This is a very popular park and it is advised to book accommodation prior to arrival when coming during busy times such as Easter, Xmas etc..
Up to 70,000 visitors a year make the trek to this outback oasis, well known to the grey nomads and European backpackers, who were the only tourists I came across during my stay.
You need quite a few days here to do the bush walks; it can be done in three full days but that will not leave you any free time.
Trakarakka, at the time of writing, costs $35 for an unpowered site. The only other option is 57 kms away so you really have no option.
So I left and first went in and viewed Baloon Cave, named after an aboriginal stone axe. Here were coloured rocks as pretty as any I’d seen yesterday, some paintings and more cabbage tree palms. The walk in was easy, only 500 metres of flat path and some of the other rocks had wonderful strata and patterns about them.
I pushed up a side canyon called Warumbah and found it just as splendid and one spot left me gasping as I revelled in the cornucopia of greens that nestled by the brook. All too soon it was over, a sprinkle starting just as I turned for the motorhome.
From my notes at the time
" then I was back in the motorhome and heading for Mickeys Creek; a place I’d not researched but was going to do anyway.
As I pushed up into the gorge I started to revel in it. There was no-one else here and the tiny creek played its tune to the ferns and palms and the noise drifted across to sheer cliffs that are the feature of Carnarvon. Strange wind erosion caves had been sculpted by nature into artistic shapes but they sat at unreachable heights and could only be viewed from afar, tantalizing in their mystical shapes.
There were king ferns nestled beside bright green mossy rocks with staghorns attached like they’d been carefully placed by a caring gardener while fallen trees nearby bore testimony to the rains of recent years and lay scattered about like a giant’s refuse. In the creek the burnt Tuscan orange of stagnant water provided a stark contrast to the richness of the foliage and, elsewhere in the creek, pools reflected the stream side vegetation with some clarity, untroubled by the sun that still hid behind the clouds."
From my notes:
"I pushed on to Cathedral Cave and its aboriginal art, quite prolific in this location, featuring unique double handed forearm stencils, boomerangs, the usual hands and other strange items, such as the vulva.
It said, “An engraving of the human vulva is shown here in the pecked style of engraving. The significance of this motif is not known. Engravings of vulvas are common along the Great Dividing Range in this region. Nowhere in Australia is this motif engraved in this way with such regularity.” Here I was clearly at a disadvantage with my limited biological knowledge and thus spent an inordinate amount of time not seeing anything resembling what was indicated on the sign. However, my imagination thought of little 6 year old Johnny coming here with his mum and reading the sign then saying out loud, in front of a group of tourists, “Mum, what’s a vulva?”.
My next call was uncertain but a couple coming out of Boowinda Gorge convinced me to purge its depths but first I completed crossing number 21 to check out the colourful Big Bend where the sandstone turns orange for the first time. This allowed the flowering wattle to exhibit its bright yellow even more so than usual, stark against the contrasting background, perched high in selected spots where tiny amounts of soil had settled."
As I started the downward hike from Ward's back to the main trail, a man I’d met the previous day was coming up. He’d done the big walk yesterday and mentioned that I’d need a stick for the creek crossings. I hadn’t had any trouble so far and when I returned to the main walk and did crossings 9 through 12, I wondered what he had been fussing about.
Then, from 13 on, I understood what he meant. They had not been repaired and were reliant on walkers chucking rocks into the river or, in a couple of instances, laying branches down to avoid walking in the water.
All around throughout the gorge are cabbage tree palms, standing out from the background, dominated only by flooded gums whose extraordinary height this far inland is a reflection of the rainfall created by this fortress of rock.
Time dragged by, I got lost twice, as others had done before me judging by the false leads, but it didn’t slow me down all that much. There was little left now but to walk to my goal, there were few distractions en route and an hour passed before I did crossing 19 and came upon what I now hold to be my favourite spot in the whole gorge.
From my notes:
"Today was THE walk day; the big one, the one on top of my “A” list. I arrived at the carpark and went past the ranger station and queried the weather. “I thought it was supposed to be fine?” I said.
“It was,” he replied, “the forecast changed this morning. We were supposed to have a week of fine weather now they’re predicting a 30% chance of rain.”
I’d like to say I couldn’t believe it but, by now, I realised this was Queensland and the Sunshine State promo was a load of rubbish. I also knew the weather gods had spotted me here and were literally going to rain on my parade.
I queried the ranger about the feral pigs I’d seen yesterday and he indicated that one had made an awful mess of their adjacent park so they tracked it via video footage for a fortnight then started laying out feed and then dosed it with poison. It only last 30 metres.
