Location - Paluma Range National Park, Queensland, Australia.
Skill Level - A very difficult & strenuous day trip.
Distance - 12-18 km car to car (car shuttle optional)
Time - 8-11 hours
Grade - v3 a3 IV *** (French Grading System)
Approach - 1-3 hours
Descent - 7-9 hours for 4-6 people
Exit - 1 hour
Elevation loss - approximately 400 metres
Flash flooding level - High
First Descentists - Unknown if this was done before Luen Warneke and team
Crystal gorge is the closest thing to a real canyoning experience North Queensland has to offer and it's super beautiful!
There are three options to do this trip:
- 9 hours, approximately 12 km: Organise a car shuttle from Paluma Dam to Mango Tree carpark. Walk to Crystal Falls rappel down the creek to the inlet plant.
- 10 hours, approximately 16 km: Walk up the Bullocky Tom's Track to Crystal Creek Falls and rappel down the falls and continue downstream to the water intake plant and water back along the road to the Mango Tree carpark.
- Approximately 17 hours, approximately 18 km: Walk from Paluma Dam to Crystal Falls, rappel down the falls to Gold Creek fork and rock climb up Gold Creek to the Bullocky Tom's Track and walk back to Paluma Dam.
Trip Plan - Possibly the best option
- Start very early and park your car between paradise and mango tree (rock slides) car park and walk quickly up along the Bullocky Tom's Track.
- Rappel down Crystal Falls and the other falls
- Continue downstream, rock hopping along the creek to the water intake plant
- Exit the creek and walk back along the bitumen road to your car
What to bring
A day pack with:
- About 1L of water for the walk in. Refill at the creek.
- Food and snacks for the day.
- Sun protection (hat, long sleeve shirt recommended, I like wearing shorts for easier movement), sunscreen. The creekbed is mostly open - so it's sunny.
- Shoes; I recommend shoes that have grip on wet granite, drain & dry quickly.
- Insect repellent.
- A 60m rope, harness, hardware (descender, prusik, carabiner, slings, etc)
- A headlight (or torch)
- An extra set of clothes to leave in the car at the bottom.
- First Aid Kit & PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)
Here's a map with all the suggested routes:
Note take we take the Paluma tracks to Crystal Ck or Gold Ck so no bush bashing involved.
After having a swim in the pool upstream from "Crystal Falls", head down stream to the falls and rock scramble down the RH side of the waterfall. Careful of the wet rocks as they are super slippery.
There are many technical rock scrambling sections and I highly recommend cancelling your trip plans if it's going to rain or it has recently rained and overcast.
A good level of fitness, coordination is require - rock hopping and rock scrambling sections.
Rappel One (Optional)
Rappel from tree or scramble down RHS.
Rappel down from the tree on the LHS of the creek to large platform.
Scramble down the rest of the way into rocky creek bed.
This rappel is 25m into water
Option 1: Use the sling around smaller tree base close to the cliff.
Option 2: Sacrificial sling around the tree far away from cliff edge.
Option 3: Walk around via stinging tree gully (approximately one hour).
Option 4: Bail out of Crystal Creek via LHS ridgeline route back to trail.
Rappel Four (Optional)
Option 1: Rappel 5m from rock sling in middle of creek
Option 2: Scramble down
A 10m abseil down into the creek fork. Natural tree anchor LHS. Vegetated rappel.
Rappel Six (Optional)
Optional rappel from tree RHS or easily scramble around RHS.
Gold Creek joins into Crystal Creek downstream from this.
Rappel Seven (Optional)
Option 1: Scramble down right side into the side creek.
Option 2: Rappel from tree RHS.
RHS 35m rappel from tree off a cliff into water. Swim to ledge.
Then a few small cliff jumps into large pool & pack swims just above the Intake Plant.
Stinging tree (Gympie Gympie) may be present in this creek.