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Regional trails plan for Townsville
Wet Tropics Great Walk, Townsville section

To key trails index below

We present ideas to help determine a preliminary concept for a bushwalking route more or less from Townsville to Paluma/Mt. Fox as part of the EPA/ QPWS Great Walks of Queensland program.

We have talked with some of the best-informed people about route practicalities.

This broader regional walking strategy is based on our "regional strategy for the conservation of biodiversity for Greater Townsville, 2001". Especially note the Education section.

One Aim:

A wide range of thrilled local and visiting walkers will greatly increase the appreciation the general public has for Townsville’s natural assets.

This will thrill those who assist and in turn will make it much easier to retain the ongoing keen interest of many in the state of these natural assets and track.


Helicopter perspective: The Tully area and some other areas have a far greater density of great natural asset spots people instinctively love, the "cherries". Word of mouth about any "Great Walk" will inevitably focus there E.G. From Wallaman Falls to the Herbert River Gorge and onwards.

Many seem to instinctively like flowing creeks and wetter areas but certainly biodiversity enthusiasts/professionals and graziers really like our dryer places as well.


The Townsville region is clearly fantastic to those with a botanical bent, up with the best in the nation in terms of biodiversity. This possibly parochial group is keen to use our "cherries" as part of the framework to increase the perceived value of all our natural assets.

Indeed some of us think that Townsville has the natural assets to almost present images like Victoria’s Grampians and the Warrumbungles.

    • Dry areas out west have appeal.
    • The sheer dominance of dry ecosystems attracts inquiring minds. There is educational and ecotourism potential.
    • By presenting an overview, and colouring that in with David Attenborough like "fascinating facts", all ecosystems come to life, wet and dry and all in between.
    • E.g. about the Humpybong area "…. Visitors who have travelled the world find the area an obviously worthwhile experience… and pretty…"

"… if presented in the right way… as an example of our drier landscapes…"

    • Changing Townsville’s current image will not be easy.


Obvious cherries that could fit into the Great Walk include the somewhat dry Mt. Stuart summit and the mixed dry and wet Pinnacles. Those wetter cherries include, the Little Star River Gorge, old Aboriginal/Tin Miners tracks east of the Paluma Dam, big Crystal Creek, Waterfall Creek and Jourama Falls/Waterview Creek.

Obvious drier area "not quite cherries" include Paluma region’s Hidden Valley/Running River areas and our southern-most icons: Mt. Flagstone, Humpybong Falls, Reid River Gorge, Peach Hollow Knobs/Jackes Plateau and Mingella Bluff.

We seem to have no totally dry area cherries, like red gorges with deep waterholes in a flat dry landscape.


Under construction

We need to satisfy many involved directly. You are important but it takes time

Rather dry at present. With images and maps all this can really come to life…

there are big biodiversity objectives that need to be better explained…




Route notes


regional_overview (other areas)

Detailed plans are required for anything worthwhile and must be adhered to. Leaders must implement essential documentation that underpins best approach. See us for philosophy details

Links to other strategy documents adopted in whole or part
Regional trails network for SE Queensland: Discussion paper (DNR/EPA)
liability, Queensland outdoor recreation federation, may 2002
On Nature's Trail A regional Plan for Townsville Trails, January 2002
colorado innovative non-motorised trails, key elements of successful trails
recreational trail planning, TrailsWest, ministry of sport and recreation
Thuringowa Tourism and Events Strategy

Interpretation index

Biodiversity enthusiasts are not just about building tracks. For ecosystems to "come to life" fascinating facts are needed. Interpretation is always a minor part of the whole experience for most people.

The quick fix will have us busily going in interpretation circles for years.

For a tiny fraction of the cost tap into interpretive resources worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. (It’s a pet subject of ours, but we reckon the outcomes will be really worthwhile and want feedback on ideas).

Unless the correct interpretation development decisions are made now:


The outdoor experience can become just another shallow entertainment industry that ecotourists will sense and avoid.


In this and other matters we bridge the gap between experts and others. For example we know we wanted to colour in the broad overview with fascinating facts, so 12 months ago we adjusted the Queensland Herbarium’s Regional Ecosystem mapping data to produce a broad ecosystems map and standard units for ecotourism and many other purposes (appended).


The interpretive process:


Community involvement index

This walk calls for commitment by locals to help.


