Much of the area is park-like open woodland on broad, undulating flats.
Surprisingly however, it is high country forming the upper catchment of the Maranoa River more than 750m above sea level.
The flats are broken by sculptured sandstone outcrops and ridges rising to the basalt-topped Great Dividing Range in the north-east. From the range top above 1100m, the view is spectacular over vast woodlands mostly covering a tangle of ranges, escarpments and gorges. Mt Moffatt's western boundary is the Chesterton Range.
Vegetation and Wildlife
Mt Moffatt is home to some of inland Queensland's most diverse flora. Its varied landscapes combined with a mixture of sedimentary and volcanic rocks results in a rich mosaic of plant communities.
As you enter the park, open grassy woodlands characteristic of the area's sandy wide valleys and undulating flats are common. These are dominated by smooth barked apples Angophora costata with pale salmon pink trunks and dense patches of cypress pine Callitris columellaris where recent fires have not reached.
On the sandstone crests and ridges visible from the road, gum- topped ironbark Eucalyptus decorticans woodlands grow. Here the soils are shallow and stony and only the tough drought-resistant species can survive. Wattle shrubs such as lancewood Acacia shirleyi are common above a sparse grass cover.
As you cross the creeks, you will often see forest red gums E. tereticornis with striped smooth grey bark, and poplar boxes E. populnea with rough bark and large round leaves growing on the deep loam soils of the creek flats and drainage lines. Kangaroos, wallabies and emus are often seen in these areas.
Beyond the homestead below the Chesterton Ridge lies Marlong Plain, an outstanding example of a natural grassland growing on basalt-derived sediments overlying sandstone and surrounded by picturesque slopes and bluffs. Finches and wrens fossick and twitter among the grass tussocks.
On your way through the rolling foothills of the basalt ranges, open woodlands occur dominated by silver-leaved ironbarks E. melanophloia with black deep fissured bark and broad silver-grey leaves. The clay soils of the area support a few shrubs scattered through the speargrass and other native grasses favoured by grazing kangaroos.
Around the top shelter shed on the top of the range, drier north- facing slopes carry low woodland dominated by mountain coolibah E. orgadophila narrow-leaved ironbark E. crebra, and variable-barked bloodwood E. erythophloia. Cycads Macrozamia moorei are common in the grassy understorey.
On the highest part of the Consuelo Tableland, a tall stately forest occurs with cycads and dense growths of kangaroo and blady grass flourishing in the deep fertile soils. The variety of mahogany tree found here, E. laevopinea var. consueloensis, grows nowhere else.
A variety of bird species including honeyeaters, lorikeets and parrots is seen frequently.
Small patches of softwood scrub (dry rainforest) occur in the gullies of the Tableland and also on the slopes of Mt Moffatt in areas isolated from fire.
Wildflowers add splashes of colour to many areas in late winter and spring.
The great diversity of vegetation at Mt Moffatt provides homes for many animals, including koalas and seven species of kangaroo and wallaby. Birdlife is prolific with 107 species recorded. By night, possums, gliders, marsupial mice and native cats may be seen.
Over the last 20 000 years, Mt Moffatt's picturesque rangeland settings have witnessed many changes and diverse land uses. Archaeological excavations have shown that Aboriginal people used its sandstone rock shelters for habitation for some 19 500 years.
While little is known about the Aboriginal inhabitants who once lived in the Mt Moffatt area, it is believed the land may have been used by two groups, the Nuri people on the lowland southern areas, and the Bidjara on the high northern areas. Boundaries probably were not static and ownership undoubtedly would have varied over the years.
The spectacular eroded sandstone landscape would have held a special significance for these people, but little cultural knowledge has survived to reveal its importance. Moondungera, the Rainbow Serpent, was said to be the creator of the Maranoa River. In a severe drought, the Rainbow Serpent caused a big spring to form and flow out of the range, its water carving out the sandy winding river bed. The Maranoa people were said to have originated from this spring which is associated with the totemic kangaroo ancestor. The Bidjara legend of Budhandbil, the Milky Way, centres around the giant stringybark forest which visitors may see in the Consuelo Tableland area.
One of Mt Moffatt's dominant sandstone formations, and the famous art site it contains, are known as The Tombs. The numerous natural tunnels in the formation once formed burial chambers for the local Aboriginal people. Skeletons were wrapped and bound in ornately decorated bark burial cylinders. Sadly by 1902, the site had been stripped of this material leaving little evidence of the elaborate mortuary culture.
