The cataclysmic carving of Carnarvon Gorge
Australian outback icon exhibits exciting evidence of Noah’s Flood
In the heart of central Queensland, Australia, 600 kilometres (370 miles) northwest of Brisbane, is a spectacular natural wonder known as Carnarvon Gorge (fig. 1). The clear, sparkling water of Carnarvon Creek flows down the middle of the gorge in a bed strewn with rounded boulders. The gorge is like an oasis, contrasting with the surrounding countryside, which has lower rainfall.
Part of the attraction of the gorge is its lush vegetation, which includes ferns, cycads, gums, and palms. The gorge is also home to a long list of distinctive animals and birds, such as kangaroos, wallabies, platypuses, echidnas, marsupial gliders, kookaburras, eagles, and tree snakes.
Deposited from vast inland sea
One prominent feature of the gorge is its white sandstone cliffs towering 60 metres (200 ft) above Carnarvon Creek. At the entrance, the distance between these cliffs is about a kilometre (3,000 ft).1
This Precipice Sandstone, as it has been called, is the lowermost member of the sediments comprising the Great Artesian Basin. These sediments, like a gigantic blanket, cover much of eastern Australia,2 and were deposited during Noah’s Flood 4,500 years ago. Using the ‘age’ published by secular geologists (early Jurassic—180 million years old3) and the Geology Transformation Tool,4 these sediments were deposited as the rising waters of the Flood were nearing their peak. This was some four months after the Flood began.
Within the sandstone are features we would expect from deposition by the global Flood catastrophe. For example, cross-bedding in the strata (fig. 2) indicates that the water was flowing.5 The individual layers are thick, indicating that the water current was deep. Also, the 60-metre (200-ft) thickness of the entire Precipice Sandstone means the water level was continually rising to allow the sediment to accumulate.
Geologists recognize that these features point to high-energy water flows across the region. For example, they say the sandstone was deposited from a “major drainage system” that inundated the continent to form a vast inland sea.1 That description gives a good insight into what happened during Noah’s Flood.
The immense size of the gorge is not obvious from Carnarvon Creek. In fact, the outer rims of the gorge sit some 650 m (2,100 ft) above the creek, and the distance between these rims is some 7 km (4 mi). In other words, the gorge is about six or seven times the size of the inner gorge that we can see from the creek.
Tourists are told that Carnarvon Creek carved Carnarvon Gorge over millions of years. But, when we consider the size of the gorge and the size of the creek, it seems beyond belief that the creek could do that job. This is even more puzzling when we consider that the rainfall catchment (fig. 3) is not much larger than the gorge itself. To erode such a large gorge, we would need lots of water. Rather than rainfall, it was the retreating waters of Noah’s Flood that carved the gorge. The water in Carnarvon Creek today is minuscule compared with the water that ran off the country at that time.
The rim of the gorge sits at around 1,200 metres (4,000 ft) above the present sea level, and forms part of a flat area to the gorge’s north, called the Consuelo Tableland. This tableland, one of the highest areas of the state, has been called the ‘roof of Queensland’. As the continent uplifted midway through the Flood, and the water began to drain into the deepening ocean basins, this area would have been one of the first in Queensland to emerge above the floodwaters.
When the waters of the Flood were covering the whole area, and before any of the land had emerged, strong currents would have eroded the land surface flat. Then red-hot basaltic lava erupted and flowed over the flat surface around where the gorge is now to form a capping of black basalt, which is part of the Buckland Volcanic Province. This large outpouring of lava is 300 m (1,000 ft) thick in places. As the waters continued to drain, the flow channelized, and land began to emerge above the surface. This is when the receding floodwaters dissected the basalt, carving Carnarvon Gorge and other surface features. Boulders eroded from the basalt are found in the waterways of the gorge.
According to the Bible, Noah’s Ark came to rest on the Mountains of Ararat some 5 months after the Flood began. It was another 2½ months before the tops of the other mountains became visible. So, it would have been 8 months or more after the Flood’s onset before the Consuelo Tableland emerged above the receding waters and Carnarvon Gorge began to be carved.
The escarpments of the basalt remnants on the rim of the gorge are still steep, indicating the erosion was recent. Lack of sediment fill inside the gorge itself indicates that the erosion of the whole gorge was recent. Although there are lots of basalt boulders in the creek, there are not many by comparison with the volume of basalt eroded from the top of the tableland. In other words, virtually all the eroded sediments have been carried completely out of the area.
Eroded in two stages
From the entrance, we can see that Carnarvon Gorge has a shape (fig. 4) that indicates it eroded in two stages, both of which involved much greater volumes of water than we see in the gorge today. The flow eroding the wide upper gorge with its top at about 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above sea level and its floor about 600 m (2,000 ft) would have been eroded by a flow of water some 7 km (4 mi) wide. The water level over the continent at this time would have been at around the level of the floor of the upper gorge, that is some 500 m (1,600 ft) above the present sea level.
The inner gorge with its rim at 600 m (2,000 ft) and floor at 400 m (1,300 ft) would have been carved by a reduced flow of water. All the same, that flow would have been much greater than the water through Carnarvon Creek today. The level of water covering the continent would have dropped from the previous level.
The two-stage shape of the gorge indicates the sea level over the continent dropped in jerks—it was episodic. That is, a quick drop in sea level was followed by a pause; drop, pause, and so on. During each pause, as the water flowed over the land down to the lower ocean level (which geologists call ‘base level’) it would erode new and deeper canyons and gorges.