The Many Peaks Range walking track to Bald rock has a reputation as a failure and that sticks in the minds of many here.


Suggested Great Walk preliminary priorities index

For favourable first impressions of our region ensure a few cherries are installed into long dirt tracks with relatively unchanging scenery. Also search out view points, small water filled creeks, elevated rocks that show the canopy and large trees.


Other index

Health, safety and water availability considerations need to be assured. This includes the effectiveness of sterilising tablets, boiling and filters for using dam water or stagnant pools.

Explain legal liability matters for Councils, leasehold and freehold land about accidents and property damage


Adding to the interest are other dimensions: index

Appreciation of natural asset issues is important, as reflected by strong interest in ecotourism. Subtle and clever methods may be needed to communicate deeper interpretation and appreciation matters.

Use brief overviews of geological, evolutionary, indigenous, early european, modern history and current trends.

Completely unlike most human lifestyle matters, the future of natural assets is remarkably predictable.

Colour overviews with "David Attenborough" like fascinating facts (recommended DryTropics.org education strategy)



General comments about the ecosystems along the route and their conservation status. index

A broad ecosystem framework has been defined for the region that has suitable and distinct entities. The unit names and a few details will gradually be better defined. (appendix) Primarily for the routes proposed are:

Generally Closed Forest ecosystems exist where there is greatly reduced fire frequency/intensity, e.g. downslope in gullies, through a reduced grass layer or rocky.

Our classifications best relate to normal seasonal water availability. One indicator is the seasonally drought deciduous nature of most species.

We use 3 classifications: seasonally very dry (very deciduous in nature) , semi-evergreen (seasonally dry = seasonally semi-deciduous) and permanently moist (evergreen, little seasonal drought stress causing leaf drop).

There are other indicators like vine presence, leaf size and species present.



Mt Stuart Summit, a Townsville Icon. index

This 35 ha Council and Road Reserve site has obvious ecotourism potential and conservation of biodiversity education potential and can attract many people in or passing through Townsville.


While there is a bitumen road and car park, little effort has been made to tap the potential of this world class site so far.


No other Town in Queensland can match these views, a town surrounded by small mountains with mountainous islands studding the sea. Even Hinchinbrook Island is often visible in the distance.


Impressive and well-known cliff places compare even if this mountain is much smaller and drier. E.G. a number of famous glacially formed Tasmanian peaks … think of Mt. Wellington, Cradle Mountain, Barnes Bluff, Frenchman’s Cap, Mt. Anne etc, also small elements of the Blue Mountains, Mt. Warning and those volcanic plugs around Rockhampton and Brisbane.

Townsville City Council opinion (Greg Bruce Environmental Services Manager, Deputy Mayor Ms. Anne Bunnell); at present the minimum acceptable track would be like a roadway, entirely disabled suitable, and at an unjustifiable cost of ~$2M.

The way forward involves discussions centering around legal opinions with test cases to convince their legal liability department otherwise.


By walking to a couple of view points the southern sections of the proposed Great Walk to Hinchinbrook, can be seen from here. If an interpretive centre was built here it would be a very good place to comprehensively introduce the Great Walk and many other regional features. (or similarly on Castle Hill)


A track linking to Hervey Range is not feasible because it would pass through the centre of Army land and many suburbs.


Half of the 3.5 km proposed circuit that encircles the whole Council Reserve taps into uninterrupted cliff top views that progressively opens up a panorama in another direction, and then a third. Centre stage within each of the 3 views is a different major jagged rocky outcrop. Any one view alone would be magnificent but together they are even more.


Most points on the 3.5 km circuit are easily accessed, only 500 m from the car park hub. Circuit tracks descend 50m to access two of the very good views. Another circuit descends a further 80m for two more of the best views.


The other half of the track produces something quite different. Here the woodland features in place of the views. It winds through very pretty low woodland and open low woodland, even patches of grassland. It is dominated by Kangaroo Grass and Grass Trees feature, over a ridge, gentle slopes, a bit steeper in places, down into a wooded gully, past a dam and another few wooded cliff top viewpoints with a completely different character. There is even that pretty fourth view south to Mt Elliott that completes the 360 degree view panorama.


But the piece-de-resistance comes from developing the easiest to access cliff by installing a few flights of concrete stairs, a small bridge and a steel walkway. These items access a traverse through the middle of a huge cliff and another completely different view point out on one of those major jagged rocky outcrop features. A gentle adrenaline rush experience for the family.


