Chandler  Walk ~ South  See map (click on thumbnail to see larger)   back

Main Noticeboard. OWRNP is now 142 000 hectares and growing, as people sell off grazing land that is no longer economic. Both walks start from this sign

Wollomombi Wattle Acacia blakei subspecies diphylla . Have people feel the 'leaves' - firm, a little leathery, with longitudinal veins. Note flowers, seedpods if present- typical wattle, with the leaf-stalk taking over the functions of a leaf, and without the stomates - the breathing pores through which plants lose water. So wattles can live in seasonally dry places.
Restricted to Northern Tablelands gorges.
Gorge Mock-Olive Notolea microcarpa subspecies velutinea is a small bush with opposite +/- velvety leaves that grows in on the steep sides of gorges in the New England. It is in the same family as the commercial European olive, and produces similar fruit.  
Green Wattle Acacia irrorata. Have people feel leaves (Eyes closed), compare to the phyllodes of Wollomombi Wattle. This plant keeps its juvenile leaves into maturity. Sometimes planted in gardens, with golden balls of flowers in November to January – and sometimes also in winter like most other wattles Lichen on railings beside track. Note the difference between the top of rail (flat Crustose lichen) and the side (thick Foliose lichen). Also look at lichen on nearby dead tree. Which type? Evidence of the thick mists that sometimes roll up from the gorge, allowing many plants to survive without putting roots deep into the soil Rainfall here 30-40 inches (750-1000mm) per year.  
From Falls Lookout. The major (left ) fall is on the Wollomombi River- the name is a corruption of the local Aboriginal word "Walloumbi", meaning 'meeting of waters'. The right fall - and the joined river- is named after Chandler, an early shepherd. New squatters were advised to talk to "the Beardies"- Chandler and his partner Duval- for advice on where to establish their runs. So we have the Chandler River, Chandlers Peak, Mount Duval, Duval College at UNE... The bottom is about 260 metres below the plateau, and the main drop of Wollomombi Falls is about 100 metres. "The underlying rocks in Wollomombi are like a layer cake. On the bottom is a layer of very old- about 400 million years old- rocks that have been folded down."

This very old rock is rather fragile, so climbers don't like it very much - it gives way at bad moments. The knife-edge ridge is where climbers get out after abseiling in.

At the Checks Lookout track sign- there are 700 plus different Eucalypts in Australia. People divide them into - Roughbark (Box, Stringybark, Ironbark, ) and Smoothbarks (Gums). Fortunately there are only 4 along this walk, the first visible from this point.  
Silvertop Stringybark ( E. laevopinea) - edge of gorge. Note the bark on trunk and large limbs (it can be pulled off in long 'strings'),and the smooth, silvery top branches (hence the common name). The fruit has wide disc and slightly exserted valves. Pick up a bit of the rock from the path. It will split easily along layers- sedimentary rock, originally formed under water. Very poor soil due to its great age and the subsequent loss of many useful minerals.   The Australian Indigo (Indigofera australis) in the photo is one of several Pea Flower plants that grow along the walk. Peas have nodules on their roots that manufacture nitrogen, so they have their own inbuilt "Fertilizer Factory" to help them cope with the poor soil.
Snow Grass Poa sieberiana is very common along the path. Makes excellent shelter for small marsupials e.g. Marsupial Mice. Sign -Carpark. Around here you often see the little purple- flowered Austral Bugle Ajuga australis Bluebells (Wahlenbergia luteola) are found all along the edge of the path, and flower for a long time around Easter.
Cabbage Gum (E. amplifolia) is the common Smoothbark along the bit of the track after the above junction. Note the very exserted valves on the fruit. The Australian Bugle (Ajuga australis) is a plant about 15 cm high with a pretty little purple (blue, pink, white…) flower that is very widespread in the New England. Leaves are up to 12 centimetres long, blueish-purple underneath with toothed margins, growing in a basal rosette around the stem. Yellow Box Eucalyptus melliodora- great honey tree, with highly variable bark- sometimes firmly rough box bark, sometimes loose, and sometimes with a lot of the trunk smooth. Always though there is a trace of yellow about it, and.. the red-wine glass shape of the fruit, and the definite vein running about 3 mm away, and parallel to, the leaf edge are good identifying features.
Native Cherry Exocarpos cupressiformes. This sickly specimen is often a very attractive shrub or bushy tree -cupressiformes refers to its resemblance to Cypresses. It is a root parasite on Eucalypts. Note the leafless green stalks. The tiny flower has yellow 'petals' less than 1 mm long. After flowering, the stalk swells into a 4-8 mm yellow or red oval with a slightly smaller seed stuck on the end of it - exocarpos means "outside seed". Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus- A big ball of spines! There are lots of diggings into the track edge – e.g. at the base of the Native Cherry . You can identify it by the wide low nature of the hole- Echidnas dig like a breast- stroker swims. A toothless, highly specialised feeder on ants, termites, beetle larvae and other soil invertebrates. OWRNP has 90% of the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby Petrogale pencillata . They live on the steep slopes, and were being driven to extinction by competition with feral goats. The NPWS began a program of releasing Judas goats (with attached radio collar), tracking them , and shooting the other goats from a helicopter. Now the wallabies are coming back. (Shot taken 6.30 am early April from the track to Checks Lookout)

Superb Lyrebirds scratch over litter looking for the ground-dwelling insects, spiders, frogs, and other small invertebrates that they eat. Their weak wings allow very limited flight. They can convincingly mimic other birds, chainsaws, camera-shutters, and almost anything else. The film used to show their mimicry in David Attenborough's "Life of Birds" was largely shot at Point Lookout in New England NP.

