Paddling Lawn Hill Gorge

The Wallaby Track: Lionel Mussell fulfils a long-held dream to visit Lawn Hill Gorge, Qld.

Lionel paddles in Lawn Hill Gorge, Qld.

In my previous column I said I’d tell you more about our time as school photographers. It was great travelling this great country and getting paid to do so and we went to a lot of places off the beaten track.

Murphy was a constant companion, of course, and he played a rotten trick in Townsville – he gave me a severe dose of Ross River fever the day I was to take pictures at the West Townsville State School where famous Australian singer Gladys Moncrieff received her education. The library on the top floor of the three-storey building was where I had to work and to get all my gear up there and then get all the class photos done was almost too much – I collapsed into bed when I got back to my caravan.


A lot of our work was in Queensland and I still love that state and spend most winters up there. In fact, I spend nearly as much time there as I do back home in Victoria, so I sometimes wonder if I could vote there…


Lawn Hill Gorge, Qld, has been on my bucket list for some years but I’ve been a bit wary of the road conditions as there have been very mixed reports about them. I was stopped at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse thinking that I should ask someone what the road in to the gorge was like at the moment when suddenly I heard my name called! It was two friends from my Australian Caravan Club branch in Gippsland, Vic, and they had just been in to Lawn Hill!

Stopping at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse.

Armed with a first-hand road report I headed for Gregory Downs in high spirits not knowing what Murphy had in store. My TomTom GPS had never let me down so I followed its instructions to take the Camooweal road.

The road deteriorated into stony, dusty gravel and suddenly I heard a loud, high-pitched warning sound. Coming to a rapid stop, I turned everything off that I could think of but the insistent beeping continued. I went into the back of Yemmy and discovered that it was the smoke detector! The dust had activated it!

Tom told me to turn right at the 52km mark but there was no road! I went on a few kilometres but it was then telling me to go back and turn left. Of course I couldn’t as there was no road so I retraced my steps back to Gregory Downs and decided to stay there that night. A hundred and four needless kilometres!

The 100km of gravel and some single-lane bitumen wasn’t too bad the next day and I enjoyed my stay in the national park.

I can’t walk too far these days so I thought a bit of kayaking on the gorge would be good.

“There’s a small leak,” the man said as he pushed the kayak onto the slope. Small leak? I was soon soaked up to my waist and as there was no backrest for the seat, my back was soon aching ferociously!

I could still paddle while laying backwards to ease my aching back and the gorge was beautiful. Imagine my surprise when I heard voices and laughter and was overtaken by an electric boat carrying relaxing passengers. Yes – I would have been on the boat if I’d known about it!


I was cooking some toast on the stovetop and warming some soup on the other burner when the phone rang. While checking the phone I tried to stir the soup but just then the toast started burning and the smoke alarm started its beeping. I managed to turn both burners ‘off’ before anything worse happened and took the battery out of the smoke alarm before answering the phone! Good one, Murphy!


I called in at Ardlethan, NSW, for some lunch last year and discovered the best free camp I’ve ever seen. Right in the heart of this lovely little town is a free camping area for up to four RVs and not only is there free camping but a free barbie as well. If you’d like to have power, just put $2 in the meter for twelve hours of electricity – if you want more just put another nickel in.

No money, no power.

This year, I planned my route north up the Newell Highway to overnight in this sleepy little town and shared the parking spot with a couple of caravanners from Frankston, Vic. We walked just along the road to the bowls club where we joined in the yummy pizza night. There’s a hotel and a few shops including a supermarket on the main street.

The town is famous for being the ‘birthplace’ of the kelpie dog and there’s a statue to commemorate this in the nearby park.

I hope a lot more towns see the benefit of welcoming tourists like this in the future.

See you down the track.