The Hervey Range area has much history to offer, and it doesn't take you too far off the beaten track. The Aboriginal paintings at Turtle Rock and the bottom of the range, the graveyard and archaeological materials beside the old highway up the range, and the old drain pipes and train tunnels along the old Greenvale Railway Line all represent interesting places in history. There are also some fantastic rock climbing areas out this way, including Frederick Peak and Harvey's Marbles.
Note: permission/permits may be required to access parts of this area including, but not limited to the Greenvale Railway Line, The Old Highway, The Range Hotel, Mount Luke Mine, and Tabletop Station.
Here's an interactive map of the area:
Many people do not know it exists, but there is a waterfall in this area that only shows itself after heavy rainfall. Once you leave the flats and begin the ascent of Hervey's Range on Hervey's Range Road, Bridal Falls will be on your left just a little before the concrete bridge that is about half way between Townsville and Pipers Lookout. On your right, you will find adequate space to pull over, just after the falls. After a heavy rain, Bridal Falls will be flowing. But during the dry season, all you may see is a dry rock face. Regardless, you can't miss Bridal Falls, wet or dry, as the area is literally just off the road.
Greenvale Railway Line
Construction of the Greenvale branch of the railway started in the 1970s. The main purpose of the Greenvale Line was to transport nickel from the Greenvale mine to a smelter at Yabulu near Townsville, which was called the 'Palmer Nickel and Cobalt Refinery'. Mining at Greenvale took place between 1974 and 1992 during which nickel laterite ore was transported to the Yabulu refinery by rail and processed up until 1993. At that point, the mine had ran out of ore, and the Greenvale Line was closed. The railway line tracks were removed in mid-2000, but the bridges, cuttings, blue metal and easement remain. In 2016, the company that used to operate the line, Queensland Nickel Industries (QNI), entered voluntary administration.
Interestingly, some of the longest trains in Australia were pulled along the Greenvale Line, back in the day.
Before the railway tracks were removed, there was an attempt to preserve a section as a tourist line through Hervey Range, but that fell through, and the rails were removed, as mentioned above. There was also some talk about the line being turned into a walking track, but to date, nothing has come from that idea. This may largely be due to safety reasons. In fact, in August 2015, one of the tunnels collapsed due to a landslide, which resulted in the tunnels being closed. Now Queensland Government signs that read "falling rocks" and "no entry" are posted near the entrance of the tunnels. The Hervey Range Quad Bike Tours and the four-wheel driving clubs have even stopped operating in the area for these reasons.
The Townsville Rockwheelers used to ride these undulated single tracks through the deserted tunnels. Indeed, many may agree, the best way to explore these tunnels was by mountain bike; it was fast and efficient, and in the afternoon until sunset, the shaded mountains provided the perfect atmosphere. But, like the walking, quad bike, and four-wheel driving groups, the mountain bikers have also stopped using these areas due to safety concerns and the closure.
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads manages closed rail corridors across the state. The Greenvale Railway Line is state-owned land, and the closed rail corridor is not open for public use. Additionally, it is not safe to traverse the line due to unstable terrain, one partially collapsed tunnel, and the bridge is not safe for walking.
The Old Highway
The old Hervey Range Road, now known as Page Road, is one of the few surviving examples in the region of a roadway dating from early European settlement. This was the initial route from the port of Townsville to the hinterland.
In the early days, it took up to four days for a bullock team and wagon to travel from Townsville to the foot of the Hervey Range. To do this, they first crossed the Bohle and Alice Rivers, slept at Range Inn, and the ascended the bullock trail through to Thornton's Gap. Today, on the new bitumen highway, the journey from Townsville to Hervey Range takes around 20-30 minutes.
If you take the new bitumen road, have a look at some of the old stone pipes that pass underneath. There are also 1000 KVA powerlines that run down the range, and part of the old highway is maintained by Ergon Energy.
Part of the history of this highway stems from the mining industry in Paluma Range in the late 1800s because access to that area was via Thornton's Gap not far from what is now the Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms. During this time, Arthur Benham first used a teamster called William James to transport his bagged tin down through Running River, over Hervey Range at The Pinnacles, and then on to Townsville. This road was very steep and required James' team to tie a large log to the back of the wagon to act as a brake. As if that wasn't enough, after this journey, a five-head battery then had to be hauled back up over Hervey Range via the Waverley Tin Mines, which took six weeks.
Since traveling up the range took days, and even weeks, accommodations were important. At the bottom of Hervey Range was the Range Hotel (a.k.a. the Range Inn); at the top was the Eureka Hotel. There may have also been another hotel at the bottom of the range called The Gate Hotel; although, little is known of this one.
The Range Hotel was built between 1865 and 1866 but was closed in 1884; its precise location is now a matter of speculation. Although, a bottle dump, which was thought to have been originally associated with the hotel has been located near old Hervey Range Road (now known as Page Road), and the archaeological site is now heritage-listed. The Eureka Hotel was built at the summit of Thornton's Gap in 1865 and is now known as the Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms and a heritage-listed location.
Indeed, as heritage-listed sites and important archaeological locations, we can learn a lot about early road construction techniques and other practices during that period of history from these areas.
The Range Hotel has the oldest headstone in the entire Townsville region. It is dated back to 1866 and truly a testament to the hardships of early pioneer life. The graveyard where this headstone is located is near the bottom of the range about 150 metres south of the old pub and toll gate. The burial grounds also provided a resting place for travellers and livestock that were using the road between 1864 and the 1970s.
The area is now quite overgrown with lantana, guinea grass, and spear grass.
"The Range Hotel burial ground contains sandstone headstones that are highly characteristic of nineteenth century cemeteries in this region, with relatively ornate decoration typically found on graves dating from before c.1880. There is potential that the recorded burial ground contains additional graves (possibly as many as 21) which also date to the earliest European settlement of the Townsville region.
There are three ornate sandstone headstones of a type often found in North Queensland burials dating before 1880. The lettering on the headstones has weathered and one is lying horizontal on the ground. Each grave is encircled by white-painted stones." – Range Hotel, Burial Ground and Camping Reserve - Queensland Government
The grave of Francis John Earl, a squatter who died of a fever at the age of 25 at the Range Hotel on 12th March 1866, is the oldest extant headstone in the region. The oldest headstone at Townsville's West End Cemetery dates back to 1868; although, unmarked burials occurred there before that date.
"A dense concentration of archaeological material is located south of the former Hervey Range Road and the power transmission lines on the high bank of a creek. Some material is eroding into the creek bed. The surface artefacts are visible in a 20m² area, although low visibility due to vegetation cover obscures the full extent of the site. Artefacts include glass bottle fragments and patterned ceramic fragments datable to the 19th century. This may be associated with a potential second hotel situated at the site. An old softwood tree (possibly Terminalia sp.) situated in the middle of this area bears a rectangular-shaped blaze on its trunk, measuring 60 cm x 30 cm." – Range Hotel, Burial Ground and Camping Reserve - Queensland Government
Native and introduced vegetation dominates the area, with Moreton Bay ash (Corymbia tesselaris), poplar gum (Eucalyptus alba), blue gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis), and narrow leaved ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) being the most common species. There are thick grasses in the woodland understory, comprising black spear (Heteropogon spp.) and kangaroo (Themeda spp.) grasses. Cocky apple (Planchonia careya) and native gardenia (Kailarsenia ochreata) are common woodland species in the area. Introduced species include Lantana spp., mango trees (Mangifera spp.), and Agave spp.
Mount Luke Mine
The Mount Luke Mine rises approximately 189m above sea level. It is an abandoned lead, silver, tungsten, and zinc mine just off Black River.