It’s a long way from southeast Queensland’s Queen Mary Falls to South Australia’s Coorong, but any water that tumbles over the picturesque drop will one day reach the sea at the mouth of the Murray River.
The falls on Spring Creek near Killarney flow into the Condamine River, part of the headwaters of Australia’s longest river system, the Murray Darling. From there, the river flows northwest across the Darling Downs to join the Balonne River near Surat, which in turn joins the Maranoa River near St George. It then flows southwest to join the Darling River near Bourke and on to the Murray River at Wentworth.
A visit to Queen Mary Falls and the Condamine Gorge makes for a fun and interesting dirty weekend, especially if you have kids aboard. The drive through the gorge involves crossing the river thirteen times and while most of the fords are usually quite shallow and easy, a couple can be both deep and rough especially after rain. Getting the kids to check the depths at each crossing will keep them entertained along the way.
During the drive there are many opportunities for a creek-side picnic or even a dip, although the water can be chilly! Signs have recently been erected naming all of the crossings, most of which hark back to the days when bullockies hauled logs of rainforest timber from The Head sawmill to Killarney.
In its heyday around the early 1900s, The Head was a bustling community of sixty families and the track through the gorge was their link with Killarney and the outside world. Travelling through the gorge today in a modern 4WD, access is easy but the bullockies faced dangers at every crossing. Evans Crossing remembers a man who drowned there, while Mawhirts Crossing was named after a man whose leg was broken and horse killed after being struck by a tree while attempting the ford. Long Crossing was so named because a team of bullocks could all line up and drink without squabbling. Other crossings such as Heywards, Reis, Watsons and Daggs honour local identities from the timber days.
Scenery in the gorge is dramatic with rugged rocky bluffs towering overhead and pockets of lush rainforest filling the numerous side gullies. Above the gorge the road winds along the top of the plateau through cleared grazing country and pockets of dense green jungle. Carr’s Lookout affords sweeping views towards the Scenic Rim peaks of Mt Superbus (at 1380m southern Queensland’s highest peak), Wilson’s Peak and Mt Barney. On a clear day the Mt Tamborine escarpment is visible.
Camping, not permitted in the gorge, is available atop the plateau at Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park, (07) 4664 7151. There are also cabins and a kiosk/café and, just across the road, the National Park picnic area with walking tracks leading to Queen Mary Falls lookout or the base of the falls. Down the road beside Carr’s Lookout, Spring Creek Mountain Café & Cottages, (07) 4664 7101, offers fine food, classy new cabins and fabulous views. If you wish to stay in the gorge, choose from Adjinbilly Rainforest Retreat Cabins (07) 4664 1599 or Oaklea B&B (07) 4664 7161.
All the details on a trip to Queen Mary Falls and through the Condamine Gorge can be found in the 4th edition of Dirty Weekends in South East Queensland.Reads: 3656