs and the sobering information that someone died after attempting a cliff walk, beyond the safety fence.
Those of us who aren’t fond of heights develop that familiar ‘queasy stomach’ feeling on the lookout’s solidly framed and planked deck, but the view is worth the discomfort.
Driving to Kroombit Tops through tall fern-carpeted eucalypt forest and rainforest sections certainly gives the impression that you’re gaining altitude rapidly, but it’s not until you’re at the cliff’s edge that you realise how abrupt the Tops structure is.
The reason, geologists tell us, is that around 200 million years ago the area was the site of several large volcanic outlets. A giant caldera beneath them, about 40km in diameter, eventually collapsed, leaving a layer of hard, volcanic rock.
Around 25 million years later, the region was flooded by ocean waters that laid sand beds above the volcanic rock basin. These sand beds were later compressed into sandstone.
When the land rose above ocean level the surrounding countryside was eroded, but the hard plug of sandstone-capped volcanic rock remained, as 100-metre-high sandstone cliffs above tapering ‘break-away’ slopes. Cracks in the upper surface eroded to form steep-sided gullies and gorges throughout the Tops.
The 400-metre-high Kroombit Tops outcrop proved too much for a wayward Liberator B-24 bomber in February 1945. The US Air Force plane was
travelling from Darwin to Brisbane and for some reason reduced altitude, around dawn. Speculation is that low cloud or mechanical trouble was the cause.
Whatever the reason the pilot spotted Kroombit Tops too late to avoid a crash and the plane slammed into the escarpment with an upward attitude, suggesting a full-power climb to avoid contact. The debris is scattered through the forest, with informative plaques and visitors are welcome to walk along a
700-metre track around the site.
The most touching plaque is the text of a letter from a RAF Spitfire pilot who’d hitched a ride to Brisbane on the doomed B-24 to get married.
The clay road to the bomber wreck site is two-way, but short distance away is a 4WD track that loops around to the north-east and is one-way only. At the base of the first very steep downhill section is a camp site, aptly named The Wall.
Small, grassy areas are backed by a sheer sandstone face that’s studded with opportunistic trees and shrubs.
The one-way track undulates, before climbing to meet the two-way track once more.
The road to the north section of the park descends past a beautiful grassy camp site at Griffiths Creek.
Those with camper trailers are best to enter the Park from Calliope and use this site as a base. It’s easy to do a relaxed day trip from Griffiths Creek to the wreck site, The Wall and return via the one-way track.
A graded gravel 2WD road leads from the Park boundary to Calliope, offering brilliant views of Kroombit Tops to the west.
We spent three days in the area and loved the combined Cania Gorge and Kroombit Tops trip.