Location - Paluma Range National Park, Queensland, Australia
Difficulty - 5, moderate to difficult
Distance - 15-20 kilometres return
Time - ~9 hours return

This journey is certainly one for the history books. Indeed, this hike is teeming with remnants of the old mining days. If you weren't already convinced that the late 19th and early 20th century tin and tungsten miners put a lot of time and effort into their trade, you will certainly appreciate that after this hike!

Nature lovers will enjoy the pleasant stroll in and out of the creeks and views of naturally beautiful water features and lush, vibrant vegetation. It's a great easier, beginner creek walks due to being fairly flat terrain and it's one of the prettier waterways of Paluma Range.

On this hike you will see both Dolby and Crystal Creeks, Dolby's and Johnstone's hut/clearing locations, an array of water races, and several mines of varying sizes. So, whether you are a history buff or nature and landscape enthusiast, there is something for everyone here.

Interactive map

How to get there

From the Paluma Dam, walk across through the camping area and onto the walking/mountain biking track toward Junction 29. At this junction, continue left for about 850 metres where you will cross an intermittent stream. After this, continue another 2.5-3 kilometres until you reach Junction 24, then take a right along the single-track for about 1 kilometre toward Junction 25. Just before you arrive at the junction marker, you come across a creek (-18.950131, 146.190298). This is Dolby Creek, which is where the off-track portion of this adventure begins.

Follow Dolby Creek downstream to a lovely small waterfall (-18.953258, 146.192294), which makes for a stunning place for photographs and fairly easy to get to. Perhaps have morning tea or take a moment to relax for a bit.

Continue on downstream through Dolby Creek, but keep an eye out on your left for Johnstone's Clearing (-18.954956, 146.192389). From this point, you have the optional shortcut to bypass a section of the creek – take the track south (right/downstream-orientation) for about 100 metres until you encounter another track on your right (-18.95635, 146.19289), but this trail may be hard to see. Follow this track westward to the cascade and waterhole (-18.956598, 146.191075) located in Dolby Creek.

From here, enter Dolby Creek again, and follow the creek downstream to the mining water races (-18.957986, 146.191028). This first water race you come across is quite impressive with a large amount of earth that has been moved, and you will notice a lot of rocks stacked in large piles and some well-constructed rock walls. This must have taken a lot of effort back in the day!

Once you've explored the old remains of the mining area, head downstream to the junction of Dolby and Crystal Creeks (-18.960684, 146.192562). Here you'll encounter a lovely swimming area and gorgeous waterfall. It's a also great place for lunch and to relax. This has been called Crystal Spa and Junction Falls.

After lunch or after you have a swim and a rest, continue upstream of Crystal Creek (the very upper reaches of Big Crystal Creek).

Crystal Creek, in particular, has a rich history of tin mining. Admire the stone walls that line the creek as you walk upstream. Imagine how much effort that it would have taken to move that much earth before we had modern technology to do so.

Whilst hiking up Crystal Creek, keep an eye out for the track (-18.96224, 146.19524) that is just north of Junction 28. Bear left onto this track, and walk about 50 metres up the track to Dolby's Hut/Clearing, which will be on your right. While the physical aspect of Dolby's Hut/Clearing no longer exists, glass bottles and other artefacts remain. Over the years, Wilfred Karnoll and his colleagues have collected a few of the glass bottles that they have found and placed them at the base of a tree (-18.96175, 146.195362).

Continue along the track to the intersection (-18.95635, 146.19289), bearing in mind that the this trail may be hard to see. Take a right, and follow the track for about 400 metres to Johnstone's Mines. Check out the numerous mine tunnels around the area, and like veins of former tin, there are countless water races that miners used the running water to wash away the soil and expose the tin to pan. It is truly impressive, but be mindful of the soft and undercut ground along the edges of the water races.

Continue up Crystal Creek for 1.5 kilometres or so to the DCK Shelter (Private Property). Here there is a pit latrine/composting toilet and shelter. You may opt for another swim, afternoon tea, and/or a last break before you finish your adventure.

Then, head back via the well-maintained trails to the Paluma Dam (i.e., Junctions 42 to 26 to 25 to 24 to 29 to the dam).

What to bring

  • Appropriate footwear
  • Long clothes and mosquito repellent
  • Secateurs (for the lawyer cane and wait-a-while vines)
  • First aid kit and PLB
  • Navigational equipment
  • Food and water (3 litres of water per person; additional water can be collected from the creeks, but purification is advised)

Notes

Before you set out on this journey, be sure you have sufficient and appropriate navigational skills and equipment. You must be able to navigate the trails and junctions (e.g., a map of the area showing the junctions is useful) as well as the off-track sections (e.g., a GPS or map and compass would be key), and you must have a sufficient knowledge base so that you can use the equipment effectively.

Be aware of the undercut edges around the water races and be aware that their may be open, vertical mine shafts in the area. Do not enter mines as the ground can collapse at any time. Results could be fatal.

Photos by Luen Warneke, Jodie Rummer, and Keith Dyson. Cover photo by Keith Dyson.