Week 3 – Chillagoe, Kuramba, Normanton, Burketown, Lawn Hill

Tuesday 15th

Yesterday was a terrific day. We took a guided tour through the Royal Arch Caves at Chillagoe, after we had finished accessing the internet at the general store .Our thanks to Vicky for her help. Vicky assisted us where others could or would not.


We must admit our experience with Royal Arch was better than we expected. Our guide Andrea from the National Parks Department provided an informative and enjoyable tour. We all were issued with miner’s lights and the belt battery packs. This meant we could shine our lights on whatever we wanted to see. The formations were spectacular, although quite difficult to capture on the camera.

We also took time to visit the Chillagoe smelter. Here they used to smelt copper from 1901 to 1943. in that time they processed over 1.25 million tons of ore. Other by-products were lead, silver and gold. It must have been a massive operation, just judging by the height and amount of the slag heap we saw. There were 3 tall smoke stacks and a large amount of rusting machinery discarded and in varying states of decay. The textures and colours of the whole scene were incredible.


Sue from the Souvenir Shop (which incorporates the laundry mat) was a mass of information. We soon realised that she was not just selling souvenirs!!! Many of the items for sale were her own personal photography. She is helping to bring to life the beauty and history of the area with her work, as well as providing unique souvenirs for the tourists coming through her shop. Sue also put us on to the cheap fuel in town. So before we left town we decided to fill up with diesel.


There was a 9 cents a litre difference between the main street petrol station and the bulk BP seller Tom Prior. When we arrived at Tom’s we found ourselves in the middle of a classic Ford vehicle display. There was all types of Fords from Blitz Trucks to Fairlanes and military vehicles. There was also a classic Ford Falcon GTHO in mint condition. Tom tells us its his birthday on the 31st of this month and he will be 69. All the vehicles he has restored are kept in fully operating condition, and all start at the first turn of the key. Incredible!!!

On our way out of Chillagoe we stopped in at the Mungana Archways. These made us happy we did the guided tours and not the self guided ones. We certainly saw the better ones.

Leaving Chillagoe, we started our trip across to the Gulf of Carpentaria, on the Burke Development Rd. Destination – Karumba and Normanton (and beyond).

Lunch was at the ford on the Walsh River which was flowing well. A beautiful area.

Today we travelled from Chillagoe to Staaten River on the Burke Development road – some 400kms. Passed 1 truck and 6 cars for the day. The road was in better than expected condition. The Mareeba shire section was well graded and wide. It contained only a few big bull dust holes which we negotiated safely. It was interesting how the centre of the road was still wet, muddy and badly degraded in isolated sections, from flooding in July – a slightly longer than usual wet season.

Wednesday 16th

Arrived in Karumba today. Being an extremely popular Barramundi fishing location, we decided to have barra & chips for lunch. By 3pm after consuming a yummy lunch (and a number of “cleansing ales” for Steve), and with the sun setting we headed north from Karumba Point and found a position to watch the sun set over the Gulf. This has been a relaxing experience with us both taking time to wind down. Words escape us in describing the beauty of the sun slowly setting across the low tide flats. It was one of the best sunsets we have ever seen and lasted close to an hour. No wonder they call the bar at the local hotel the sunset bar.




Thank you Alan and Dan – this is where we opened the wonderful champagne and we are sure it helped add to the pleasure of the sunset.

Thursday 17th

We both woke last night at 2am to the sound of a large gusts of wind. shaking the tent. Looking outside in the bright moonlight we could see a huge rolling cloud shaped like a cigar. This we believe was a “Morning Glory”. These occur throughout the region and can be quiet spectacular, as they roll in from the Gulf.


Today we visited Normanton. Highlights were Krys the replica croc and the Gulf Lander railway. Krys the croc is a 28 foot full size replica of the one shot in the Norman River in 1957.


The Gulf Lander arrived back in town from Croyden at 1.30pm. Every Wednesday the train departs for Croyden and returns on the Thursday. Some evenings they do sunset tours to Glencoe Station. The railway station contained a small museum and was impeccably maintained.


Steve managed to photograph Alison with a dingo. Alison reports dingo be very friendly and insisted we should be able to take him home with us. OK not a hairy mutt dingo, Ernie Dingo who was there filming Getaway for channel 7. So keep an eye on the television for us when the show gets to Normanton, we just might be in the background. I can just hear my old work mate hear Caro’s comments from here!

