Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


The Lost Cities discovered

Story and photos Colin Kerr

The Lost Cities discoveredThey are as mysterious as they're intriguing, as fascinating as spectacular, and as "undiscovered" as anything so substantial in the outback. Hidden away in several locations in the Northern Territory's Top End stand a series of towering "city-like" formations that, until recently, have been seen by few people.

But this, it seems, is about to change.

The so-called Lost City of Litchfield National Park and, 600 kilometres east, formations in the Cape Crawford-Nathan River region, are 500 million to 1.2 billion year-old columns, standing like forlorn statues in clusters resembling city skyscrapers and in large formations that could be mistaken for ancient cities and their "suburbs".

Some say they rival Uluru/Kata Tjuta and the Bungle Bungles as a natural outback wonder.

Litchfield's "lost city" is relatively accessible at the end of a rough, narrow 4WD track, 10.5 km off one of the park's main roads. The final 2km of this track is, however, tough going. But it's worthwhile, for at the track's end, spread over the size of a small town in an otherwise flat countryside, is a series of spectacular tall sandstone towers.

The Lost Cities discoveredFrom a distance they most surely resemble the ruined remains of a centuries-old stone city. Wandering among tall grass between the eroded formations it isn't difficult to believe you are walking through the streets of a long-abandoned city centre, the remnants of an extinct civilisation.

There are narrow alleys, sharp corners, open courtyards, one-way streets, even dead ends. Some feature window and door-like shapes - all there in sandstone, frozen in time. Were, in fact, these structures actually man-made, with Mother Nature simply reclaiming the ruins? Or were they built by a forgotten race of giants?

Out here you can really let your imagination flow! Geologically, the large free-standing pillars are the result of millions of years of weathering of the Table Top Range. The softer rock sections have eroded, leaving harder, more resilient pieces to crumble at a much slower rate, as is happening today. Story end

Full story: Issue 22, April/ May 2002

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