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About Central West Queensland

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Getting there and getting around

Many roads in Central West Queensland are unsealed and impassable when wet. There are no all-weather access roads to any park in this region. Some parks, and some areas within parks, are accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles only.

It is recommended that you visit between April and September, in the cooler months. Summer temperatures can climb to over 40 °C, and high rainfalls can also occur in summer, followed quickly by floodwaters.

Flooding can occur up to two weeks after rain elsewhere in the catchment. Rain can fall at any time of year and even a small amount of rain can make roads impassable. Check with the Queensland Transport or local council offices for current road conditions before your trip.

Access to some parks is through private land. Be considerate and leave all gates as you find them.

Elizabeth Springs Regional Park is not accessible by vehicles. A short walking track from the boundary gate enables you to experience the park. Goneaway and Hell Hole Gorge national parks do not have vehicle access, formed tracks or visitor facilities.

Astrebla Downs National Park is not open to the public.

Choose a travel route

How much time do you have? Allow at least three weeks to see all the parks open to visitors. Your time will be well rewarded.

Short trips (about one week)

  • Longreach—Lochern—Welford—Idalia—Longreach
  • Winton—Bladensburg—Lark Quarry—return Winton—Combo
  • Forest Den
  • Diamantina.

Longer trips (about two weeks)

  • Bladensburg—Combo—Lark Quarry—Diamantina
  • Munga-Thirri (formerly known as Simpson Desert National Park) adds at least one week to any itinerary.

Maps

See each park’s web page for more detailed information on getting there and getting around.

Wheelchair accessibility

Wheelchair-accessible facilities are available in Lark Quarry Regional Park, Idalia National Park, and Lochern National Park.

Features of the parks of Central West Queensland

The parks surrounding Longreach fall within two major catchments: the Cooper Creek and Diamantina River catchments. Idalia, Forest Den, Lochern and Welford national parks are part of the Cooper Creek catchment. Bladensburg, Diamantina and Munga-Thirri national parks, along with Lark Quarry and Combo Waterhole regional parks, all fall within the Diamantina River catchment.

Thirteen national and regional parks covering more than 2.1 million hectares encircle Longreach to help protect the natural and cultural heritage of semi-arid western Queensland.

Craggy escarpments and deep gullies tell of a land that has been alternately shaped by, then starved of, water for eons. Cretaceous sea floors and lakebeds laid down 65 to 140 million years ago form the base of the landscape, preserving fossils from shellfish to dinosaurs.

Drainage lines of the Mitchell grass plains are visible for kilometres, identified by coolibah and river red gums—strikingly tall trees in a land dominated by stunted vegetation.

Each park has distinctive values. A secret to appreciating their diversity is to learn about their similarities and differences.

Camping and accommodation

Camping is permitted at Bladensburg, Diamantina, Forest Den, Idalia, Lochern, Munga-Thirri (formerly known as Simpson Desert National Park) and Welford national parks.

Camping permits are required and fees apply. A camping tag with your booking number must be displayed at your camp site.

  • See the camping information section of each park’s web page to book your camp site online.
  • If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for other options.
  • See more general information about camping in national parks.

For more details and important safety information, it is critical that you read the sections below on things to know before you go, staying safe and looking after the park, as well as each park's web page.

Other accommodation

There is a range of accommodation available in and around the various towns in the region. See tourism information links for further information.

Things to do

What would you like to do? Central West Queensland parks offer a variety of experiences for the curious visitor. Visit each park’s web page for more information on what they have to offer.

  • Birdwatching is best at Bladensburg, Diamantina, Forest Den, Idalia, Lochern and Welford.
  • Watch kangaroos and wallabies at Idalia, Lochern and Welford.
  • Go bushwalking through Bladensburg, Combo Waterhole, Forest Den, Idalia, Lark Quarry, Lochern and Welford.
  • Drive amongst ancient red dunes at Munga-Thirri (formerly Simpson Desert National Park).
  • Canoe along rivers and creeks at Diamantina, Lochern and Welford.
  • Ride mountain bikes through Idalia, Lochern and Welford.
  • Experience pastoral heritage at Bladensburg, Diamantina, Lochern, Welford and Combo.
  • Experience Indigenous heritage at Diamantina (visitor information about Indigenous heritage is currently being developed for other parks).
  • Learn about fossils at Bladensburg and Lark Quarry.
  • Take a self-guided scenic drive through Bladensburg, Diamantina, Idalia, Lochern and Welford.

Species lists are available from Wildlife Online.

Things to know before you go

Distances from the nearest town or centre can vary, and rangers are not always on-site. You must be self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies.

