A REMARKABLE RANGE

The razor-sharp peaks of the Peak Range on the Gregory Development Road are highlighted and spring into view on the eastern horizon just south of Capella. They are part of a number of high ranges and elevated plateaus on the routes that bisect the QLD Central Highlands. Many, like the Blackdown Tableland, are national parks and are well worth visiting.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”There’s so much more to this unique landscape than meets the eye”[/blockquote]

I have always wanted to visit and photograph the high peaks that dominate the eastern skies, but time was always against me. On a recent drive my wife, Eileen and I met a local station owner whose land includes part of the Peak Range. He gave us permission to photograph the range from a station track and provided much information and history about the region.

The locals call the range “The Peaks.” They are part of a chain of outstanding prominent and very picturesque ancient volcanoes. They were named by the explorer, Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt in 1844, while en route from the Darling Downs to the Cobourg Peninsula. He was full of praise for the wonderful box wood country that had replaced the “Bricklow” scrub that had hindered the party’s progress since leaving the escarpment country far to the south.

Leichhardt named the magic mountain range “Coxen’s Peak and Range”, after a Mr. Coxen, one of his sponsors. The prominent peaks were named after members of the expedition. The peaks range from 430m to 854m above sea level.

The Peak Range province consists of underlain and extensive basalt lava flows intermixed with intrusive rhyolite and trachyte bodies that erupted and were emplaced some 29 to 32 million years ago during the Tertiary Period. Compared to our other volcanoes, the range peaks are very old and were active until some 23 million years ago. In comparison the Atherton Tablelands volcanoes were still active as late as 15,000 years ago. The Peak Range only has a thin 30m thick basalt veneer with surrounding rich deep basaltic soils.

There are three distinct sections of the range with the northern and southern parts consisting of closely formatted rhyolite and trachyte pinnacles and domes. The original volcanic plugs – all that remain from a huge volcano – rise magically from the relative flat country side and are visible from over 50km away from the west. The most obvious are Wolfgang Peak, Mount Castor and Mount Pollux, locally called the “German Twins.” Some peaks like Mount Castor and Mount McArthur are weathered and have cavernous features.  Both Mount Roper and Scott’s Peak are trust-down domes that were built up by successive intrusions and upheaval of gelatinous lava pushing up their core plugs.

Other parts of range feature flat-topped mesas that are reminiscent of an American Wild West scene. These mesas and ridges were formed by flat-laying lava deposits that form scenic backdrops against cultivated fields. The range extends well to the north, but it is the southern peaks that are the most remarkable and outstanding. A couple of small underdeveloped national parks include Mount Castor and Pollux (Gemini Mountains) and Wolfgang Peak, while the Eastern Peak and Lords Table Mountain are accessible to fit hikers and climbers. The Coonburragee Road and the Capella-Dysart Road offer great views of the range. Parts of these roads are unsealed.

Visiting the range is easy as gazetted roads pass right under the domes. The range offers an interesting detour for travelers using the Gregory Developmental Road because it gives a rare and fascinating insight in our volcanic history.

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