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Strange Risks at Sawn Rocks, Narrabri, New South Wales

Sawn Rocks, Mt Kaputar National Park, New South Wales
'You'd be REALLY unlucky to be underneath when a rock column fell,' the Grey Nomad to his wife as I stood, camera pointed up at the rock face directly above me, waiting for the sun.

They laughed merrily.

None of those rocks look loose, do they??  DO THEY???  Sawn Rocks Close UP!

While the notoriety of being the first person killed by a falling organ-pipe column in living memory would get my name up in lights, it was an honour I'd gladly forgo. I shifted impatiently. Where WAS that sun when you wanted it??
Fallen Columns, Sawn Rocks
It's not like the Grey Nomads were exaggerating either. Strewn all around me in the rocky creek bed lay a mess of great fallen columns. The lichen and moss softened the edges, but could hide the unmistakeable size and shape so readily matching what hung from – what, exactly? – so high on the cliff above me.
The dearth of Greek temple ruins on the Narrabri plains in central New South Wales where the Sawn Rocks are found, meant the fallen columns could only have come from one place – the rocky wall above.

And the culprits? Plants growing in the fissures high above!

The MAGIC of Sawn Rocks, Mt Kaputar National Park, New South Wales
The phenomenon geologically known as 'organ-piping' is caused when a lava flow cools slowly and evenly so the forming crystals align perfectly, with the uniform shrinkage causing cracks that join up to form the columns. It's also known as columnar jointing!
But lest you think I've added 'geologist' to my ever expanding array of talents, and therefore that ANYONE can be a geologist, think again!
I've paraphrased from the information boards along the 750 metre walk from the carpark to the rocks!  Too easy!! 

In the shadow of Mt Kaputar, rising 1510 metres (4954 ft) and what's left of the Nandewar Shield Volcano that ruptured into virtual oblivion back in the dim distant past, the Sawn Rocks – rising high above the trees and plunging a reported 60 metres (196 ft) into the ground below – ROCK in the morning sunlight of a clear winter's day. At least they did until the clouds rolled in, just as I reached the best vantage point after clambering up the dodgy staircase formed by a few of the organ-pipes' fallen comrades.

Random Rocks in the Creek, Sawn Rocks, Mt Kaputar

So I waited for the clouds to roll away, and admired anew the clean lines of the rocks offset by the shadow at the base of each column that had fallen away. There was something soothing about the repetitive lines, colours and shadows that seemed familiar.

Sawn Rocks?  OR  Corrugated Iron??
Was it too fanciful to compare it to petrified corrugated iron?

The similarities were astounding. And the irony of a corrugated iron admirer being killed by a falling column of rock bearing an astonishing similarity to it didn't escape me either. The Grey Nomads left, bored of waiting for the fickle finger of fate to strike me down.

So there I was, in the middle of a deadly stand-off.
Would the sun come out before the deadly forces of karma struck and silenced my shutter forever??

Exploring this section of Mt Kaputar National Park had been a long time coming for Pilchard and I.
We'd driven through the region several times, and even stayed over once or twice. But while we'd checked out the Narrabri bakeries and even been to the Mt Kaputar summit, Sawn Rocks remained elusive.

Sawn Rocks, Mt Kaputar National Park, New South Wales
But now, in June 2013 the planets aligned and we were finally here. So perhaps meeting my fate here would be fitting …
And then, just as my thoughts were starting to sound positively depressing, the sun came out, I roused from my lethargy and my trigger shutter button finger went berserk!

All without a single rock fall ...

So maybe those morbid thoughts just mean I have a LOW boredom threshold, right?
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  1. They certainly are spectacular, much more so than the ones near Melbourne. Frost is the culprit that splits off the rocks. Moisture seeps in between them, expands as it freezes until one after the other over many seasons, the fall. Vegetation can only root in the cracks the frost has made.

  2. Spectacular rock formations Red. Thanks for adding another area to the must see list. I can see the similarity to corrugated iron. Great post.

  3. Great photos, Red. We have similar rock formation at Devil's Tower in Wyoming a few hundred miles west of us. You provide the perfect explanation for their formation.

  4. Must be in the top ten of rock formations. Can see why you would want to search this one out. Not sure I would have sat beneath it though.

  5. G'day Red, aren't they just phenomenal! (hehe I gulped a bit when you proved through your lens that the columns had fallen at some point!)
    I really, really like the rocks in the creek.

  6. Like a majestic pipe organ in the rock .... Stunning natural sculpture.

  7. fabulous images and a great read as always Red. You are inspirational! As a lover of rocks and corrugated iron myself, I agree, they look very similar! Are these similar to the ones in the Gawler Ranges NPark in SAust? We plan to visit later this year.
    Red you always write a fabulous read. thank you!

  8. They are truly amazing. We have our own organ pipes but they are rounded. These are so much better.

  9. I've never heard of the Sawn Rocks before.
    They're so amazing! I'm glad you stuck around and took these photos for us.
    I really must try and get out more...