The first stage of water flow passed through a cross section of about 2,000,000 square metres while the reduced flow for the second stage used an area of some 100,000. Carnarvon Creek at high flow rates today would only occupy something like 100 m2.
Such evidence of high initial flows of water over the continent together with lowering of the sea level is what we would expect from the receding waters of Noah’s Flood.
Where did all the sediment go?
In this spectacular view across the entrance of Carnarvon Gorge the south rim is to the right and Boolinda Bluff lookout to the left (fig. 5). The flat surface of the south rim is capped by basalt (arrow A) that erupted when the plateau was much larger, before the gorge was carved. That earlier plateau is now dissected by canyons and gorges. What survives of the basalt cap still has a flat upper surface, but the cap has mostly been eroded away. The edges of the basalt are steep and without much broken rock at their base, indicating that Carnarvon Gorge eroded not that long ago.
Below the basalt are steep white cliffs of Precipice Sandstone (arrow B), which form the walls of the inner gorge. This formation enters the picture from the right, from Carnarvon Gorge; then it runs across the picture to the middle and turns south where it disappears in the distance. It is remarkable how this sandstone formation has been cut off abruptly, creating steep cliffs, testifying that the formation once extended a vast distance to the left (east). The Precipice Sandstone and all the rocks above are part of the eastern edge of the Great Artesian Basin.
Below and to the left of the Precipice Sandstone is a line of hills, beginning at arrow C, that runs across the picture to the right. They look like a breaking ocean wave viewed from the rear. This is another sandstone formation called the Clematis Group, which is part of the Bowen Basin. From the photo we can see that this formation slopes upwards away from the camera to the left (east) forming prominent ridges. Indeed, all the sediments of the Bowen Basin have been pushed upwards into an arch (fig. 7). In the distance the Clematis Group runs underneath the Precipice Sandstone. This formation too has been eroded to form steep cliffs (not visible, unfortunately, due to the camera angle). The quantity of sediment eroded and carried out of the area is enormous.
The geographical relationship between these two sedimentary basins and Carnarvon Gorge is shown in fig. 6. The Great Artesian Basin is to the west of Carnarvon Gorge, while the Bowen Basin exposed to the east is in front. The Bowen Basin also sits underneath the Great Artesian Basin to the south and west.
What was it that eroded this enormous volume of rock from the landscape around Carnarvon Gorge? All the different geological formations stop abruptly in space: the basalt, the plateaus, the Precipice Sandstone, and the Clematis Group. Where did all the eroded rock go? Why does the erosion look so recent? To remove the eroded material out of the area and deposit it at the edge of the continent, some 400 km (250 miles) to the east, would require very powerful water flows. This vista is a dramatic memorial to the receding waters of Noah’s Flood.
Vast rivers of water
What happened on the earth here during Noah’s Flood, as the waters rose and then receded, is also revealed in a geological cross-section of the area (fig. 7).6 This shows a cut through the earth, based on geological mapping of the surface. This section looks north-west toward the gorge a little bit out from its entrance. It cuts through the south wall of the gorge, showing part of the basalt capping.
The sedimentary strata to the east (right) belong to the Bowen Basin. They have been bent into an arch (an anticline). It’s clear from the way the top of the arch has been shaved off that these sediments were greatly eroded. Some of this erosion would have occurred soon after the sediments were folded but before the overlying sediments of the Great Artesian Basin were laid down. More erosion would have occurred as the floodwaters were retreating.
The sedimentary strata to the west (left) belong to the Great Artesian Basin. Their slopes are exaggerated in this diagram but in the field, they are almost horizontal. These sediments comprise the inner and outer walls of Carnarvon Gorge. The lower white cliffs of the Precipice Sandstone in the inner gorge are at the bottom of these sediments.
It’s clear that these strata once continued to the east (right) but they have been eroded away exposing the underlying sediments of the Bowen Basin. The cross-section passes through a small remnant of the basalt cap that sits on top of the plateau. This shows that, before the basalt erupted and flowed over the area, considerable landscape erosion had already taken place. After the basalt lava erupted further erosion took place, dissecting the basalt cap.
The dramatic features visible in Carnarvon Gorge and the surrounding landscape provide powerful evidence that it was formed by Noah’s Flood. The huge size of the gorge points to the fact that much more water was involved in eroding the gorge than Carnarvon Creek could provide, even over millions of years. Such massive erosion is to be expected when the waters of the Flood covered the continent, and as they were receding into the oceans. Viewing geology from a biblical perspective opens many amazing insights into what happened in the past.
References and notes
- Beeston, J.W. and Gray, A.R.G., The ancient rocks of Carnarvon Gorge, Department of Minerals and Energy, Queensland. Brisbane, 1993. Return to text.
- Walker, T., The Great Artesian Basin, Australia, J. Creation 10(3):379–390, 1996. Return to text.
- Precipice Sandstone, Australian Stratigraphic Units Database, Accessed 28 September 2021. Return to text.
- Walker, T., The geology transformation tool, Creation 43(2):18–21, 2021. Return to text.
- Walker, T., The Sedimentary Heavitree Quartzite, Central Australia, was deposited early in Noah’s Flood, J. Creation 29(1):103–107, 2015. Return to text.
- From 1:250,000 scale geological map SG 55-7 Eddystone, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Canberra, 1967. Return to text.