Sometimes you find a spot and wonder why you’ve never been there before…
Where is this Kwiambal National Park, you may ask? I was asking the same question as my map showed me that I had arrived… but I had stumbled onto a private backyard with the locals playing their own Boxing Day test match. It was dusk, they’d had a few; and I was obviously lost. That’s a story for another day… but what I can say is that on some maps ‘Lemon Tree Flat’ campground appears on the north side of the Severn River. It is definitely on the south side of the Severn however, and should be approached through the town of Ashford – a little north of Inverell in north-east NSW. After driving another hour dodging the many kangaroos, goats, emus and an angry black snake, we arrived at the campground well after sunset.
Camping by the Waterhole
Not knowing what to expect, we were happy to find a very nice grassy campground. There were quite a few people camped there for Christmas; and there was plenty of space for all the campers, cockatoos and ’roos. The cacophony of birdsong at dawn was pretty intense, so don’t expect to a have a quiet sleep-in here. Lemon Tree Flat campground follows the edge of a long, deep waterhole in the Severn River. Murray cod can be caught near the campsite and we happened across some local campers just finishing their catch for breakfast.
If you like to spot wildlife there’s plenty here, with 30 species of mammals including koalas and squirrel gliders. There are even more reptile species, so keep an eye out for them. The area is also a hot spot for birdwatchers, with 101 types of birds frequenting the Park. No wonder it was noisy…
Although the vegetation is dominated by white cypress pines, Kwiambal contains 15% of the dry rainforest left in NSW. Much of the area has been logged in the past but regeneration is well underway. There is still a lemon tree in the campground; it is a relic of times past when the area was utilised by farmers and miners. You may notice some odd-looking windowless log cabin style buildings on the drive in. These are old tobacco-drying sheds.
The Rivers and Gorges
Gorges, caves and waterholes are only a few of the surprises of Kwiambal National Park. The Severn River has huge granite slabs on its edges, some with scars from being ground down under the pressure of flooding water mixed with gravel. If the water flow is high, The Dungeon lookout is a great spot to view the Severn rushing through a deep river gorge with steep granite walls and cascades. This is a relatively easy walk, but keep an eye on the kids as the track contours along the cliff line at some spots.
If you feel like a longer walk, you could continue onto The Junction of the Severn and Macintyre Rivers. The return journey from the campground is 7km. These two rivers join at The Junction and continue into the Barwon River before flowing into the Murray-Darling river system. The Macintyre had an unusual abundance of water racing through the rocky approach to the Macintyre Falls before plunging into a large pool. Although there hadn’t been much rain at Kwiambal, the Macintyre had collected a large amount of rainfall in its headwaters from storms near Guyra.
The Falls lookout is best driven to from the campground. From the car park there is a short walk to the lookout platform, which gives great views up and down the rocky gorge. A slightly longer walk takes you down to a great swimming spot. Slippery Rock Track is another good track with excellent views, but it’s steeper and requires a bit of rock clambering… so perhaps it’s best left for the more adventurous in the crew.
About 10km south of the Lemon Tree Flat campground are the Ashford Caves. These are small caves that have been mined for their guano (bat droppings) which are high in phosphorus and useful as fertiliser. There are three species of bats found in the caves, with the most common being the bent-wing bat. Let the kids know that there are no vampires here; but best to stay clear of the bats in any case.
The nice thing about these caves is that you are free to explore them yourself, so be sure to take a couple of good torches. An article in a local newspaper in 1892 described a group’s visit to the caves thus: “They all proceeded on their hands and knees. Here we were met by thousands of bats, which at once evoked screams from the ladies.”
Kwiambal NP and Lemon Tree Flat campground are somewhere you could drop in for a night if passing; but would also be suitable for a longer, relaxing stay with plenty of nature-based activities. Being off the beaten track and relatively unknown (if no-one reads this), Kwiambal is a top spot to visit.
Nearest town: 30km NW of Ashford.
When to go: Any time of year, but can be cold in winter.
Accommodation: Camping with both walk-in and drive-in open areas. Pit toilets, tank water and fireplaces.
Click here for further info: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/kwiambal-national-park/Visitor-Info