Travelling north out of Camooweal, we planned to camp at Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. However, we hadn’t reckoned on the school holidays – Lawn Hill Gorge camping area was booked out. What to do?
A Surprise Among the Trees
Our only logical option was to camp at Adels Grove, about 10km east of Lawn Hill Gorge camping area. We weren’t expecting much, but we were in for a pleasant surprise.
Adels Grove is downstream of Lawn Hill Gorge camping area and backs onto Lawn Hill Creek. It lies just out of Boodjamulla National Park and is privately owned.
Whilst it was peak holiday season, we had a really private and quiet campsite in amongst the trees. Privacy, peace, shade and somewhere to swim – can’t complain about that!
But first, let’s go back a step. Camooweal is on the NT/QLD border and sits on the Barkly Highway. Camooweal to Adels Grove is about 240km on a well-formed dirt road with several tarred sections. Take care at the numerous crests and dips – on-coming traffic can appear out of nowhere. Like any dirt road, conditions can change rapidly so slow down and be careful.
42km south of Adels Grove, you’ll encounter Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site. Around 30 million years ago this area was a lush rainforest – so different to the savannah landscape you see now.
Riversleigh is slowly exposing its secrets. Vast fields of 25 million year-old creatures were trapped in limestone-saturated lakes and preserved as fossils. Over 250 fossil sites, hundreds of new species, thousands of specimens… you start to appreciate the scale of Riversleigh and why it’s so important.
And you get to see a sample close-up. Park your vehicle, walk a couple of hundred metres and you’re gazing at the fossilised leg bone of a giant bird. A giant bird that used to live here 25 million years ago. Pretty cool.
Back to Adels Grove. Frenchman Albert de Lestang (hence the name “Adel”) was commissioned by the Queensland Government in the 1920s. His mission was to grow tropical fruit trees (the “Grove” part of the name) from around the world to determine which ones were suitable to grow in the harsh climate.
By all accounts, de Lestang was an industrious man who always welcomed strangers to his little piece of paradise.
This place is a contradiction. Just a short distance from Lawn Hill Creek, you’ll find endless plains of tropical savannah – harsh country that only receives a soaking during the Wet season. On the other hand, Lawn Hill Creek is lined with palm trees, reeds and water plants of every description. Look one direction and you could be in a tropical paradise. Look the other way and the land is forbidding and harsh. If you zoom in using the map at the bottom of this article, you’ll see what I mean.
As for camping, well Adels Grove is excellent. You can choose quiet spots in amongst the trees or slightly less private spots along the banks of Lawn Hill Creek. The facilities are clean and everything is tidy. A small shop provides basic supplies.
So Where Does All the Water Come From?
Underground aquifiers provide the life-giving water. Geologists speculate this water may originate from as far afield as the Great Dividing Range or even the New Guinea Highlands. Of course, this water is packed with limestone, so it’s hard. Don’t expect any soap lather when showering!
If you visit Lawn Hill Gorge – which you must – you’ll discover an extraordinary vista. Enormous red cliff walls capture long stretches of water, coloured deep green from the limestone. Palms and tropical vegetation line the banks. Again, just metres away from the banks you step back into arid savannah country.
A Permanent Home
Aboriginal people have lived here for a long time, somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 years. With plenty of water and ample food, these people were able to settle here permanently as the surrounding country slowly turned into desert.
This must have been an idyllic lifestyle. Even on the hottest days, you can find a cool spot on the water’s edge.
So give yourself a few days at Adels Grove. It really is an excellent place to relax and unwind – even in peak holiday season!
Adels Grove is on Waanyi Country.
Next time: We drive through Gregory Downs to Normanton.
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