My little car rolled along a single lane dirt road – flanked by tall hedges – on an old volcanic plateau. Curves of emerald and scorched gold rolled away at either side while a ridge of grass tickled the undercarriage. A little further a sign read “road closed in wet weather” as dark clouds threatened overhead. Deciding to risk it, I continued on, lured by the patch of thick forest on the horizon.
After having a standoff with a cow, Olin, my four-year-old and I stopped intermittently to take photos. We’d just entered Richmond Range National Park, which lies about an hour’s drive north-west of Casino in northern NSW. I was excited as this was a new spot to explore. Olin was excited as we were headed towards a creek and he had high hopes for catching dinner with his net.
Reaching the Cambridge Plateau picnic area, we parked and took off on the Culmaran Valley track, which loops through forest, crossing Culmaran Creek along the way. The forest was very green, wet and earthy, yet eerie. Olin was a little scared as we walked in deeper, crossing murderers, parasites and scarlet berries that flickered in the sunlight. I assured him all was well, that we were in a special place, which helped.
The air smelt so fresh and I felt sharper, more alive, as I often do when I’m in nature. A kookaburra broke the forest silence as we crossed a bridge and discovered the creek, which offered very little in the way of fishing. Ascending a small valley, Olin got his first leech. He was surprisingly good about it. The track then disappeared in places as we passed strangler figs (the murderers), giant stinging trees, hoop pines and alien-like fungi that thrived in rain-sodden shadows.
Arriving back at the car, Olin decided we should continue north, further into the park towards Peacock Creek campsite as the fishing might be better there. The road was rough in places. I discovered a leech had been feasting beneath my sock and I narrowly missed several darting pademelons as I passed lollipop-like trees on the plateau’s edge. Reaching Peacock Creek, Olin put his net in the water just as rain began to fall.
We ran for cover and I couldn’t help notice that all cars at the campsite (except ours) were 4WDs. Best get out of here I thought and after much protestation from Olin, we decamped, following the dirt path of Iron Pot Creek Road, where we passed a burnt-out car, Toonumbar Dam and a rather forlorn-looking golf course.
We made it home without getting bogged, which I was happy about. I’d also enjoyed a wonderful day in a new national park and got some fresh ideas for adventures from the park map. Evidently there’s a lot to see in the Northern Rivers.
It’s a wild place.
A few facts
- Richmond Range National Park lies about an hour north-west of Casino and about two-and-a-half-hours west of Byron Bay.
- There are only two designated walks in the area, the Culmaran loop trail and the Culmaran Valley track, both which start and end at the Cambridge Plateau picnic area.
- Picnic facilities are available at the Cambridge Plateau picnic area and at Peacock Creek, further north.
- Camping is available at Peacock Creek campground. Adults cost $5 a night and children cost $3.
Do you have any favourite spots in the Northern Rivers? I’d love to hear about them!