Essentials to bring

  • Adequate water, food and emergency supplies. Carry at least seven litres of water per person per day and enough emergency food and water for at least seven days in case of breakdowns or stranding.
  • Fuel stove. No fires are permitted in these parks.
  • Complete first-aid kit. Include sun and insect protection in your kit.
  • UHF, satellite phone and/or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). Mobile phone coverage is poor or not available in most areas.
  • Extra fuel and vehicle repairs. Frequent low gear and four-wheel-drive travel will use fuel more quickly on park drives. Fuel and supplies may not be available nearby. Use maps to plan refuelling points and calculate how much extra fuel to carry. You should also bring vehicle repair tools, spare tyres, oil and engine coolant.

Opening hours

Most Central West Queensland parks are open all year round except Munga-Thirri (formerly known as Simpson Desert) National Park which is closed from December to mid-March.

However, wet weather may cause temporary closures, and you are advised not to visit in the hotter months between October and March. Check park alerts or contact us for information on park conditions and closures.

While you are free to walk the tracks at Lark Quarry, access to Lark Quarry’s dinosaur trackways is by guided tour daily (Christmas Day and Boxing Day excluded), and fees apply. To arrange tours, contact Winton’s Waltzing Matilda Centre.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Camping permits are required to camp in all Central West Queensland parks and fees apply.

  • See each park’s web page for information on booking your camp site online.
  • If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for other options.
  • See more general information about camping in national parks.

Other permits

Commercial photography permits may be required if you intend to sell any photographs taken of Queensland’s parks and forests. Organised event permits may be required for organised group activities that may interfere with general public use. Contact us for further information.

Desert Parks Pass

If you wish to continue into the South Australian section of the Simpson Desert, you’ll need to purchase a Desert Parks Pass. See the Munga-Thirri National Park page for more information.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in any Central West Queensland parks.

Climate and weather

Visiting is recommended from April to September as summer temperatures reach over 40 °C during the day, and summer rains often cause flooding. Rain can fall at any time of year and flooding can occur up to two weeks after rain elsewhere in the relevant catchment area, resulting in unexpected creek rises and road closures.

Weather forecasts are available from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Fuel and supplies

The nearest fuel and supplies to these parks are often hundreds of kilometres away. Visit each park’s page for details on the nearest fuel and supplies.

It is also vital you read each park’s web page carefully as well as the sections on things to know before you go, and staying safe in Central West Queensland parks.

Staying safe

These parks are remote and rangers may not be onsite to help you. You must be self-sufficient, responsible for your own safety, and prepared for emergencies.

Be sure to read all essentials to bring and follow the guidelines below to help ensure your visit is a safe and enjoyable one.

Before you leave

  • Thoroughly check the condition of your vehicle and pack vehicle spares and equipment, including two spare tyres, engine coolant and oil.
  • Ensure you are familiar with your equipment and experienced with inland Australian conditions. For more remote parks, ensure one person has sound mechanical knowledge of your vehicle.
  • Check local road and weather conditions and extended forecasts for where you intend to travel.
  • Calculate driving distances accurately and plan refuelling points.
  • Leave an itinerary with a friend or relative. Include travel routes and/or check-in points.
  • Pack reliable communication equipment and a list of local UHF radio channels and emergency contacts.
  • Pack for hot and cold conditions. Outback Queensland can be very hot during the day, and very cold (to below freezing point) overnight. Check with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for more information on average temperatures.
  • Contact us or relevant tourist information centres to help you plan your trip.

While visiting

  • Keep to designated roads and tracks and drive with caution at all times. Animals can appear on roads at any time of day and road conditions can change quickly.
  • Stay with your vehicle if it breaks down. A vehicle is much easier to find than a person.
  • Always carry drinking water whether driving or walking. Always treat water from streams, rivers or waterholes before drinking.
  • Never jump or dive into a waterhole. It may be shallow or hide submerged objects.
  • Watch your step on escarpments. Edges can be unstable due to natural weathering, so stay away from the edge and take care where you walk.
  • Wear protective clothing. Wear a hat, sunscreen and wear sturdy footwear, not thongs.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times and be on the lookout for animals and insects that could scratch, sting or bite.

In an emergency

In an emergency, phone Triple Zero (000) and if this fails try 112, or contact the local police station directly.

You can also try to make contact with people on UHF radio. The most commonly used channels are listed below, however you should also seek local advice and scan for people using other channels while you are travelling.