Archaeological excavations at the art site have shown Aboriginal occupation deposits extending two metres below the present ground level and covering a time span of at least 9 400 years. A large, permanent waterhole, that once existed on the river bend below the formation, was significant for Aboriginal people and wildlife. This may account for the extensive occupation deposits.
Stencil art is the dominant art style present at this site. Some obvious red freehand 'paw tracks' are to be found at its eastern end. A highlight is a rare, large red stencilled human figure. A small number of child body stencils have been recorded in the eastern sector of the ranges, but as yet no other examples of adult stencils have been found.
Other stencils of interest include a woomera or spearthrower at the site's western extremity, and a pair of grey kangaroo 'hoppers' in the central area. Stencils of full length 'hoppers' are rare, and may depict a sitting marsupial rather than one in motion as indicated by the not uncommon 'half-hoppers' stencils in Kenniff Cave.
A number of small oval stencils to the lower right of the stencilled man are of a che-ka-ra, or shell pendant, in which the string mounting hole can be seen. Che-ka-ra may have been traded from the Cape York area of north Queensland.
The bright red contorted hand stencil on the central ceiling area is believed to be a 'signal stencil' signifying a spear-thrower.
This cave is one of the most important archaeological sites in central Queensland.
Professor John Mulvaney's archaeological excavations in the early 1960s revealed that Aboriginal habitation in this site extended to a depth of 3.28m below the floor level, and dated to 19 500 before present. This established Kenniff Cave as Australia's finest verified Pleistocene site, placing Australia firmly on the world archaeological map.
The extensive site is dominated by stencil art, with only a scattering of faint freehand figures. An interesting red humanoid figure with outstretched arms and legs is the most obvious freehand motif. This is located on the lower south-western wall, but water seepage damage makes this figure difficult to identify at times.
In the remaining stencil art, the visitor can see comprehensive record of artefacts once in daily use. These include a variety of leaf boomerangs, a 'boomerang club', a narrow shield, and hafted stone axes.
Several pairs of wallaroo 'half-hoopers' stencilled on lower wall areas are believed to represent animals in motion.
Although this art site has solar powered lighting, visitors are advised to use a flash for any photography.
Care for Aboriginal Art Sites
Much of the Aboriginal culture has been lost in this area. Your co-operation is essential in preserving what still exists for other to appreciate and enjoy.
Please stay on boardwalks at all times, dust kicked up from loose floor deposits damages the art. Do not touch or brush against the fragile art surfaces, they are easily dislodged and acids from your skin will hasten their erosion.
The first known European visitor to reach the area was explorer Sir Thomas Mitchell. In June 1846, he trekked along the Chesterton Range area on Mt Moffatt's western side. Mitchell named the Maranoa River during this expedition.
In June 1847, the park's south-western section received closer investigation when explorer Edmund Kennedy's expedition passed through on its way in search of the supposed inland sea.
When the first settlers reached the area cannot be determined with surety, but the earliest recorded run appears to be an area called Valentina, forming part of what is now Warrong Station, on Mt Moffatt's southern boundary.
William Francis Kennedy, Tiereyboo Station, (near present day Condamine) applied for this and several other leases on 25 November 1859 only days before Queensland became a colony on 10 December. Numerous owners grazed the Mt Moffatt area until 1979 when it was declared a national park.
The Kenniff Story
Of the many characters and identities that made up the area's pastoral history the Kenniff brothers, James and Patrick, are the most well remembered. At the turn of the 19th century during their infamous horse stealing and cattle duffing careers, the brothers lived and camped near Kenniff Cave which now perpetuates their name.
In 1902, in Lethbridges Pocket, they are believed to have murdered Constable George Doyle and station manager Christian Dahlke who were executing a warrant for the brothers' arrest. Evidence indicated that Doyle and Dahlkes bodies were burnt on a large rock, the incineration site, in a creek not far from the murder scene.
Several days after the event Constable Millard from Warrego Police Station found Doyle's horse carrying saddle bags containing a grisly 200 lbs of charcoal, burnt human remains and clothing.
A police hunt of mammoth proportions lasted several months before the brothers were finally captured near Mitchell.
Mt Moffat, Carnarvon National Park
via MITCHELL QLD 4465
(076) 26 3581
Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service
PO Box 906
EMERALD QLD 4720
(079) 82 4555