CHRISTMAS is coming and there's no better time to spend it in Townsville's great outdoors, albeit hot and humid. Paluma makes for a great getaway from the heat.
There's plenty of hiking trails to explore at Paluma Range National Park and many locals do know about them. These tracks will take you on an undulating journey through rainforest terrain, through thick woodlands, and past many gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes. Relax and embrace these wonderful natural landscapes.
The Paluma Range is an offshoot of Hervey Range, and was named from HMS Paluma, an early Queensland colonial government survey ship that worked along the North Queensland coast in the 1880s and 1890s. The demarcation point between Hervey Range and Paluma Range is Rollingstone Gap. European history can be traced to the Mount Spec area back to the year 1875.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AREA
- Old tin and wolfram mines (Mine Shafts and Garde's Battery)
- DCK Shelter (Private Property)
- Waterfalls Birthday Creek Falls Ethel Falls Triple Falls Crystal Falls Gold Creek Falls Smith Falls (part of the PRB Track) Ollera Falls (a side section of the PRB Track)
- Lookouts Witts' lookout Cloudy lookout McClellands' Lookout Star Valley Lookout Garde's Lookout Buttercup Lookout Wilfred's Lookout Foxlee's Lookout Ollera Valley Lookout (a side section of the PRB Track)
- Shay's Clearing, Johnstone's Clearing & Johnstone's Hut
- Torstens' Rockgarden (see the Crystal Falls article)
- The PRB Track which includes Circle View Mountain, Mt Halifax and Godwins Peak, Roly Gorge and Roly Falls as a side section of the route.
Here's an interactive map of the maintained tracks around Paluma & the dam (Mt Spec area). These trails take your through spectacular Wet Tropics Rainforest with breathtaking views.
WHAT TO TAKE
- Enough water (or purification tablets)
- Snacks and food
- First Aid Kit
- PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) - recommended
- Map & compass and/or a GPS unit
Blazed by 'Bullocky Tom' (Thomas Andrews), it connects Mt Spec with the coast at Mutarnee and followed the southern slopes of Mt Leach. The track went from near Crystal Creek to Shay's Guesthouse at Mt. Spec. At the time, on the northern bank of Big Saltwater Creek (now Crystal Creek) was a shack (Crystal Creek Farm), which was a well-known landmark. Bullocky Tom was buried at Crystal Creek. This track was recut to cross Crystal Creek where you'll enjoy a swim, a chance to explore around the waterfall and eat lunch.
This track follows an old tin miners bullock track and was cut in 1903 by Roberts Foxlee to also connect Mt Spec with Mutarnee but follows the northern slopes of Mt Leach. Named after Phillip Foxlee who was a tin prospector who came from Charters Towers and was at Mt Spec around 1900. He was also a packer, but as he and Tom Andrews were not on the best of terms, he blazed his own trail up Mt Leach to Mt Spec. In places this track was very steep and a considerable amount of cutting had to be made to provide a foothold for his teams.
Bambaroo is an Aboriginal name from the Nyawaygi tribe 'Bamburu'. This track connected Benham's Track near Shay's Clearing (an old Guest House) and leads down into the Bambaroo area via an old tin miners property. There are a massive fig trees just off the main walking track that are pretty impressive to see. This trail ends at the Mobile Tower near Elenore Creek.
Jourama Falls comes from the Aboriginal word meaning singing or murmuring waters. Jourama Falls are located on the upper reaches of Waterview Creek (originally known as Station Creek), behind Yuruga. In 1963/1964, a group of 20 Rotarians assisted by Forestry Department officers and C. M. F. Unit officers provided an access road from the east to within a mile of the base of the falls.
The full length of the track was first cut in 2016 by Wilfred Karnoll and his team, following an old logging road on the Paluma Dam side, passes Johnston's Mine where you can see old rusty artefacts, and continue down the range to the top of Jourama Falls.
As the name suggests, this track follows waterfall creek down to Zammit Road near the Bruce Highway. You will see many pretty waterfalls along the way.
The Jacobson's Track provided access to Ingham from the mining town of Ewan. It passed near Mt Jacobson to Hidden Valley and was the earliest of the Mt Spec tracks and the one most used. It was named after its trailblazer Sigvardt Jacobson, known locally as Sid. He was born in Christana in Norway in 1849, spent 33 years in Queensland and died on 5th July 1905 at Francis Creek from dengue fever. Jacobson was a ship's carpenter and settled on Francis Creek where he cultivated a garden and grew the first tobacco in the area. Mining at Mt Spec, he thought the track was far too long, as it ran for about 10 miles to the Upper Stone River then back again. He decided to find a shorter way, starting at the top and coming out about 3 miles from his home on Francis Creek. There are still traces of this track now, as there is a well graded timber road.