All this in the heart of a rockclimbing venue that given time could compete with Victoria’s Mt. Arapalies or Mt. Rosea of Victoria’s Grampians, or a small part of Sydney’s Blue Mountains. Except here the cliff is hours of driving closer to a major city and tourist centre and climbers love that.


The piece-de-resistance mentioned above seeks multiple outcomes from Army Land. When we consider that surveyors often select exact land boundaries fairly arbitrarily, surely these boundaries could be more sensibly amended with the knowledge we have now. This area has potential for so much more.


As ecotourism goes this is another special spot. Of nearly all the other cliffs visited in the region, the summit of Mt. Stuart and the four Pinnacles rock spires are different and individually unique.

The Ironbark that dominates the upper half of Mt. Stuart is endemic to Townsville. It is not much at risk but is classified as vulnerable and only occurs on one other nearby hilltop. The Ironbark Woodland ecosystem is classified "Of Concern".

The prettiest of all the Habenaria ground orchids, Rein Orchid, Habenaria triplonema only exists on the top of this mountain in Queensland where it flowers briefly but profusely everywhere. It is also in the Northern Territory and New Guinea.

The main cliff viewpoint overlooks the largest patch of Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest in our region because under the cliffs is a large boulder strewn slope that inhibits fire.

Mt Stuart summit is in a rainshadow. Elsewhere Forest usually covers upland ridgetops like this, here it is low woodland.


Comprehensive interpretation would educate about weeds and demonstrate good weed management using hill top examples.

Rubber vine likes it best dry, and not surprisingly one of the most serious regional infestations of our moister coastal ranges occurs in the patch of Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest under the main cliff.

Mother of Millions and Albizzia lebbek are problematic and warrant attention.


If there was an excellent interpretive centre here, this would be the place to educate about proper protection of accessible small rock orchids and the striking Silver Elkhorn by actually showing where it is done and done well. It is indicators like this that prove that quality management is in place that will really impress visitors.

Here small rock orchids and the striking Silver Elkhorn remain in magnificent profusion where Lantana and slopes requiring considerable effort to negotiate have protected them from view. This protection will vanish with the proposed tracks and so will the plants. They are original and look magnificent all year round and their reintroduction to other nearby clifftops could have thrilled many.


I have in my garden two constantly flowering species or highly unusual local forms, passed on from others, that have only been found at the top of the main cliffs here and are now possibly obliterated from the wild. These species could be reintroduced to their original positions as the basis for interpretive discussions.


For those seeking a longer walking experience, there is a very scenic potential skyline walk route that descends right to Wulguru. Most of this walk is on Council Reserve. For maximum value and to connect the summit reserve, a couple of kilometres of track would need to be placed just inside Army land.


Humpybong Station. index

A hard and pretty area that may not suit many who prefer wetter areas, e.g. Running River. Interesting botanically. For the fit and experienced when water is available. Experience the Dry Tropics. Humpybong Falls. Regionally unusual vegetation of Reid River Gorge and Peach Hollow Knobs.


Water flows after Christmas (need around 10 inches of rain to get Reid river flowing, then water in it and Lagai Ck will be ok through to April/May. In very dry wet season’s Reid River may not flow at all.

However Graham drinks boiled dam water and stagnant water in pools. (use sterilising tablets ? etc. This type of water will be still there now (late Oct 2001).

The Poplar Gum Woodland, Hilly Woodland, Ironbark Woodland and Coastal Riparian Woodland ecosystems dominate, with very interesting examples of Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest C +/- Hoop Pine and She-oak Forest C.


Pinnacles Mountain. index
The view points from all four Pinnacles are spectacular because of the proximity of the other rock spires, the sheer size of the spires, the steep natural surroundings, the interesting 8 square km mountain top plateau, and nearby creeks and very diverse ecosystems. Hinchinbrook Island is often visible.

But there is more… The ecosystems on the cliffs and adjacent steep slopes of the Front Pinnacle, Second Pinnacle, Frederick’s Peak and South Pinnacle are all different and are regionally unique. All are listed as "Of Concern".


Geologically they are possibly the only obvious examples in the region of what may have originally been part of deep underground volcanic vent passages from one of the very ancient mountain building periods that built almost all mountains and plains that are visible.