Checks Lookout turnoff with Native Broom Jacksonia scoparia, the grey leafless 3 metre shrub. The branches were attached to handles and used to sweep out early settler’s huts. A member of the Pea family, and like other peas, manufactures nitrogen in root nodules. So here is a plant that has no stomates to lose water, and has its own fertilizer factory- no wonder it grows so well here.
Minute Moss growing over the rocks and soil going down to Checks has no deep roots to draw up water. Instead, it responds instantly (2 seconds !), turning bright green and visibly growing when water is dropped on a dried-out section (e.g. near the tip of the stick). Takes advantage of the frequent mists as well as rainfall in the area.
(On big dry sections, you can write your name with a wet sponge.)

Gorge Wattle Acacia ingrami growing as a natural bonsai on the left of the track just before Checks Lookout platform. This plant is common in the OWRNP gorge edges, and is a blaze of gold in September. However, it is rare everywhere else. Growing under garden conditions it is a leggy, very unattractive straggly tree about 5 metres high. Maybe a point about adversity bringing out beauty in some plants -and people?

Grevillea granulifera (No Common Name), a rare species growing against the right side of the lookout platform. Good opportunity to discuss the role of NPWS in conserving such plants- may be useful to people in a number of ways, e.g. as a source of medicine (Film “Medicine Man”), as a horticultural subject, or as a perhaps important part of the area’s ecology.

Grasstree (Xanthorrhoea sp). Fires are uncommon in Inaccessible Gulf. But as Grasstrees are slow-growing (roughly a centimetre every three years) and long-lived, they need fire defences. First the dry skirt burns, and this chars the trunk, leaving a 50 mm + layer of leaf stems to insulate the inner parts. All other leaves are burnt off, but three months later fresh new green ones appear. The flower stalk is about 2 metres long!

Checks Lookout. The photo displayed at the platform end was taken by Mr Check in early days from this point. The platform was built by Miley Sawtell, Jeff Paul (and others) who designed a special sulky-like cart to get the heavy timbers onto site. (During the day, the gorge walls heat up, and , as hot air rises, the wind tends to blow up the gorge in the late afternoon, making the holes in the pipe top rail “sing”).

Cathedral Rock National Park on the horizon. About 250 million years ago, granite forced its way up and is exposed as big tors there. Round Mountain (1586 metres) is the highest point between the Australian Alps and Mt Bartle Frere(1622 m) in Queensland. The summit is basalt, from the lava flows of 18-25 million years ago. A DCA tracking station bars entry to the very top.

Wedge-Tailed Eagles, even Sea Eagles, ride the thermals here. The white splash on the orange exposed face to the right of the buttress are droppings from Peregrine Falcons that nest here. One party saw a full-powered dive with the peregrine hitting a Wedgie, bursting feathers from it to warn it away from the nest, and then giving its “Kek-kek-kek” warning call. Peregrines have been timed - by a fellow who trained one to chase the lure he held when jumping from a plane- at over 300 km/hour in a dive.

Dry Rainforest on the eastern gorge side, from Checks. So far, about 190 species have been found pretty well confined to this plant formation in Oxley Wild Rivers, and this has lead to its inclusion in the World Heritage list.

The well-formed path after Checks Lookout, with Lomandra and Snow Grass under eucalypt woodland.


The view down into Inaccessible Gulf from Map Grid 070.210. Grey metamorphosed rock – turned on its side after being laid down millions of years ago, patches of green Dry Rainforest , and the river far below.

Westringia ‘Wollomombi Falls’ is one of the many plants that can only be found on the edges and cliffs of Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.

The path, lined here with Australian Indigo and Snow Grass, starts to head down about 700 metres after Checks turnoff.

The Sticky Daisy Bush (Olearia viscidula). George Bentham in his Flora Australiensis in 1867 named it, and I suspect he did so from a dried specimen, as it only becomes ‘viscid’ (sticky) when dried. The annoying part is that other similar Olearias are sticky when you find them in the field, but the name is already taken.

Tall Hakea (Hakea eriantha) is easy to recognise by its long narrow leaves and fruit that looks like a snail in profile. I’ve seen open fruit stuffed with cotton wool and used for Christmas decorations!

Forest Nightshade (Solanum vicinum) has prickles on everything except the fruit and the flower. ‘Vicinum’ in Latin means ‘nearby, a neighbour’- as used in the Latin proverb “ aliquid mali propter vicinum malum “ (bad comes of a bad neighbour). It certainly would make a bad neighbour, as you’ll find if you brush up against it!

The path starts to narrow and the ridge steepens as you go on from here. Take care!

Native Sarsparilla (Hardenbergia violaceae) often grows, along with other peaflowers, in nitrogen-starved areas like this. The False Sarsaparilla name comes from a belief that the roots were similar to sarsaparilla and could be ground to make the syrup used for cordials. I wouldn’t try it in any quantity!

From here, the walking gets much harder. The ladies in the photo had three tough days ahead of them before climbing up to the tops again in the Jeogla area.

(Photo Chris Cooper)


Inaccessible Gulf, from 068. 205- near its bottom end- you need to be a good canyoner to head up into it.

(Photo Chris Cooper)