|The view of the National Park from Point Lookout|
Point lookout is located on the rim of an escarpment which formed through the erosion of the Cenozoic aged (in this case 19-18 million years) Ebor Volcano and the much older Devonian to Carboniferous (up to ~416Ma) accretionary complex rocks that make up the balance of the New England tablelands. Today, only the north western portions of the lavas (called the Ebor Volcanics) and the central weathered volcanic plug from the Ebor Volcano remain. Research by Ollier (1982) suggested that the central volcanic plug of Ebor Volcano was centred on what is called the crescent which is actually a fairly insignificant looking feature when compared with the rugged valleys today.
It is interesting to note that even though the nearby 23 Million year old Mount Warning (located near and over the Queensland border) is regarded as one of the biggest shield volcanoes in the southern hemisphere, having a height of around 2000 metres before it was eroded, the Ebor volcano was probably a similar size or bigger at its greatest too. It is a bit of a mystery why so little is left of Ebor Volcano when so much remains of the Tweed Volcano/Mount Warning.
The Crescent complex once thought to be Permian (290Ma-250Ma) as recently at the 1970's and was considered part of the intrusives that constitute the New England Batholith. In fact most of the most 'current' geological maps of the area were drawn at this time and so they are incorrect. But since investigations on the radial drainage patterns and geological features by Ollier in the late 1980s followed by dating by Gleadow and Ollier (1987) (which is difficult due to how weathered the Crescent is) and more recent work by Ashley et al (1995) now it is known to be the centre of the Ebor Volcano and aged around 19 Million Years. Ashley et al (1995) also discovered that a nearby basalt called the Doughboy Basalt was around 46 Million years old which is clearly not related to the Ebor volcano but is consistent with other locations where an older Cenozoic basalt is present before the hot spot volcanism that formed the Ebor, Mount Warning and other volcanoes existed.
When I was last at Point Lookout there were several bush walks from long and difficult to short and easy. The most difficult ones take you into the valleys where the rock has been eroded into the older accretionary complex. But even on the short one you can see some interesting 'recent' volcanic rocks. On a section of the walk around the top of the cliffs where security fences are necessary (lest you plummet away!) there is cuttings through the rock. In this rock look closely and you'll see some big crystals within a fine groundmass. This rock is a type of basalt called tholeiite (which means that it has crystalised with a certain geochemical signature) and the crystals are feldspars which is a common rock forming mineral. The feldspars here quite obvious and seem to catch the light at two angles, this feature is called twinning and is characteristic of the calcium rich variety of feldspar called plagioclase. Along the bigger walks below the point dacite can be found as well as basaltic and dacitic breccias at the stunningly beautiful during winter, weeping rock and numerous palaeosols.
The remnant of the shield volcano shows the characteristic radial drainage pattern for volcanic shields but the eroded central areas of the volcano (including the caldera if there was one) drains fairly directly to the east via the Nambucca River. The radially draining creeks and rivers are well known for their waterfalls such as Dangar Falls and Ebor Falls.
The road from Dorrigo to Armidale is not a busy route, it is often missed by many people but I always recommend people visit the New England tablelands because of its beauty and uniqueness in Australia. Point lookout is just off the Waterfall Way which name probably gives you an indication of many of the other attractions. In my opinion, the depths of winter are the best times to visit to get the mood and subtle beauty of the area. I should get back there myself... it has been too long since I was last there.
You may be interested in a self-guided geological tour. Bob and Nancy from Armidale have a wonderful site which includes an excellent (and expanding) range of geological tours including ones of the Northern Rivers Area. Their tour guide on Point Lookout can be accessed from their webpage (very much worth the look) or directly linked from here.
*Ashley, P.M., Duncan, R.A. & Freebrey, C.A. 1995 Ebor Volcano and the Crescent Complex, northeastern New South Wales: age and geological development. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences V42.
*Gleadow, A.J.W. & Ollier C.D. 1987 The age of gabbro at the Crescent, New South Wales. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences V34.
*Ollier, C.D. 1982 Geomorphology and tectonics of the Dorrigo Plateau, NSW. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences V29.