New Great Walk … a window into the Conondales – Ian Mackay

The recently-opened Great Walk Conondale Range is a trip back in time in more ways than one. The 56-kilometre circuit walk which begins and ends at the popular Booloumba Creek campgrounds provides much more than a glimpse of the spectacular forests, creeks and gorges for which the Conondale Ranges have become noted.

WHILE the walk includes three new walkers’ campgrounds and is intended as a four-day experience, it also provides the opportunity for a number of shorter walks as well.

When opening the walk in early July, the Acting Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability explained it was the sixth of the state’s great walks and declared “ they had left the best till last”.

While other great walks like those at Cooloola and the Blackall Range offer a diversity of experiences for the walker, the new Conondales walk brings with it decades of history of forestry, community and conservation involvement.

In 1966 Kenilworth scoutmaster, Ross Scott, door-knocked Kenilworth with a petition for a National Park in the Conondales, but, though unanimously supported locally (even by the local branch of the Country Party), it was shelved by the state government.

The Save the Conondale Range Committee was established in 1976 following the work of a number of young researchers who were more than impressed with the areas unique flora and fauna, most notably the Gastric Brooding frog Rheobatrachus silus.

There was great urgency in these early days as the lowland rain and vine forest around Little Yabba Creek was being cleared and the whole area was ear-marked for clearing to make way for pine plantations.

Now, more than four decades on, Ross Scott’s original National Park proposal has been more then realised with a large area of 35 500 hectares having been progressively declared. Sadly Rheobatrachus isn’t around to see it. The last one was sighted in the early 80s and is generally considered to be extinct, one of a number of victims of the introduced Chytrid fungus.

To wander the newly created trails is to walk back through time. The tree fern gullies and mountain creeks suggests links to our Gondwanan origins when such forests were far more widespread. They speak of our indigenous forebears heading up the waterways laying lobster traps as they went, for mountain lobster were highly prized.

Other sections speak more loudly of a forestry past. The walk out from Peters Creek, in particular, takes you past old log-loading ramps and giant stumps from, many of which have re-shot, and much of the walk utilises old forestry tracks, now being reclaimed by forest. While the views from the Mt Allan fire tower are spectacular, the walker is reminded that the tower is but one of a network (including the iconic Jimna Fire Tower) built to protect the forest estate from unplanned fires.

The walk will eventually include an on-site sculpture by internationally renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy who visited the area last November.

The 56 km four day walk includes three campgrounds with daily sections of between 11 & 17km. Bookings for the low-key campgrounds are necessary before commencing and can be made at www.derm.qld.gov.au/great-walks or by phoning 1300 130 372. Some shorter walks are also outlined on the map and other possibilities (like the 10.4 km round trip from Sunday Creek Road to Peter’s Falls) can be readily identified. Walkers are advised that rocks in the creeks in the Conondales become very slippery when wet.

Ian Mackay has been President of the Conondale Range Committee for “quite a long time” and last year was made a life member of the Sunshine Coast Environment Council

Image this page by Arkin Mackay – www.stoppress.com.au

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