The mountains separating south east Queensland and NSW are a unique environment that includes pockets of Gondwanaland rainforest with stands of rare Antarctic Beech trees, which is in turn surrounded by temperate rainforest and eucalypt forests. Many of the valleys are now open grazing land thanks to the ring barker’s axe and the timberman’s saw, a legacy of over a century of timber getting and agriculture. Centre piece of this area is known as the Scenic Rim, a broad rural tapestry framed by ancient volcano calderas and peaks of the Main Range National Park.
I had previously driven through this area over the 2019 Christmas period, to survey aftermath of the terrible bush fires that plagued much of the east coast. At the time the area was blackened and smoldering without any signs of the usually plentiful wallabies and bird life. Even away from the fire front the land was crisp and dry from the drought that afflicted much of the country and smoke haze made the sky feel low.
[YouTube clip – SEQ Scenic Rim]
Now though, autumn rain had renewed the countryside and the process of rejuvenation had begun, and after a three week chemo cycle I was in need of some rejuvenation too. So, a day trip was planned to retrace my previous route, but COVID border closures meant I couldn’t take the same loop following White Swamp Road that passed through Koreelah NP in NSW, before dropping back into Queensland, instead I followed the scenic Spring Creek Road.
Staying in the Sunshine State meant I continued on Spring Creek Road as it hugged the Qld-NSW border, at times running right beside the rabbit proof fence dividing the states and intended to prevent northward migration of the introduced pest. Rabbits were first reported in south-western Queensland in the 1880s. Their spread was assisted by humans as much as by natural migration. Queensland reacted to the advancing wave of rabbits by introducing the Rabbit Nuisance Bill of 1878 and Act in 1880. Unfortunately, tenders for the construction of a rabbit-proof border fence were not passed until 1886, by which time rabbits were already established in much of the state. Most of the state’s barrier fences are no longer maintained however the Darling Downs section in this area is one of few that is still patrolled and repaired.
Soon I reach The Head, so called because it is start of the Condamine River headwaters, and very beginning of the mighty river system catchment that eventually becomes the Murray-Darling. Rain falling in this valley flows to the Southern Ocean via NSW and South Australia, making it a significant area given role of that river system in opening up of Australia’s interior, and its continuing use for agriculture. The river and the road following it slice through foothills of the Main Range, forming a beautiful gap called Cambanoora Gorge.
The Condamine River Road through Cambanoora Gorge is a great scenic drive for day trippers from Brisbane, although at times a high clearance vehicle is necessary given it crosses the river 14 times, and water at some of the fords can be quite deep. Today was not too bad, the river was not flowing so only a few of the crossings contained water. The road is also privately maintained and there is a donation box at Killarney end of the drive, so do the right things and slip in some legal tender to ensure this great little track remains open.
As often happens on these exploratory drives, time had slipped away much faster than I realised and it was well past lunch time. I swung into the border town of Killarney for a reheated service station pie, while hardly nutritious it was satisfying enough to see me through rest of my afternoon.
Given a choice I’ll always take the dirt road rather than bitumen, and found a short cut (well, a longish cut…) from Killarney via Emu Vale and Freestone to eventually emerge onto the Cunningham Highway. This series of gravel roads was sign posted as the Cedar Route, as the area was source of the valued cedar timber which was hand cut and hauled on these roads by bullock teams. They were certainly thorough, there is little sign of cedar growing in this area now, other than the deep valleys in the neighbouring National Parks.
The run back home was uneventful, following the black top down Cunningham’s Gap, through farmland before skirting Ipswich and into Brisbane’s afternoon traffic. Here’s a link showing the route if you’re after a great little day drive in the Scenic Rim area. [Scenic Rim driving loop]