Ken reckons the best job he ever had in his life was being in charge of the canoe hire at Lawn Hill Gorge when he worked at Adel’s Grove a few years back.
Adel’s Grove is a pleasant, shady spot about 12km from Lawn Hill and, apart from running the canoe hire, offers accommodation in canvas-sided huts or at the caravan park.
I had wondered who Adel was and why her name was spelt oddly since we were there almost 30 years ago. We were also intrigued by the old bloke and his wife running the place, which was not much more than a store with no walls. Cans of food and sale items were stored in old pantry cupboards and the double bed was off to one side of the establishment.
With smiles to ourselves we learned that Burketown, with a population of about 200, had become far too busy for the couple so they had moved out to the quieter life at Adel’s Grove, catering to the tourists visiting the gorge.
Adel’s Grove has gone upmarket now. An open restaurant out the back (above) has a fairly expensive menu. Big posters on the wall gave me the answer to why the spelling of Adel was unusual.
She was not a woman. She was a Frenchman, or at least his initials. Adel is an acronym of Albert de Lestang, who was commissioned by the Queensland government in the 1920s to experiment with growing tropical fruits in a garden watered from Lawn Hill gorge.
Albert grabbed a shovel and dug a network of irrigation channels to water his fruit trees and a market garden so he could sell his produce to the community around the Burketown mines. By 1939 he had about 1000 botanical specimens transplanted to the arid outback from the dunes of Saudi Arabia and the forests of Asia, Africa and the Amazon.
Presumably the war fouled up the experiment and Adel’s Grove turned into a pretty tourist stop. It’s a lot more expensive to stay there than at the national park site in the gorge itself. The gorge is heavily booked in the winter but there you are on-site, albeit with cold showers and no green grass.