  10. @Jill Harrison: Gawler Ranges National Park?
    I can't find that on my SA map, where would that be please?

    1. It's at the top of the Eyre Penninsular, access from Eyre Highway - here's a link -

  11. @Arija - I can't make the comparison - I've never seen the Melbourne ones!! But I knew I wanted to visit THESE ones as soon as I saw some publicity shots many years ago! I'm just glad the forces of nature held back and stopped the column from falling on my head!
    @Linley - The corrugated iron connection didn't actually occur to me until I was looking at the photos! It's just too awesome when you're actually there!
    @TFG - Sadly, I can't claim credit for the explanation, although I'm glad it helped!! Thank god for the information boards, huh?!?!
    @Fun60 - I didn't sit beneath it - I waited, poised for flight!!! Although a tweet from the Narrabri Visitors Centre tells me that to their knowledge, no one has been killed by the rocks - yet!

  12. Lovely those organ pipes, you have captured them well.

  13. @Rose - I wasn't going to include the rocks in the creek - but I couldn't resist the shot with the tree shadow. Does that make me egotistical???!!!
    @Dianne - The shape of the whole formation is fortuitous!! It really IS reminiscent of a pipe organ!!
    @Jill - AAARRRGGGH! I haven't been to the Gawler Ranges ... look forward to reading about your trip! Glad you enjoyed mine!
    @Andrew - Perhaps I caught them when the shadow was at its most flattering?? One day I'll see the Melbourne ones & compare ...
    @River - You're right, they ARE amazing!! As for the Gawler Ranges NP, it's on the Eyre Peninsula, and I haven't been there either! Here's a link if you're interested:

    1. what! Red! never been to Gawler Ranges! You must put it on your list!

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  15. omg, those organ pipes are AMAZING!!
    thanks for sharing. haven't really seen anything like this before.

    hope you enjoy your week.

    big hugs~

  16. Wow I've never heard of these and it is a fascinating geological site. I must put it on my biucket list.

  17. A very interesting rock formation. We don't anything like that in Florida. It does remind me of the Giants Causeway in Ireland. It's really hard to get the sense of scale from the photos. Unless you are in them and just too tiny to see.

  18. Amazing formations! I like the colorful pebbles too? Wonderful photos and post!

  19. What strange rock formation and love the coloured stones.


  20. What amazing rocks! Great pictures.

  21. Congratulations on escaping intact, from sunless boredom and breathtaking rock organ pipes.

  22. Vibrantly colorful shots! Perhaps it was the danger that gave your camera such a punch?

  23. Extremely cool shots of the rocks. My finger would be all over that trigger button:) I can't believe some of the colors:) Right now I'm in Guatemala and it seems like many of your people from Oz are here as well:) I'm learning Aussie talk!:) All my best. Chris

  24. amazing photos, the north coast is indeed an amazing place, we were in Ballina last week enjoying the 'winter' sunshine

  25. @whiteangel - It was embarrassingly easy to capture them well!! But thanx anyway! Hope you're having a great weekend!
    @Betty - I hadn't seen anything like them either!! The world is an amazing place, huh?!
    @diane b - The whole Mt Kaputar National Park is awesome!! Base yourself in Narrabri for a week and see what you find!!
    @SFlaGuy - Not many opportunities exist for me to be too tiny to see!!!! Yes, it was hard to get perspective without a neck-risking climb to the base - if I ever get there BEFORE the rain I'll see what I can do!!!
    @eileeninmd - Haha, the pebbles ALMOST stole the show!!
    @Filip - This is the all-natural version of some of your European cathedrals!!

  26. @ladyfi - All too embarrassingly easy to take good pix of something THIS awesome!!! But thanx anyway!!
    @Friko - I'm a prime candidate for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) caused by lack of sunshine!!
    @TMWH - Haha, perhaps!! Or maybe I'm just a melodramatic drama queen??!!
    @Chris - G'day mate!! Howyagoin'? Didjabringyagrogalong?? Just in case you're not completely up with Aussie lingo, that means 'Hi, buddy! How are you today? Did you bring something to drink?'!! Avagoodweekend ...
    @Pearl Maple - Hey! Welcome back!! The Ballina sunshine has a different quality to anywhere else I'm sure ... but you pay for all that beauty with the RAIN!!!!

  27. Absolutely fantastic. Never have I seen this kind of formation. Rocks are my weakness.

  28. Those rocks are stunning. Never even heard of this place, let alone seen them! You certainly have beeng getting out and about lately, discovering so many cool locations!

  29. @Gail - This was a first for me too!! If you like rocks, you'll LOVE Australia!
    @Go Camping - It's what I live for! Why not hitch a ride?!?!

  30. There are some organ pipes near Melbourne but of course when I saw those, information boards did not exist. [Not so sure writing had been invented, in fact]. Thanks for the exclamation? explanation, and the close look. The colours in the rocks are spectacular.

  31. @FruitCake - Hahaha ... I'm SO grateful for info boards - actually, AND writing - in the absence of both these things this blog would not exist!!


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