An incredibly diverse mountain right in our suburbs. Open cliff ecosystems are each unique regionally and one is clearly unique to the world. This mountain has large patches of Semi-evergreen Rainforest almost in the suburbs through to Seasonally Very Dry Rainforests. Tall Bluegum Forest (related species) to Brush Box Shrubland and dwarfed open Cliff Ecosystems.

For now this is a hard climb but the track can be far better graded in time.

Difficult road access exists now but eventually suburbs will encroach on the foothills and change all this.

Water is readily available for 9 months. Possibly warrants water tanks at the top campsite for year round access.


Front Pinnacles Route to the top

Foothill rainforest route to the top

To continue on the Great Walk


Hervey’s Range. index

This Hervey Range’s part has not been walked. It is rugged, very steep and scenic when there is a view. The owners may be reluctant to permit regular walkers on this leased land behind the main station for fear of unwanted fires, etc.

Hervey Range slopes are a mosaic of 80% Poplar Gum Woodland and Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest in the gullies. "Coastal Riverine Woodland" exists in the foothill creeks and on the plains


(Otherwise we could hopefully at least proceed around Hervey’s Range to Scrubby Ck (water) where if necessary it might be possible to find a route up the very steep slopes to the top though water availability is a problem, the Army owns this land. Further camping at Thornton’s Gap would need to be negotiated on private land using private water supplies, wheras at the foot of Hervey Range is a Council Reserve on Black River. Black River tends to be sandy… does water subside below the surface?)


Patterson’s Gorge. index

Here slopes full of Semi-evergreen Rainforest C and Tall Bluegum Forest begin to occur, the lower end of the Wet Tropics.

It will be an excellent place to camp and access permanent flowing water. Probably there are a few pools.

Rail lines have been removed from the huge modern concrete railway bridge over the Black River at the entrance to the main valley but it is a great viewpoint almost surrounded by mountains and steep slopes. This scenery gains for some like me because of its isolation.

The River Oak form of Coastal Riverine Woodland within a kilometre either side of the bridge is considered endangered.

The gorge is apparently also scenic. It is the access distance that has put off many who would otherwise visit more often.

Bog Hollow, with it’s unusual top of the range reasonable water availability, provides a link to different places.

Link to "Junction Waterhole", a popular campsite in part for it’s Black Brim and the walk up the larger West Keelbottom Creek provides a contrasting walk experience, a taste of inland Melaleuca lined waterways with adjacent plains that continue for a long way.

Potentially links to the scenic rim route around the top of Patterson’s Gorge.

Important for local users as it provides a Patterson’s Gorge circuit.

By starting from the top of the range at Thornton’s Gap and walking down the railway through two tunnels, this entrance route involves much less climbing.

Further either the Keelbottom Ck East or Junction Waterhole way in are thought to be relatively fast routes with hard to access sections that are self-maintaining. Water supply can be a problem in the Keelbottom Creeks from August/September. Keelbottom Creek East has considerably less water than the west branch.

Side trip option

Discussion: Routes to Circle Mountain and one spot that is head and shoulders over the other alternatives: Little Star River (south branch) cascades. index

Several km of dirt road and several km of constant Evergreen Rainforest here would be a lovely change. But ahead is 40km of road and 50km of Evergreen Rainforest. No doubt it is lovely but for many it may not be a highly attractive great walk that people will want to come back to.

Instead there is an opportunity to visit one of our region’s "cherries" or great spots, Little Star River south branch cascades. Look forward to the Evergreen Rainforest later.

Probably this alternative route means skipping Mt. Halifax. Advice so far indicates that the view is not all that good, and while a route has already been brushed to the summit it requires a several km round trip from the road.

Importantly the road is there for those who seek a quick trip because the Little Star River alternative is a considerable detour in both distance, climbs and roughness.

However in 3-7 years the top of the range repairs and opening of Forestry Road could make the road to the Little Star South Cascades accessible and popular. (Thuringowa City Council revised draft Tourism plan). Then the roadway would not be compatible with a great walking trail.

Little Star River South cascades, and various interesting forest types. index

On to Circle View Mountain and on to Paluma. index

The feature here is Evergreen Rainforest.

Circle View Mountain has good views.

This may be an area that should take advantage of it’s remoteness, and have no access ramps described as such.

