Visit the intriguing sandstone pillars and canyons of the Southern and Western Lost City
On leaving Towns River, we continued along the Savannah Way through the Limmen National Park, an interesting conservation area but really remote and devoid of the usual attractions that grace many of the other parks in the Top End. It did however lead to waypoints that included the intriguing Butterfly Springs and the red sandstone cliffs and canyons of The Lost City (in separate southern and western locations), on the way to our next camp at Lorella Springs.
Between the last rains of one wet season and the first rains of the next, the Gulf Country experiences a long dry spell during which surface water drains and evaporates, leaving shrinking billabongs and lagoons dotted across the landscape. Butterfly Springs is one of these oases and was traditionally used by the Mara people and other Aboriginal groups such as the Yanyula, Alawa, Gurdanji and Binbinga as they travelled through the area now enclosed within the national park.
It takes its European name from the masses of Common Crow Butterflies that adorn the shady rock wall at one side of the billabong. As we approached them, the intermittent fluttering of wings created the illusion of a curtain rippling in a light breeze. The waterhole here is also one of the few places where it is safe to swim in the park but, alas, it was very late in the season and the normally clear, flowing stream had dwindled to a stagnant pool. It might have been croc free but wasn’t a terribly inviting prospect for a swim. Still, we had the whole camping area to ourselves for morning tea before moving on to the ‘Southern Lost City’.
Both sections of the ‘Lost City’, were created by the compaction of sediments in a shallow sea 1,500 million years ago and shaped by weathering after tectonic forces raised the sandstone foundation out of the sea, also causing it to crack into a network of joints around which ‘the city’ would be carved. Over several more millions of years, water, wind and plant roots slowly widened and eroded the cracks. As the joints became chasms, the pillars of sandstone began to take shape.