Although this is no longer a maintained track, it use to be a popular four wheel drive shortcut from Hidden Valley to the Bruce Highway.
Circle View Mountain, Ollera Falls & Big Rock
Roly Gorge & Roly Falls
This track eventually connected Hidden Valley with the coast, passing near Mt Spec and on to Cloudy Clearing (Paluma) and followed the Bambaroo Track with later connection made to the coast at Moongobulla (Ollera Creek). Benham Creek/Mount Benham was named after Arthur Benham a prospector nicknamed 'Possum'.
This track provided access from the Star River Basin to Hidden Valley, where it connected with either Benham's or Jacobsen's track to the coast.
Believed to be named after Henry Bell who established a store near Moongobulla (Ollera Creek) in the 1890s. His sons operated pack teams back into the ranges. Bell's Track track went up the range to Wolfram Creek mines.
- Mt Houston - 672m
- Mt Spec - 995m
- Mt Leach - 938m
- Circle View Mountain - 831m
- Mt Halifax - 1063m
- Godwins Peak - 783m
The tracks north of the Paluma township, around the Paluma Dam were accidentally discovered by Wilfred Karnoll and he has spend the last 30 years recutting and recording the old tin miners tracks. They are only now being recognised by the local forestry department; National Parks will soon take over the maintenance of some fo these trails. These tracks are the Mount Spec area were used 140+ years ago by European pioneers who borrowed them from local Aboriginal groups.
The trails to the south of Paluma village (the PRB Track) are newer trails and were based on old logging roads and were initially extended, cut and marked by Vietnam veterans in the 2000's; Cyclone Yasi knocked out the canopy and the tracks turned to ruin. The PRB track is expected to be recut by a volunteer group by end of 2019.
The historical pack horse tracks, tin miners' tracks & logging roads in the Mt spec area provide walkers with the opportunity to explore old mining and alluvial tin workings, enjoy spectacular views of the coastal areas from rocky lookouts and discover the unique flora & fauna of the highland rainforest. The area is mostly National Park & is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, spanning from Paluma to Cooktown. The average temperatures are about 8°C lower than along the coast, making hiking in summer more enjoyable. You can still see old bottle dumps, clearings and rusty tools (including the reminants of a battery).
Activities of miners and packers in the area resulted in the opening of a network of interlocking and interconnecting pack horse tracks. Within only the recent past, those tracks have been added to by timber cutters and loggers. Pack tracks can be distinguished by the distinctive hoof marks left still on roots and stumps, on the tracks. The Mount Spec area was worked exclusively for tin but other areas nearby yielded copper, silver-lead and wolfram.
"Those who blazed their way into the tangle of range spurs from the coast, left their names on the tracks they opened and in map land marks. The Benham Brothers, Gard Brothers, Jack Johnson, Sid Jacobsen, Phil Foxlee, and 'Bullocky Tom' Andrews are all remembered in this way. Sid Jacobsen opened his track from Francis Creek over the Range to Hidden Valley. Benham's Track was opened by the Benham brothers in connection with the many mining ventures with which Arthur and his brothers were associated. The family name is commemorated in Mount Benham, Ethel Creek and Benham Falls. Arthur originally maintained the clearing at what became known as 'Cloudy Clearing' and what is now the Paluma township. He is credited with opening the track through to Cloudy Creek." - History of Paluma, Mount Spec
Henry Bell established a store near Moongobulla (Ollera Creek) in the 1890s. His sons operated pack teams back into the ranges. Hundreds of men walked into the Range with stores and tools on their backs. It was an area of loneliness and privation. Each clearing or old settlement has its graves, some marked, some unmarked.
In the early days, Aboriginal tribes were numerous in the coastal area. Some of the tin prospecting and mining tracks are said to have based on aboriginal trails that they used to travel between the coastal plain and the hinterland.
Mount Spec National Park was proclaimed in 1952 and was included in the World Heritage Wet Tropics Area in 1989. World Heritage Listing is only awarded to areas of exceptional natural and cultural value and provides for the protection of the natural values, conservation for the future and presentation to the public.
"The human history of the Mt Spec Paluma area has swung alternately between activities with a passive or active impact. Despite advances in technology and positive changes in attitude, our very presence continues to have an impact on the forest. Aboriginal occupation of the rainforest appears to have left little physical
impact around Mt Spec-Paluma. The tin-mining and timber industries left lasting impressions, though the forest has recovered well." - Paluma The First Eighty Years 1870s-1950s
Erected on private property owned by Wilfred Karnoll. This roofed shelter with cooking, shower & overnight camping facilities is available for anyone to use. Please respect this property & leave it in neat & tidy condition for the next visitor. Please book in with Wilfred & Suzanne if you intend to stay overnight.
