Not to be confused with the shorter Maranoa Circuit walk (which is also in the Mount Moffat section of Carnarvon National Park), the Maranoa River circuit track passes three interesting sites – The Chimneys, The Tombs and the Looking Glass. (You can also visit the three attractions as two “out and back” bushwalks – but you’d end up walking almost the same distance.
The Maranoa River Circuit walk starts at the Sandstone Picnic Area near the entrance to the national park, where the loop starts almost immediately. You can walk in either direction; I’m walking clockwise so I finish with The Chimneys site.
The Looking Glass
After about 850m you can see the The Looking Glass above – a cave or hole in an isolated pillar of Precipice Sandstone thats been carved by the wind.
The Maranoa River circuit track crosses the Maranoa River, which is completely dry. The river runs from the Consuelo Tableland of the Carnarvon ranges to join the Balonne River north of St George, and is the second fastest running river in Australia during the Wet Season. Another, smaller “looking glass” sits next to the track.
The track now traverses a broad, grassy plain as it heads towards an enormous sandstone bluff.
At the base of the bluff is The Tombs, a significant rock art site that’s also thought to be a burial site for the Aboriginal people who placed their dead within tunnels in the sandstone. The bark burial cylinders in which the skeletal remains were wrapped were stolen from the site by the early 1900s.
More than 400 stencil motifs (images) decorate the walls of The Tombs sandstone shelter, with a boardwalk to protect the artwork.
As well as many hand stencils, the site includes some unusual motifs including the outline of a human figure (the only full adult body stencil known to exist in the world), a net or grid and two kangaroo feet.
Just beyond The Tombs site along the track is a stand of Budgeroo (Lysicarpus angustifolius), a relatively rare timber. The loose and fibrous bark was used to make burial cylinders,.
The Maranoa River circuit track then crosses the west branch of the Maranoa River (again); there was once a permanant water hole here, which would have sustained the Aboriginal people over the Dry Season (as well as permanent springs along the river). The Maranoa River was created during a severe drought by Mundagudtha, the rainbow serpent, who caused a big spring to form.
Another sandstone bluff soon comes into view, as the trail crosses the grassy plain.
The Chimneys was formed by wind and water eroding both sides of vertical fractures in the end of the Precipice Sandstone bluff. Over time these fractures were widened to form three pillars, with a “cap” of hardened rock that protects the pillars from collapsing.
The Maranoa River circuit track winds around The Chimneys, providing slightly different perspectives of the pillars.
It’s only about 600m back to the Sandstone day-use area, which completes the loop.
On the opposite side of the road is a (really) short walk to Cathedral Rock, another bluff of Precipice Sandstone (which has a small Aboriginal rock art site at its base).
0.0km Sandstone day-use area 0.8km View of The Looking Glass 1.0km Maranoa River west branch crossing 3.6km The Tombs 4.2km Maranoa River west branch crossing 5.1km View of The Chimneys 5.7km Sandstone day-use area
Getting to the Maranoa River circuit track
The signposted Maranoa River circuit track starts near the entrance of the Mount Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park, which is 220km north of Mitchell, and 460km (5:30min drive) from Emerald.