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25m high columns
25m high columns
The Lost City

Lost City

Thursday, June 3, 2004
Weighing in at 1.4 billion years old - that’s twice the age of Uluru, this is one of the oldest and most isolated parts of Australia and home to the legendary Lost City.

The Lost City was found in the early 1880s by drovers moving cattle from the east coast to Western Australia.

Cape Crawford was named after one of the drovers, despite it not being near the ocean. The Lost City was named by Dennis Watson, the first guide to take tours in the region, as the columns which reach up to 25 metres reminded him of skyscrapers.

It is thought the rocks took 1.4 billion years to make, the formation being one of the oldest in the world — twice as old as Uluru. They are 97-percent silica sand called Abner sandstone. The outer crust holding the sand together is a combination of silica, calcite, lichens, manganese and iron, which is the most dominant mineral.

The Lost City covers eight square kilometres and the McArthur River Station, a viable operation running 15,000 head of pure-bred Brahman cattle, is 4239 square kilometres. It is on land owned by Mt Isa Mines and the pastoral lease is owned by Colinta Holdings.

The whole area was once an inland sea. Water penetrated the rock and eroded it in a process called pseudokarstic weathering, breaking it into columns. The only way into the area is by helicopter, which is a blessing, as road access would contribute to deterioration of the formations.

Cape Crawford is at the junction of the Carpentaria and Tablelands Highways, a long way from water despite its name, and has just a roadhouse called the Heartbreak Hotel. Cape Crawford Tourism has helicopter flights to the Lost City. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the columns, flying over the Abner Ranges on the way.

The landing point is quite spectacular. It is in the centre of Classroom Rock, a natural amphitheatre, and you then walk around the more eroded part of the city. You enter a cave which goes through the rock and when you emerge, you are on higher ground, giving excellent views.

You walk through an area which is a swamp during the wet season. Its grevilleas are regenerating since being burnt out two summers ago.

There are two Aboriginal art sites at Lost City and you will see how local tribes used their art to leave messages for each other. Sadly, these are beginning to flake away and cannot be replaced or touched up, so have limited life.

Your guide is a store of information about the area's history, including its botany, mining and Aboriginal history.


Cape Crawford in the Northern Territory


Cape Crawford Tourism runs two-hour tours of the Lost City from Cape Crawford for $200 per person. They operate daily from April to October.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

Cape Crawford Tourism
Ph: (08) 8975 9611

Qantas 13 13 13

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