/ Paluma Range National Park

Bullocky Tom's Track, Paluma Range National Park

Paluma Dam to Paradise Waterhole, Crystal Creek

This track is named after Thomas Edward Andrews who was born in 1848 in Wicklow, Ireland. He made his home at the junction of big and little crystal creeks and lived there with his wife Ruth and their children. After his death on 13th January 1897 he was buried at Mount Ruth, a hill next to big crystal creek.

One theory goes that Thomas based the track on an old aboriginal trail they used to travel between the coastal plain and the hinterland. There are indications that there was a track that turned off BT track that used to head down to the falls. I'm sure the early tin miners would have known about the falls, as they found tin everywhere in the creek all the way up to the mine shafts.

The track connects the coastal low lands with the top of the Paluma range, which was first opened up in the late 19th century when good quantities of tin where discovered, first as alluvials in the head waters of big crystal creek and its tributaries and then as lode tin near mount spec. Pack horse teams carried up the many supplies required by the miners and took down tin from the workings. The track climbs from near sea level to nearly 1000 meters at mount Spec. In the steep sections of the track benches were cut into the side of the mountains to give the horses a level foothold, without them the terrain would have been too steep to travel over.

In the days of Bullocky Tom the track started at Ollera Creek, where ships landed supplies brought up from Townsville, some 60 Km away. From there the track followed big crystal creek upstream on the northern side, then followed Cairn creek, before beginning the big climb up the ridge line on the southern side of Cairn creek into the top of the Paluma range.

Today the walking track begins on the southern side of big crystal creek near the National Parks camping ground and day-use area at Paradise water hole on Spiegelhauer Road. Follow the bitumen road for about 800m west until a small orange marker points you to the right onto an Ergon service track, at the second power pole the actual walking track begins on the right side of the track. The track drops down a steep bank into the creek bed, first crossing a normally dry overflow and then then main rock strewn creek bed, with the creek flowing on the far side. Care must be taken when crossing the creek as even during the dry season the flow of water is still quite strong and any wet rocks are very slippery, unless confident in rock hopping it is safer to wade across the creek.

The track continues up the bank on the eastern side of the junction with Cairn creek in a general northerly direction, through an old rusty barb wire fence of a private property which was resumed into the National park many years ago. Inside the fence the track turns left and heads in a general westerly direction pas the remains of Lanskey's hut, named after the last owners of the block before resumption. The track continues for about 1.5km through open grass and dry forest, crossing three small creek that drain the southern slopes of Mount Leach.

After crossing to the southern side of Cairn creek the track enters denser forest, an aboriginal shelter with some faded ocre paintings can be found under a huge boulder on the left side of the track. After crossing the creek once again the track continues on a short uphill and then downhill, over a small side creek, up and then downhill again, before emerging at a rocky clearing where a stone cairn on the southern side of the creek marks where the track leaves the creek for good.

Walkers should replenish their water supplies here as there will be no water until Gold creek falls, two to three hours later and with the majority of the climbing behind them. The track now climbs quite steeply through eucalypt, casuarina and then rain forest. A welcome rest spot is Cloudy Look out, a rocky out crop overlooking the whole crystal creek valley and directly opposite Cloudy creek, which drains the north facing slopes of the valley. The track continues to climb until the sounds of Gold Creek Falls can be heard, care must be taken when the track crosses a water shed with steep drop-offs on either side. A swimming hole at the top of gold creek falls (track marker No 27) is a great lunch spot, a quick dip in the cool waters easing weary muscles and bones.

The track crosses Gold creek and again care must be taken on the slippery rocks, even though a rope does give some support, 15 minutes later at track marker 28 the track splits into two. Bullocky Tom's track continues on to the tin mining area arround Mount Spec, alternatively the left track takes walkers via Big Crystal Creek falls to the Paluma dam camping ground (two hours walk).

This walk should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped bush walkers. The total distance of 17.7km to Paluma dam may not sound overly long it is the climb to nearly 1000 m in altitude which makes this walk a serious adventure. The track has been cleared since cyclone Yasi and is well marked with markers and ribbons sometimes fallen trees and vegetation may obscure the track and walkers must ensure that they don't loose the track.

A car shuffle is recommend so you can do this as a through walk.

Car Travel Times

Townsville – Paluma Dam 1 ½ hours
Townsville – Big Crystal Ck 50 minutes
Paluma Dam to Big Crystal Ck 50 minutes

Walk Details

Distance 17.7km
Total assent 1203m
Start elevation 58m
End elevation 910m


Rough track through scrub and rainforest
Track marked with orange plastic markers and flagging tape
Several creek crossings
Extended steep and slippery sections
Possibility of leeches (almost certain if raining) and ticks – check yourself carefully after walk. Also watch out for snakes
Wait-a-while and stinging trees are encountered on this track
Maximum time between water points - 2 ½ hours (Water Refill to Gold Ck Falls)
Suitable for fit, experienced bushwalkers only

Walk Times (easy pace)

Car Park to Water Refill 90 minutes
Water Refill to Rocky Outcrop 2 90 minutes
Rocky Outcrop 2 to Gold Ck Falls 60 minutes
Gold Ck Falls to Upper Crystal Ck Falls 50 minutes
Upper Crystal Ck Falls to Paluma Dam 100 minutes

Suggested breaks

Water Refill 30 minutes
Rocky Outcrop 2 20 minutes
Gold Ck Falls 40 minutes
Upper Crystal Ck Falls 60 minutes

Mud map

Here's a mud map of the start (bottom) of the track so you know where park your car.
MAP Bullocky Tom's Track start

I host advenutres every weekend around Townsville. If you are fit and capable, join us on these expeditions by visiting Townsville Advenutres.

Luen Warneke

Luen Warneke

Adventurer first, content maker second. I love to explore the great outdoors no matter the expedition. There are so many activities that allow us to connect with nature and one another.

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