The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs!
In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs.
Nature Photo Challenge: Patterns
We didn’t see porcupines at Porcupine Gorge – there aren’t any in Australia. But we did see fabulous scenery!
Porcupine Gorge has been formed over the last 500 million years, weathered by wind and water. When we were there in the middle of the dry season Porcupine Creek, which flows through the gorge, was a series of still, clear waterholes. In the wet season from November to March, the average rainfall totals around 400 mm and the creek becomes a raging torrent.
A 400 metre walk from the car park at our first stop to the Gorge Lookout led us to a viewing platform on the edge of the gorge. We could see, in both directions, a large section of the 27 kilometre long canyon.
It was easy to distinguish the layers of exposed rock on the walls of the gorge; the dark basalt cap on top, resistant to erosion, and the soft lighter-coloured sandstone beneath, worn away by the power of moving water.
Further on, at the Pyramid Lookout, we saw the gorge from another perspective.
After a relaxing picnic lunch at a table overlooking the gorge we decided to tackle the Pyramid Track, a 1.2 kilometre path winding down to the creek and the base of the Pyramid. While it was not a long walk, the suggested time of 90 minutes return told us it was going to be more strenuous than the level cement paths to the two lookouts.
It took 30 minutes, walking downhill through the savannah grassland, to reach the floor of the gorge. The Pyramid, a huge sandstone monolith, towered over the creek, its sandy beaches lined with melaleuca trees.
The sandstone beside the creek was carved in fantastical shapes, in some places worn smooth and elsewhere shaped into deep overhangs.
Where the creek had receded, most of the large hollows and deep potholes formed in the stone were left full of cool clear water.
A few, though, were stained red with runoff from the sandstone walls of the gorge.
After a hour spent exploring, it was time to retrace our steps back to the picnic area. It did take longer to walk back uphill, but at 40 minutes we were well within that suggested 90 minute time frame.
So why is the gorge named after porcupines? We read two different theories.
Even though we didn’t see any, there is a large population of echidnas in the area. While their only similarity to porcupines is their covering of protective spines, that may have been enough to confuse early European explorers. Or perhaps the gorge was named for the dense clumps of spiky spear grass which cover the slopes on either side of the creek.
Either way, the three walks at Porcupine Gorge lead to stunning views of this spectacular landscape.
Joining Denzil for Nature Photo Challenge: Patterns and Jo for Monday Walks