Location - Paluma State Forest, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - 23 km return
Time - 6-10 hours return
Difficulty - Moderate, off-track creek rock hopping
Located within the Paluma State Forest in North Queensland, Hermit Creek is just north-east of Hidden Valley and flows into Running River. Running adjacent to the creek is Benham's Track, a dirt road that goes from Paluma Dam to Hidden Valley. Access is via Paluma Dam (Paluma Range National Park) or via the Hidden Valley side of Paluma State Forest.
Hermit Creek was previously called Prospector's Creek but was renamed due to the confusion with another creek of the same name elsewhere.
Many local place names in Paluma commemorate members of the Benham family who were among the first Europeans around Mt Spec. Mt Benham is in the Paluma Range near Mt Spec. Benham's Lookout (a scenic lookout near Witts Lookout in the Mt Spec National Park) was unfortunately closed by the Department of Environment in 1999.
Arthur Benham is widely credited with having cleared 'Cloudy Clearing', now known as Paluma after it's Aboriginal name. It's possible that the Benhams were simply improving upon an Aboriginal campsite and to set up his camp in Cloudy Clearing, further clearing may have been necessary. Although members of the Benhams family were among the first Europeans in the Mt Spec-Paluma area, the detailed record contains few oral history reports of contact with local Aboriginal peoples.
Benham's Track eventually connected Hidden Valley with the coast, passing near Mt Spec and on to Cloudy Clearing (Paluma) with later connection made to the coast at Moongobulla (Ollera Creek).
An exercise held for army reservists around the Dam in 1966 discovered a decent waterfall system, which was named Benham Falls in Arthur's honour by Captain Bob Buda of Ingham.
The first portion of Benham's Track was cut from Hidden Valley into Mt Spec in the 1890s. The next section connected Mt Spec with the Benham brothers' mining activities in Cloudy Clearing. A section of this was further improved to wagon road standards by the Gorringe brothers. This was one of few roads of that standard through the local rainforest. Part of the widened Benham's Track was used as the basis for access to the Swamp Creek dam site when the Paluma Dam was constructed in the 1960s. Now the dirt road is only trafficable for part of its distance only under a Forestry permit.
Arthur Benham is credited with blazing a track from Cloudy Clearing down to the coast, connecting with Bullocky Tom's Track at the 'Mango Tree'. Arthur, with partners MacDonald and Unsworth, is also credited with finding alluvial tin at Cloudy Creek at the head of the Star River in December 1892, although his first recorded claim was not registered until July 1894 at Mt Benham. Back in the mining day, a small pool on Ethel Creek (now Benham's Creek) was used for bathing.
As you wander downstream, the first thing you'll notice is the water race not far from the road. Left behind from the old tin mining day, this water race is manmade and looks amazing with the mossy sides. Benham Falls is also not far from the road and is an ideal 2 hour walk from the Paluma Dam camping area. Other great half day walk from the Paluma Dam camping area is Ethel Falls or Crystal Falls.
The start of the creek is easy walking with a rocky granite creek bed with little vegetation. The creek slowly turns into a typical stony pebble creek with no exposed rocks to place your feet, giving you the choice of bush walking beside the creek or wading through the water.
As you continue on your way downstream, you will notice the remains of the logging period; massive trees felled along the way often stuck blocking the flow of the creek. Off to the sides you will see the cut tree stumps. It appears as if they've had trouble removing the trees from the area and may have tried floating the them down the creek???
This walk is very flat with very little elevation change. However, the creek is deep in parts and soon you'll find yourself having a refreshing swim.
The creek opens back up to large granite slabs, allowing easy walking beside the creek, and the vegetation changes from rainforest to bushland. The she-oak forest and woodlands are a welcome change. This part of the creek reminds me of the Running River as it has large granite slabs exposed - a perfect place for snakes to sun themselves.
Hermit Falls is a spectacular sight to see and offers refreshing swimming areas to cool down.
There are cow pads around the area so I recommend sterilising the water before drinking.
How to get there
This walk is possible in one day return but if you want to do it as an overnighter, there are several nice places along the way to camp and rest.
You could also just visit Hermit Falls from Hidden Valley or just Benham Falls from Paluma Dam which would only take approximately two hours return.
From Paluma Dam
From the Paluma Dam car park, walk 3.5km on dirt road to Hermit Creek taking the left fork. Follow the creek 10km past the waterfalls. Make your way 11km back to the dam via Benham's Track which is a dirt road.
From Hidden Valley
Drive through Hidden Valley onto Mt Fox Road until you reach the National Park's signage of no vehicle entry without permit. Park the cars here or at a good pool on upper Running River. It's a nice spot on the bank of Running River here for a swim, picnic, or even a campsite.
Walk along the dirt road (Benhams Track) for twenty minutes, then slight left up a slight hill, to the QPWS gate. From here it is only 300 metres walk down to the creek; a gentle stroll downhill through open woodland down to the creek. At this point the creek is flat and bit scrubby, then opens up with rocks and is easy going.
Keep going around the bend to see a great waterfall system, Hermit Falls and with decent waterflow, it's an outstanding sight! The waterfall is a multi tier system with some good rock scrambling & swimming opportunities.
Benham's Falls is 6 km upstream from Hermit Falls.
Best time of year to go?
Just after the wet season and when it start to cool down. The falls look beautiful with a large volume of water flowing.
What to bring
- Water for the day (or refill via the creek sterilising your water)
- Food and snacks
- Mossie spray
- Dry bag
- First Aid Kit & PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)
- Navigation gear - map & compass and/or GPS unit
Here's an interactive map of the area. I suggest that you do a loop from Paluma Dam down the creek and back along the dirt road (Benham's Track).
For more history of Paluma, a good read is Paluma The First Eighty Years 1870s-1950s.