On leaving Normanton we turned onto the Savannah Highway.


About 2pm we arrived where Burke & Wills camped at their camp number 119 on the Bynoe River. This river was interesting as it was the first green coloured water river we have come across. It is also full of crocs. We saw 3 crocs briefly before they returned to the relative safety of their river. After 1/2 hour exploring we found a suitable site for the night over looking croc central.

Friday 18th

Decided on a rest day today. There was some small items on the car that needed fixing, like the door that was hard to unlock and the rattle in our fridge. Also we are still trying to get the best packing program worked out. Should be all worked out by our return we hope….maybe.

About lunch time we headed off to try and spot some more crocs… alas we sighted only 1 sunning itself before it returned to the water.

Saturday 19th

This morning we broke camp about 8.30am and headed for Burketown. We discovered that we had been camping on the Little Bynoe River not the Bynoe River. The Bynoe River seemed to contain less water than the Little Bynoe. The Flinders River was stark, but at least contained water and a lot of river sand.


By 10.30am we reached the Leichhardt River and its falls. We decided to take the opportunity to have a swim and soak off some of the previous days dust. The water was certainly cold, but very invigorating. Yes there were crock warning signs, but we found a safe pool, close to the falls section, which was easy to check out. The Leichhardt Falls only flow at certain times of the year and we have been lucky enough to be here at the time when they had considerable water flowing over them.


After an hour soaking in the rock pool we headed off for Burketown. There is not much to Burketown, but we had the most amazing experience driving across the salt pan towards the coast from there. Burketown boasts the widest tidal flats in Australia and that is certainly true. It would certainly be a place to stay clear of at king tide time or if it rained. We both felt we were driving into the water from the mirage in front of us.

2pm we headed south towards Lawn Hill National Park. We reached a little creek call Beames Brook just outside of Burketown, where we decided to camp for the night. It is surrounded by She-oaks and gums. The afternoon breeze makes a whistling noise as it blows through the She-oaks leaves.

Sunday 20th

Made our way to Lawn Hill Gorge / National Park today. We think we passed more traffic today than in all the time since we left Cooktown. OK a little exaggeration, but we certainly saw some dust today! We stopped at Gregory Downs which is on the side of the Gregory River. This also signals the turn off to Lawn Hill. On the Gregory River there were many vehicles parked / camped beside the old bridge. Council is now trying to not let people camp here and have supplied an alternate location away from the river. No one was camped in the alternate location and looking at where it is, who could blame them. Such is progress!!!


From Gregory Downs we moved onto Lawn Hill. Again there were many people in the National Park and Adel’s Grove Camping grounds. We couldn’t bring ourselves to camp with them as it was dusty and just like being back in suburbia. We did 2 small walks around Lawn Hill before we headed back out of the National Park to find a camp site. We headed towards Riversleigh and managed to find a little creek covered in water lilies with a small waterfall and rapids. Also the available shade from the afternoon sunset sealed our decision to stay for the night. As we felt extremely dusty and dry we broke out the under bonnet shower. The view from the bathroom once you get past the vehicle is very country. Arh clean again! 🙂

Monday 21st

Today we drove 35kms south to the Riversleigh Fossil D Site. It was interesting how they made the visitors information site and the toilets look like a huge boulder. Very clever. We then walked around their site and discovered a view from the summit that was great. On our way down there we also saw our first emu for the trip and Steve still claims he saw a lion crossing the road! This was later revealed to be a cow. We should be cutting back his rum ration!!!!! (or checking his glasses prescription). As we were so close to Riversleigh Station we headed to the Gregory River. We decided that it was time for the Cooktown mud to disappear from our vehicle and also how nice it would be for us to soak our feet in the cool waters.


An hour later and 2 chats with other passers-by we headed back to Lawn Hill to investigate Adel Grove Camping ground. The grounds looked in fair shape to us, despite what other people had told us. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. From here we headed back to Lawn Hill Gorge to do the big walk to the Upper Gorge look out. We walked along the edge of the water but could not see much on the way. The view at the end certainly made all the hard work walking worth while. Breath taking!

Brolgas Jabiru-Steve

Over 7kms return and 2 very tired people returned to the car park. We decided to head back to our previous nights camping spot and sleep to the sound of the water fall again.


Stay tuned as the adventure continues……

Prevous Post

Next Post