After about six years thinking about it, I finally made it in May to Lawn Hill (Boodjamulla National Park) and nearby Adels Grove in northwest Queensland.
Just about every birder I know who has been to those locations has spoken excitedly of their avian and scenic wonders. So expectations were high.
Maybe it was the razor-sharp rocks on the gravel road just after the Gregory Downs turnoff that totally munted a rear tyre and rim that set me off.
More likely, it was the $8.00 for a can of beer when we finally got to Adels Grove. It was a hot day and we had to have two each to wash down the road dust. ‘That’ll be $32 thanks.’
At $36 a night, my unpowered (but thankfully generator-free) campsite in The Grove beside the Lawn Hill Creek was outrageously expensive. But the setting was beautiful: akin to a Japanese garden in autumn with its golden carpet of fallen leaves.
Most of the grove trees are Cassia Siamea from Indonesia and Peninsula Malaysia. But you will also find African sausage tree, bamboo, mango trees, lemon trees and the fried egg flower tree from South Africa – all established in the 1930s by French botanist Albert de Lestang. Native species include gums, bauhinia, acacias, hakea and terminalias.
Unfortunately, Tony my fellow traveller, missed most of The Grove’s botanical bliss. He’d badly damaged a knee and his tent was a descent too far, so he asked for a cabin: $130 pn for a donga just big enough for a bed, or $182 pn for one with a shower!
Talking of showers, the ones servicing the main camping area were hot – sometimes. And then there was the $5 deposit required to get a plug for hand basins and laundry tubs. Seems the peripatetic plug pilferers had cleaned the place out.
But none of that spoiled my enjoyment of the local birds, especially at Adels Grove where lifers such as the buff-sided robin, purple-crowned fairy wren and white-gaped honeyeater were all easily found.
Birding down at Lawn Hill Gorge and surrounds was much harder, although there was a cooperative but not fully coloured red-capped robin in the car park. Boodjamulla offers some good walks and the ‘promise’ of the wonderfully mellifluous sandstone shrike-thrush, but I’ve not met anyone who has seen it.
Despite the feature image (above), for me the gorge itself lacked the drama, scale and jaw-dropping beauty of some of Australia’s other chasms. But the electric-powered boat trip did provide an unexpected highlight – a black bittern marching along the water’s edge.
In summary, Lawn Hill and Adels Grove are too ‘touristy’ for my taste – and I wasn’t there in the high season!
Tony Neilson, May 2017