The Paluma region is a bird watcher's paradise. Some of the region's most rare and endangered species can be found here. The township of Paluma is home to a wide array of impressive native rainforest bird species while further past Paluma there are opportunities to view dry tropical forest birds. If you are interested in bird watching, consider joining BirdLife Townsville.
- Snakes - Most common are pythons & tree snakes which are harmless, however the dangerous Red Belly Black snakes are also present. Treat all snakes with caution & respect and carry a compression bandage.
- Ticks - Most common in the dryer season. Best killed with an application of insect repellent.
- Leaches - Easily removed by using a fingernail or a knife along the surface which forces them to retract their teeth. Alternatively the old fashion ways are to sprinkle them with salt or heating their rear end with a match or lighter.
- Native Rats - are nocturnal & are attracted by the smell of food. Keep your camping area clean & pack all food at night in your tent or suspend from a tree.
- Wild pigs & cane toads - Unfortunately they have also found their way into the area. Pigs are very destructive to the vegetation on and around track. While attacks from pigs on people are very rare, the larger ones could be dangerous if startled.
- Cassowaries - Paluma Range NP contains a significant population of the vulnerable southern cassowary. Although very rare to spot, you can see their droppings over many of the trails. I've been lucky enough to see one on the Bambaroo Track.
- Golden Bower Birds - A number of their stick mound bowers can be seen on or near the walking tracks.
- Tooth-billed Bowerbird - Also known as a Tooth-billed Catbird. Their bower consists of a one meter round area cleared of all leaf matter & then decorated with upturned silvery leaves from a particular tree.
- Fireflies - Lighting up the rain forest at nighttime make it a wonderful sight to see.
Keep your eyes & ears open - you never know what you might come across.
Quandong, Plums, Silky Oak, Cedar, Pimply Pine, Iron Wood, & Satin Ash are just some of the tree species found in the rain forest.
- Fungi - Their shapes & sizes vary greatly, colours range from white, yellow, orange, purple & black, some are bioluminescent so have a walk on the 'Sensory Trail' at night.
- Gympie or Stinging tree - Mainly found on the margins of the rain forest or in regrowth under open canopy. Inflicts excruciating pain when touched that can last up to a year. Contact with any part of this plant should be avoided. The plant is recognised by its large, heart-shaped, furry, insect eaten leaves & purple berries.
- Wait-a-while vine (Lawyer Cane) - With its rows of hooks & thorns, more common in dense thickets & along creeks should be avoided.
- Barbed Wire vine - A vine with large thorns that present a trip hazard.
- Bramble - A scruby plant with many small hooks & thorns.
- Lantana - An introduced pest with a distinctive scent and small hooks
Watch where you walk, stick to the tracks.
Most of the tracks around the dam are easy walks for the general public. The others are bush tracks that require a degree of fitness, preparation & navigation.
Advise someone, with reference to the map, where you are going and when you expect to be back. Most of the area is covered by thick rainforest which makes navigation very difficult due to a lack of reference points. Please stick to the marked tracks unless you are very experienced, or join the Townsville Bush Walking Club or Townsville Adventures.
You should not attempt these tracks unless you are appropriately equipped. Always carry a map & compass or GPS. Mobile phones cannot be relied upon for communication due very patchy coverage. A PLB (personal locator beacon) is highly recommended and should be carried for emergency. An unplanned night can be very cold & wet so you many want to carry a space blanket (also known as a Mylar blanket & Emergency blanket).
Stinging trees and lawyer canes (wait-a-whiles) can quickly grow up on all tracks and cause significant discomfort or injury. Either walk around these or carefully cut your way through with a pair of secateurs - you any want to wear gloves. Carry water & first aid kit including a compression bandage for snake bites. There has also been extensive mining in the area south of Mt spec and are many mining shafts, some hidden. People have disappeared in this area, so stick to the tracks.
As you are walking in a high rainfall area remember that rocks, tree roots, and other vegetation can be very slippery. The water in the running creeks appears clear, however purification tablets are a good precaution for drinking water. The tracks around the Dam are part of its catchment area for the supply of drinking water. Bury human waste and toilet paper at least 15cm deep and 100m from camp sites, tracks and watercourses to guard against pollution and the spread of disease.
Whilst all care has been taken in the mapping of these tracks, no responsibility will be taken for its inaccuracy or the safety of anyone using it or the tracks.
LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS – TAKE NOTHING BUT MEMORIES!