Location - Paluma Range National Park, Queensland, Australia
Skill Level - A very difficult and strenuous day trip
Distance - 12-18 km car to car (car shuttle optional)
Time - 8-11 hours
Grade - V4 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 - see notes
Longest rappel - 35 m
First Descentists - It is believed to have been Luen Warneke and company 2016
Crystal gorge is the closest thing to a real slot 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 car park (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
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 1 (Optional)
Rappel from tree RHS or scramble down RHS.
Danger 1: The rocks here are extremely slippery. It is recommended to rappel down this terrace.
Danger 2: Crossing the stream is dangerous in high flow.
Rappel down from the tree on the LHS of the creek to large platform.
You can also enter this canyon here via Stinky Creek from the Paluma Village to Paluma Dam Track if you want to skip the first two rappels (high flow).
Scramble down the rest of the way into rocky creek bed.
- Option 1: R3-15m NA-TL into pool
- Option 2: Cross creek and either downclimb to pool or cliff jump 3m. Check pool on every trip before jumping.
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 5 (Optional but recommended)
Option 1: Rappel 6m from rock chockstone sling in middle of creek
Option 2: Scramble down
A 8m abseil down into the creek fork. Natural tree anchor LHS. Vegetated rappel.
Rappel 7 (Optional)
Optional rappel from tree ~10m RHS or easily scramble around RHS.
Gold Creek joins into Crystal Creek downstream from this.
Rappel 8 (Optional)
Option 1: Scramble down right side into the side creek.
Option 2: Rappel from tree RHS.
Option 3: Rappel down through waterfall.
Exit Notes: Rock hop up Bathtub Creek to Paluma Village to Paluma Dam Track.
RHS ~30m rappel from tree off a cliff into water. Swim to ledge.
Then a few small cliff jumps into large pool and pack swims just above the Intake Plant.
Walk back along the Intake Road to where your vehicle is.
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 and PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)
There are various natural anchors throughout the canyon, however, it is not unusual to come across damaged trees, especially after large flooding events. Please use sound judgement when considering previously installed anchors, like tape slings, ropes, and other textiles.
There are no bolts in this canyon.
Rats often chew the webbing, so be sure to check the anchors before you rap on them – even if you just placed them there the day before.
Along the route there are various sections of wet, slimy, and dry rock, as with all canyon environments. Please be mindful of your traction and regularly test your grip throughout the route as you cannot rely on the colour or texture of the rock to determine its safety against slippage. Take caution when near cliff edges.
No responsibility or liability is taken for any harm, death or loss of property resulting from the use of this article. You must carry anchor building materials, be experienced and use your own judgement when canyoning. Flooding events can strip anchors and change the canyons layout and conditions. Improper and insufficient experience will result in serious injuries or in many cases death. Always respect all signs you encounter and take everything in you brought with you.
This canyoning topo is for illustration-purposes only.
X / XX - Single and twin bolt anchor.
NA - Natural anchor such as a tree or rock.
TL / TR / C - True left, true right and centre when looking downstream.
R1-8m / R2-6m - First rappel and its height in metres, second rappel and height.
Optional - These rappels can be avoided by exiting prior or walking around.
- Stinging tree (Gympie Gympie) may be present in this creek.
- If you see trees are being worn and ring barked (from pulling down ropes), please use webbing and a quicklink.
- Water is sometimes released from Paluma Dam into Stinky Creek (which flows into Crystal Creek). So be mindful of flash flooding potential.
Please note that an activity permit may be required in national parks.
If this information is outdated or you would like to make a correction, please contact us.