Adels Grove Campground is located just 10km from Boodjamulla National Park. It is set amongst a plantation of exotic trees originally planted in 1920 by French Botanist Albert de Lestang. The name comes from his initials….A de l.
Albert was a keen botanist and collected plants from all over the world. He grew many and even sent seeds overseas. Hundred of samples of the seeds Albert grew remain in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens. Sadly a fire went through in the 1950’s and destroyed a lifetime’s work including all his meticulous notes. Albert was in his early 70’s by this time and the destruction of his property led to depression. He retired to town to live out his life. However many of the exotic plants he had planted regrew and the grove is now a mix of wild cabbage palms, pandanas, tea trees and the exotic plants that Albert planted.
It does make me wonder though, what on earth was a French botanist doing way out here in the outback? How did he come to be there and why would he stay there? It certainly is different to his native France!
The waters of the creek are a clear blue or green depending on the sky and it is an oasis in the desert. You can hire a canoe or kayak and paddle your way along the creek or make use of the multiple stairways and ladders along the creek to allow access for swimming. At one of those stairways there is a pontoon in the middle of the creek.
One of the local people assured me that there are only freshwater crocodiles as saltwater crocs don’t like the limestone in the water. I hoped he was correct.
Today Adels Grove is part of Lawn Hill Station, an indigenous owned and operated cattle farm. They have recently, in October 2020, taken over the running of the campground as well. I feel that most of the staff don’t really have an idea of how to run a hospitality venue but they will learn and I hope they do well. It is such a beautiful place but already I can see that maintenance has not been happening. It will be sad if it is all let go and people stop coming to this amazing place.
Just 10km down the road, which is half good tar road and half dreadful rough gravel, is Boodjamulla National Park. This park is famous as the site of Lawn Hill Gorge. The gorge has been carved out of the red sandstone over millions of years and some of the cliffs towers 60 metres above the water of the creek below. There is a limestone plateau above and freshwater springs flow over that to form the creek.
The park is 290,000 hectares and has another 130,000 hectares of resource reserve. The area has been home for 17,000 years for the Waanyi people who consider Lawn Hill Gorge to be sacred. Today the Waanyi people are involved in managing the park and showing it off to tourists.
There are a number of walking tracks along the gorge that lead to various lookouts. Mandie, Pete, Richard and I drove the short distance into the park and did the walk to Indarri Falls. Wow. It was spectacular. It was hot so a refreshing swim at the falls was a great way to cool off. When you first jump in the cold water takes your breath away but then your body gets used to it and it’s very pleasant. It’s also fun trying to manoeuvre yourself underneath the falls.
Indarri Falls separates the gorge into Upper and Lower and looks spectacular from the lookout high on the cliff above.
Back at camp we enjoyed drinks down at the waters edge before another little campfire and as a special treat Helen made scones again in their camp oven served hot with jam and whipped cream. Now the whipped cream is a trick. Did you know you can whip cream in a jar? You put a jar, a jam or peanut butter jar, in the fridge or freezer to get it cold, add the cream and a little icing sugar and a dash of vanilla, then shake vigorously. You have to try and hold the jar by its ends so the heat from your hands doesn’t warm it up. It takes about 15-20 minutes and, ta dah…whipped cream.
On our third day at Adels Catie and I packed our kayaks and headed into the park to paddle both gorges. Mandie and Pete also went in their vehicle as they had hired a double canoe from 9-11am. It’s a 10-15 minute drive from Adels into the park. We all met up at the canoe launching area after I’d spent 10 minutes inflating my kayak.
We set off paddling together and we’d only gone about 50 metres when Pete had to commence bailing water out of the bottom of their canoe. Oh dear! That wasn’t a promising start having a leaky canoe. They decided to keep going anyway with Pete having to regularly bail out water.
How to describe the gorge from the water. Incredible, amazing, stunning, beautiful are all words I could use. The water is clear and a gorgeous aqua colour. The creek is lined on either side by high red sandstone cliffs.
The flora along the gorge is incredible. Giant, tall cabbage palms tower over the pandanas and other palms below. Wattle trees were flowering all along the gorge and their bright yellow flowers contrasted with the aqua water. I marveled at the tenacity of nature as some small trees clung to the cliffs and sent their long roots down to the water.