Bladensburg
Winton Police Station (07) 4657 1200
UHF Channel 1 (duplex)

Lark Quarry
Winton Police Station (07) 4657 1200

Combo Waterhole
Kynuna Police Station (07) 4746 8777

Diamantina
Boulia Police Station (07) 4746 3120
UHF Channel 2 (duplex)

Idalia
Blackall Police Station (07) 4657 4200
UHF Channel 24 or UHF Channel 6 (duplex)

Lochern
Longreach Police Station (07) 4652 5200
UHF channel 2 (simplex)

Munga-Thirri (formerly known as Simpson Desert National Park)
Birdsville Police Station (07) 4656 5677
UHF Channel 10

Welford
Jundah Police Station (07) 4658 6300
UHF Channel 3 (duplex)

Forest Den
Aramac Police Station (07) 4651 3120

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Looking after the parks of Central West Queensland

Everything in national parks and regional parks is protected, including plants, animals and heritage sites and artefacts. Please appreciate, respect and help care for these parks’ outstanding natural and cultural values by leaving things as you find them, and encouraging others to do the same.

  • Leave everything as you find it. Everything, living and dead, is protected, including ruins and artefacts.
  • Keep food away from wildlife. Accidental or intentional feeding upsets the balance of nature and can make animals sick and/or aggressive.
  • Manage your waste. Take rubbish with you as no bins are provided. Pack food away immediately after meals and secure rubbish in sealed containers to avoid attracting insects and larger animals. Do not bury rubbish. Dingoes or other animals will dig it up.
  • Use toilets where provided. Do not throw rubbish down them. Most parks in the Longreach area have no toilets—bury toilet waste (and paper) 15 cm deep at least 100 m from water.
  • Dismantle any firearms or other weapons. Pack them out of sight as they cannot be used in protected areas.
  • Avoid transporting pests. Clean soil and plant seeds from your shoes and gear before you enter the park to avoid transporting weeds.

Practise low impact camping

  • Choose your site carefully. Use designated camping areas where provided, and take care to camp on park land (not private land).
  • Do not tie ropes to trees or drape things over vegetation. These plants recover slowly.
  • Set up camp away from animal nests and/or burrows to avoid disturbing them.
  • Use a portable stove. Fires are prohibited and collecting firewood in parks is illegal, as wood provides homes for wildlife and nutrients for the soil.
  • Keep noise levels reasonable. Generators are prohibited, except for medical reasons (with Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing permission).

Practise low impact driving

  • Keep to designated tracks. Driving off-track damages vegetation, causes erosion and creates confusing new tracks. Arid landscapes are fragile. Plants grow extremely slowly and tyre tracks remain for decades.
  • Be considerate—much of the land is privately owned. Only cross private land on a designated track or with the landowner’s permission. Leave all gates as you find them.
  • Do not drive on rain-affected roads. Even if you make it through, your tyres will damage the road surface and make it dangerous for other road users.
  • Use wash down bays to remove seeds from vehicles. These are located at most towns in the district. Wheels pick up weeds during travel and disperse them into parks.
  • Watch for animals when driving. Parks are wildlife refuges.

Protect watercourses

  • Never contaminate water. Take water at least 50 m away from waterways to wash with detergent, soap or shampoo.

Practise responsible fishing

  • Do not use frogs or other live bait. Invasive species may escape and establish a pest population. Severe penalties apply for using invasive species as bait.
  • Comply with size and bag limits. Only keep what you can eat on-site. Contact the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for more information about fishing regulations.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Management of the parks of Central West Queensland

Each park in Central West Queensland has unique attributes. They are managed to conserve their natural condition and protect their cultural resources and values. The Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing (NPSR) is responsible for most parks in the area, however Winton Shire Council jointly manage Lark Quarry Regional Park.

Tourism information links

Blackall-Tambo Regional Council/Visitor Information Centre
http://www.btrc.qld.gov.au
108a Shamrock Street, Blackall
ph (07) 07 4657 4637
fax (07) 4657 4913
email or

Longreach Regional Council
www.longreach.qld.gov.au
96a Eagle Street, Longreach
ph (07) 4658 4111
fax (07) 4658 4116
email

Diamantina Shire Council
www.diamantina.qld.gov.au
506 Herbert Street, Bedourie
ph (07) 4746 1202
fax (07) 4746 1272
email

Wirrarri Visitor Information Centre
www.diamantina.qld.gov.au
Billabong Boulevard, Birdsville
ph (07) 4656 3300
fax (07) 4656 3302
email or

Winton Shire Council
www.winton.qld.gov.au
75 Vindex Street, Winton
ph (07) 4657 2666
fax (07) 4657 1342
email

Waltzing Matilda Centre
(contact for Dinosaur Trackways)
www.matildacentre.com.au
www.dinosaurtrackways.com.au
50 Elderslie Street, Winton
ph (07) 4657 1466 or 1300 665 115
fax (07) 4657 1886
email

For information on road conditions contact:
Queensland Transport
www.131940.qld.gov.au
Phone 13 19 40 for 24-hour road reports.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Further information

Contact us

Last updated
4 May 2017