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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Carnarvon Gorge Walk, Carnarvon National Park, QLD.

A section of the Art Gallery, Carnarvon Gorge.
I have been recovering from an injured shoulder and broken ankle so we decided not to attempt to walk to the end of the gorge which, including side trips, is about 22 km return. Instead we chose the popular option of walking to the Art Gallery and returning from there with side trips to Wards Canyon, the Amphitheater and the Moss Garden. I have been doing intensive physio for three months with the goal of being able to come to Carnarvon National Park and complete this walk. My biggest concerns were the creek crossings, due to my ankle, and the ladders to the Amphitheater, due to my shoulder which still has very restricted movement.

Carnarvon Gorge via Moss Garden, Art Gallery, Wards Canyon and the Amphitheater. Class 3, 14 km return. Approximately 5 hours.

We set out early after a wet night and walked into the gorge while the sheer sandstone cliffs were shrouded in mist. The conditions were pleasant for walking but the glare and mist weren't so good for photography. 

A misty morning in Carnarvon Gorge.
There are lots of creek crossings on this walk and each side trip seems to have its own creek crossing to negotiate. The first creek crossing is the easiest but to my relief I found them all manageable. I did take a hiking pole as a precaution.

Water crossing in the mist at Carnarvon Gorge.
It seemed like we had the gorge to ourselves although we could see the prints of one person walking in front of us. A rather large dog/dingo had also been out for an early morning stroll. Sadly, there was quite extensive damage along the gorge caused by feral pigs.

I don't have small feet and neither does this dog/dingo.
Moss Garden.
When we arrived at the sign for the turn off to the Moss Garden we changed our plan and decided to go to the Moss Garden first. We could see that the only person in front of us had continued on so we figured that it was our only chance to see one of the attractions with no one else about. I was pretty sure we wouldn't make it to the Art Gallery before we got passed from behind by faster moving hikers. Our new plan worked perfectly and as anticipated we were later passed by a group of people before arriving at the Art Gallery.

Moss Garden

Art Gallery.
The Art Gallery is a special place and we spent some time there taking in the rock paintings. The artwork is very well preserved and a platform allows for easy and up close viewing. We were mortified to see that people had scratched their names into the rock and even over some of the art! A practice that seems to have been particularly prevalent in the 1950's. Cameras, and hopefully better cultural awareness, help to prevent vandalism at the site today.

Entry to the Art Gallery
Platforms allow easy viewing of the Art Gallery.
A section of the Art Gallery.

Wards Canyon.
Wards Canyon was the surprise of the day. There are quite a few steps on the way up to a waterfall and many people seem to turn around here and return to the main gorge track. However, we highly recommend continuing along the canyon as far as possible to see the amazing red covered rocks in the creek and the world's largest fern, the King Fern.

Wards Canyon.
End of Wards Canyon. King Ferns ( Angiopteris evecta), left.

Before arriving I wasn't sure if I would be able to go to the Amphitheater because the entry is described as having "ladders" and depending on the design I thought I might have difficulty getting down them. It turned out that the ladders are more like steep stairs and have good hand rails so I had no problem going up. Going down again was more of a challenge and I had a little queue of people waiting below for me to finish my slow but sure descent.

That doesn't look too hard.
Inside the Amphitheater looking back to the entrance.
Inside the Amphitheater.
Looking up through the natural skylight.

As we had gone to the Moss Garden on our way in, it was a simple task to walk back to the campground. We took six hours to do the five hour walk which is pretty normal for us as we like to take our time and tend to look around more than the average hiker. We also returned feeling fairly fresh which is more than can be said for some of the returning walkers. We saw a number of children on the track with their families and they all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves despite the length of the walk.

If you are feeling inspired to do a longer walk the Carnarvon Great Walk is a Class 3/4/5, 87 km walk, done over 6/7 days.

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