I set out on my big day, knowing it was 10 kms one way to the Big Bend; I’d see how I was going as to whether I went all the way. I left at 8.30, a tad later than I’d hoped and ambled along, not in any particular hurry but keeping good time"
From my notes at the time: "I left at 8.30, a tad later than I’d hoped and ambled along, not in any particular hurry but keeping good time until I took the turnoff to the Amphitheatre, one of the main attractions hereabouts. It’s 630 metres off the main track and you get close to the cliffs which are very impressive but that’s not it. No indeed, the “wow, check that out” moment lies beyond a set of ladders that you still have to climb and they take you through a slit in the sandstone walls into a dramatic 60 metre deep chamber, where every sound echoes around the sheer ramparts. I was equally intrigued by the stained brown water at the bottom whose lurid colour contrasted so heavily with the lush green moss; it was made to order for cameras."
Someone asked me what was the best thing at Carnarvon. I replied that it wasn't so much better or worse it was different, because to me the attractions all had their own allure but in different ways.
If you want a straight out "Wow" moment, then The Amphitheatre is hard to toss.
If you're into nature and photography, you'll find lots more in Violet Canyon to grasp you attention. There's the fig tree roots wrapped around the rock, a photogenic side stream, interesting rock formations and much more, like the delicate bush flowers and fungus if you care to look.
Here are some samples of what you might find.
It's a 7 km round trip from the ranger station and involves some rock hopping so, like all the walks in Carnarvon NP, if you're not sure on your feet it may take some time.
"Beside you on the raised wooden platform is the dripping moss, oozing its moisture and accompanied by liverworts and smaller ferns with a few aimlessly dangling vines to frame the palette. All the water ending up in an icy shaded pool below whose excess gurgles through the rocks on its downward course, one I followed for a little while away from the trail, managing to extract a few gems here and there before I scrambled through the undergrowth and regained the trail."
"The Moss Garden is one of those special spots in the Australian wilderness that will enchant with its location beneath towering sandstone cliffs that form a spectacular backdrop to mature ferns that overhang like parasols held by servants from ancient royal courts and seemingly protect the delicate waterfall that must barely carry a drop when times are dry."
From my notes at the time:
"At the Ranger Station I got a map and advice and headed out to tackle the Moss Garden, once better known as Violet Canyon and listed as a 2.5 hour class three walk which was accurate except they didn’t mention the rock hopping. At the final rock crossing a couple were coming back saying they couldn’t get across without getting their feet wet and would come tomorrow and take their shoes off and then have a look. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why, having come all this way, they couldn’t take their shoes off today; the garden was only about 500 metres past the river.
In the end I rock-hopped over without needing to take my shoes off; I guess they didn’t do it very often and next I came upon a lady and her eight year old who’d apparently had no trouble either."
This is the first little waterfall I came across
I arrived around lunchtime and knew I would only have time for a feeler so I chose the Moss Garden, nee Violet Canyon. Someone had mentioned that they'd loved it when they were there doing an art course so I headed off.
One thing I didn't know about Carnarvon was the creek crossings. Just getting to the Moss Garden you have to cross a few but the early ones are fairly easy. The one going to the Moss Garden stumped a couple who turned back, not wanting to take their socks off today but were going to do it the next. Personally, I couldn't understand why a two minute operation would mean you'd stall till the next day but, hey, that's me!
If you follow the whole length of the main track, you will end up at the Big Bend campground. It is a nearly 20k return walk. I didn't do the whole of this long walk this time, on the agenda for next time.
You may see Turtles as it is the Upper reaches of Carnarvon Creek. A composting toilet and picnic table is located here. If you are planning to stay overnight at Big Bend, visit the park's information centre before you start, to record your trip details in the registration book, and log out of the book when you have completed your walk.
Big Bend campground—19.4 km return (7–8 hours) Class 4
Another that I didn't see, was Cathedral Cave as it was closed for repairs. This is a pleasant walk, with lots of shade trees.
This massive, wind-eroded overhang sheltered Aboriginal people for thousands of years. A panorama of rock art reflects the rich cultural life of those who gathered here.
Cathedral Cave walk—18.2 km return (5–6 hours) Class 4
Side-tracks from the main gorge track lead to the range of sites that I have mentioned on this page. The track is mostly flat, although the side-tracks involve steeper sections.
The featured sites on side-tracks can be combined to create one-day walks. For example, the Moss Garden, Amphitheatre, Ward's Canyon and the Art Gallery sites can be visited on a 14 km return one-day walk.
We created a couple of days walks similar to mentioned.