Travelling the QLD dinosaur trail with dogs
As I write this my canine best friend is curled up beside me. That is the thing about dogs they love to be with you and they give a really special kind of companionship. It is a challenge though sometimes to meet their needs and yours when you want to travel, so I thought it might be worth sharing some of our experiences from the last trip. Normally it is just G and myself with Ada but on this trip Bronte and Cassie also came along, so we had two big energetic hounds. In some ways travelling this way can make it easier to manage the dogs, we just alternate who is doing what and someone dog sits while the other person goes off to do a dog free activity. Two dogs can also make meeting exercise needs a bit easier, as long as you can find a suitable off leash area, two dogs will just run around together wearing each other out and that is a handy thing, a tired dog is a happy dog and a good dog. On this trip we had one activity where we needed to do it all together and the dogs definitely could not come.
Winton’s dinosaur experience is split over two sites, the first being the Australian Age of dinosaurs museum at the jump up and the second being the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry. Now for AAOD we just alternated who dog sat, although AAOD did provide a solution of sorts for those travelling with dogs. The site is a conservation park which means no dogs and there is a lot of vulnerable wildlife in the area, echidnas and macropods (roos and wallabies), etc.. The museum does provide a set of dog cages/crates, in the car park where you can leave you dog. You do need to provide a water bowl, as they don’t appear to provide one. I asked about the dog cages and staff told me people can also park around them in such a way as to create more shade for their dog and having the vehicle close gives the dog a bit of a sense of security. It was an interesting solution to the travelling with a dog challenge, the dog crates are provided for free, they are pretty basic but I was impressed that they had considered the issue and put in place a solution. There is no active supervision of the dog boxes though and you might also like to consider bringing a lock of some kind if you want to feel a bit more secure about leaving your dog.
Lark Quarry the second site with an important trackway is also a conservation park and about an hour drive from Winton itself, currently over dirt, although they are in the process of putting in bitumen for the entire road. While it is relatively close, (a hundred odd kilometres is close out here), you are going to be away from your dog for a minimum of three hours if not longer. To find a local dog sitter, I asked at the information centre which is located in the Matilda centre. Winton is a small place and options are limited, there is no local vet for instance, veterinary services are provided by vets visiting once a week, one from Longreach and one from Hughenden. But even out here I had no trouble locating a suitable solution to the dog issue. Winton had two dog sitting options, firstly during week days the local council pound will provide a dog sitting option for the day, charging $40 for the service. I think if it had been a week day we might have opted for that one but our visit to Lark Quarry was planned for a weekend so we went with the alternative a local lady, Siobhan, who provided a dog sitting service for the same cost.
The girls were looked after for the day by a lovely lady but I think our hounds were not quite what she was used to. I think she was much more used to looking after much smaller dogs, her set up was much better suited to caring for smaller dogs, although the dogs did receive individual attention and supervision. Our girls and two much smaller dogs there on the day were cared for by staying tied up outside a caravan behind the house which was used as a work space and allowed Siobhan to directly supervise the dogs while doing other work, perhaps not ideal, although it was obvious Siobhan had made sure the dogs were well supervised. There was a distinct look of relief on her face when we returned to collect the girls who when together can be a hand full, (think boisterous toddlers).
Travelling further north to Hughenden I discovered a local vet; Great Artesian Veterinary Surgery will provide a dog sitting service; offering half days for $16.50 per pet and overnight boarding for $27.30, this is worth taking note of if you are planning on doing further exploration along the dinosaur trail, including Hughenden, Richmond and national parks in the area like Porcupine Gorge. If we had more time Porcupine Gorge would have been fantastic to do but we opted to just travel to Richmond and do the basics, so pretty easy to take the girls with us for that. While sitting with the girls and a coffee at Kronosaurus Korner, Bronte had a local comment on what beautiful dogs they are but they looked like they should be out pigging, and yes, our dogs do look like they would be more at home on the back of ute on the way to a pig hunt than lolling about coffee shops.
Just remember if you are travelling with dogs and need day care your best bet is to ask at the local tourist information centre, guaranteed you won’t be the first person to have asked and almost certainly they will know someone who can assist. It also pays to know where and who the local vet is and what services they provide. Hopefully more and more campsites and attractions will put in place options for doggy day care, a lot of us travel with dogs and it does provide another potential source of income for the communities we visit.
So back to Lark Quarry. I had kind of considered that having seen the trackway at AAOD I did not really need to make the trek out to the quarry and could just as easily dog sit for the day but in hindsight I am genuinely glad I didn’t miss out on this one. To be honest, I find the drive through country just as interesting as the destination at the best of times, which might seem surprising given how flat, open and similar this country is but the truth is it can give a real insight into just how challenging this land is. The stocking rates on this country must be appallingly low, especially during dry times, in places it is hard to see how anyone makes a living out here and yet they do have areas of fertile black soil amongst the dry and dusty red, just not the water to irrigate with. It really is a land of extremes, when it does rain it is clearly subject to substantial flooding but the dries out here can and do last for years. The road out to Lark Quarry also passes the turn off to Opalton, as the name suggests it is opal country and just like Lightning Ridge the area is a moonscape of pale dusty rock. And then before you know it you are at the Quarry and the land again changes back to the gorgeous micro environments of the mesa or jump ups. The country out here is starkly beautiful. I am looking forward to the chance to come back and spend more time exploring, and learning this country.
The trackway itself is the only known dinosaur stampede track way in the world, giving unique and dramatic insight into the environment of the time, anywhere from 104 to 90 odd million years ago. It is believed the site captures a moment in time at the edge of a muddy billabong where over a hundred small coelurosaurs and ornithopds were disturbed by the arrival of a larger predatory theropod, possibly an australovenator, like our old friend Banjo from AAOD. The magnificent bronze statues in the dinosaur canyon back at AAOD give further insight into what the scene might have been like. The trackway contains thousands of prints and is itself still open to interpretation, but no matter how you look at it the experience of seeing the fossilised tracks is dramatic. Surprisingly so, I hadn’t expected to find these mudstone imprints to be so bursting with life but they are? What imprints will we leave behind? What will be our deep time legacy I wonder. Let’s hope it is something more life affirming than mountains of eternal plastic pollution.
Like the trackway at AAOD the prints are protected by a climate controlled structure, there is perhaps some irony in the fact that the very structure designed to protect, actually caused some damage to the pathway when one of the mudbrick walls of the building collapsed partly falling onto the trackway itself. Damage stabilised, the building was re-built with only one of the original mud brick walls in the new structure. It is worth noting the efforts that have been made to only erect structures that are in harmony with this beautiful environment. There is a kind of poetry to the architecture of the entire AAOD experience. The environment itself is stunning, red ridges covered in spindly trees and pale spinifex grass, just beautiful. The trackway is a natural history monument of considerable importance, well worth a visit. You get used to traveling distances to these sites with AAOD 25 minutes and Lark Quarry 75 minutes away from Winton. For many people in the Winton area, this is a drive to the shops.