It is very peaceful paddling along the gorge and it’s very quiet down there. If you rest your paddle for a while and just take in the serenity of the place it is easy to see why the Waanyi people believed that their creator, Boodjamulla, lives in the gorge.
After paddling the lower gorge we arrived at Indarri Falls. Here you have to lift your kayaks and canoes out of the water and up onto the bank. Thankfully a couple of stainless steel rails have been put in place to help drag the kayaks and canoes up the short slope. Once at the top you then have to portage your kayak or canoe along the 20m track to bypass the falls and gain access to the upper gorge. It didn’t take us all long to manage to portage our kayaks and canoe and we set off again paddling the upper gorge.
The cliffs are not as tall in the upper gorge however there is more plants life. We kept our eyes peeled for freshwater crocodiles however all we saw were ‘logodiles’, a log that we thought looked like a croc. There was lots of different birds flitting about the trees and we could here the bird song of many others as we paddled quietly along.
The creek narrows in the upper gorge and eventually we had to pass through a very narrow opening under the palms. This led into another wider section with low banks on either side. Perfect for crocs I thought but alas we didn’t see any there either.
The gorge ends at a pretty spot where the freshwater spring bubbles up out of the ground and cascades over rocks into the creek. This is the beginning of Lawn Hill Creek. The water felt warm to the touch. It was a very peaceful spot with the noise of the water as it rushed over the rocks so we stopped for a drink and something to eat.
We had to part company at this spot as Mandie and Pete had to get their canoe back by 11am and then they would be packing up and heading off. They have 8 days to get home before they have to get back to work and it’s a long way. We said sad farewells and they set off quickly paddling back and it was not long before they were out of sight.
Catie and I took a leisurely paddle back and when we arrived back at Indarri Falls we left the kayaks on the track and jumped in for a swim. It’s fun trying to swim and get under the falls. The noise of the water is thunderous when you can get right behind the falls and look out at the water in front of you.
We had a lovely long swim and when we swam back to the steps where the rails are for canoe and kayak access there was an elderly couple. The man was standing on the bottom step plucking up the courage to enter the water. He eventually jumped in. His partner sat on the top step and she didn’t look like she was going to move any time soon. She kept telling us there was another set of steps further down. I think she meant for us to go there to get out. We had to explain to her that she is sitting right where we have to bring our kayaks to get them back in the water and it took a while for that to sink in. She reluctantly moved when the penny dropped that she was right in the way.
We quickly got our kayaks back in the water and set off back down the lower gorge still marveling at how beautiful it is. Many people were out paddling and one funny sight was a mum and two children in a large canoe. They each had short paddles and they looked like they had no idea how to use them. Their canoe kept going around in circles because they were all paddling in different directions and the little girl in front kept putting her paddle in the water which meant they turned on the spot. We had a chuckle at that and wondered how far they would get.
We came across a lady having a long swim in the creek and she called out to ask about my inflatable kayak. She was very interested in it and wanted to know all about it. I explained that it is an Intex Challenger K1 and I’d bought it from Amazon for $129. She was impressed.
All too soon our paddle was over and we were back at the canoe entry/exit spot. This is where I’m glad my kayak is not very heavy as I had to carry it back up to the carpark. Catie has a set of wheels that connect under her kayak and once the wheels are under it she can pull it along by the handle at the front. The tricky thing for us vertically challenged pair was getting it back on the roof rack of Robert’s 4WD. We managed to get it up there OK but it took a while to get the ratchet straps on. My kayak was soon deflated and I just folded it up and stashed it in the back until we got back to camp where I could dry it out and pack it up properly.
Back at camp and we just caught Mandie & Pete as they were leaving. I was sad to see them go and hope they had safe travels home. By then it was time for a welcome hot shower. Around 5ish we all walked down to the creek with our sundowner drinks and enjoyed a little time sitting in the cool, watching the water and chatting.
The six of us remaining enjoyed another night around a little campfire for our last night together. I cooked a pork roast in the oven in our motorhome and even got the crackling just right. It was delicious.
We would have to say goodbye to the others the next morning as they were heading further north into the gulf and we were heading south towards Julia Creek.