Access ramps from the coastal plains to Mt. Halifax appear to be very difficult but there is a reasonable way to Circle View Mountain via Ollera Creek (might dry for part of the year) and the direct spur marked as open forest on maps.


Paluma Plateau to Jourama Falls. index

Despite exceptional values, this area does not use it’s assets as much as it should.

Thuringowa City Council tourism strategies include greatly increasing Paluma ecotourism and associated infrastructure at Paluma and the Dam while retaining Paluma’s village atmosphere.

The Paluma Road is regularly cut for months after cyclonic rain.

Before action is committed at Paluma there is a clear need for everyone with an interest to get together. Just for common sense and coordination to get a better result for less (not just bureaucracy, or involvement).

Historic routes are being left to seriously degrade.

There are real problems with orchid thieving in Paluma.

Paluma side trips and tourist routes. index

The short walking tracks currently at Paluma do not retain interest for long. I perceive a need for longer routes that include bush campsites. Others I know think Paluma is pretty but there is not much to see.

Puzzle Creek transect side trip (day trips or camp out)

Great Walk main route continues from Paluma. index

Aboriginal trails became Early European trails (Bullocky Tom’s Track). A number of very significant Aboriginal rock art sites exist on the foothills below (some could become accessible??)

More recently the Big Crystal Creek catchment area especially has been very popular for more than a century.

(Regional Ecosystem maps not available so that information is less informative)

Paluma Access Ramps

  1. Bullocky Tom’s track may be the best (side walk to the water treatment plant on the way)
  2. From the start of Bullocky Tom’s Track on Big Crystal Creek an old steeper walking route is marked up the southern slopes, crossing the Paluma road, and up to the top of the range. Continue along the old ridgetop track into Paluma.
  3. Fozlees track was never much.
  4. Bambaroo track is used, open forest section overgrows but the rainforest part can be followed.
  5. The trip up Waterfall Ck used to be advertised for horse-riders as the place to "see 75 waterfalls in a day" (many would have been pretty small)
  6. Waterview Creek is another ideal route, via the top lookout on Jourama Falls (mostly Hilly Woodland, some Semi-evergreen Rainforest in gullies) and on up the delightful creek (Coastal Riverine Woodland). This is easy and interesting.
  7. Jacobsen’s track would be a quick access route. Allendale Station apparently keep the gate locked.

Seaview Range. index

Rasberry Creek (probably named after the Stinging Tree… View looks spectacular from the top, but thick stinging tree and wait-a-while so slow and lots of Stinging trees. Off the West Stone are I think???



Notes. index


The more sun, less rain and lower humidity that Townsville enjoys makes walking and camping here a lot more fun.


This is the start of the "Great Walks" track. Let’s aim to blow their bloody walking socks off with something perhaps staged in construction and cleverly organised to perhaps cost a bit more initially, but then costs very little to maintain or has far better outcomes.


There is an important opportunity for this to be "our track", with ownership shared between nature and anyone involved.


The culture developed by those assisting with track constriction will be very hard to alter later and sets the scene.


An integrated track system index

While people will apparently want to walk the whole track, walks in our region must also aim to thrill many locals and visitors with many different levels of interest and tastes.


Perhaps Townsville people can all experience bits of our natural assets:


Many features and possible walk variations and we can then explore alternatives and select the best to gradually end up with the optimum.


Management issues flagged. index


Included in consultations were. index

Indigenous Cultural Heritage (about rock art sites)

John Richter, EPA cultural Heritage (brief phone call, put on to Michelle)

Michelle Bird (Northern Archeology Consultants)

"Well Beaten Paths", Helen Brayshaw, 1990

Paluma Cultural Heritage (about Bluewater Range to Paluma Range bullock track)

Charlie Ulett

Paluma residents (about Paluma area)

Linda Venn

Department of Defence, Lavarak Barracks (about land immediately adjacent to theirs)

Major F. Radford, North Queensland Training Area coordinator (one brief Phone call, put us on to Range Controller)

Daryl Lyons, Assistant Range Control Officer, Townsville Field Training Area (one brief Phone call, put us on to Peter Fryer who works for them too)

Peter Fryer, (also owner Tabletop Station)

Station land managers (about water and some possible routes on their properties)

Peter Fryer, long discussion in person, Tabletop Station

Kim Yardley, one very useful phone call, primarily just about the potential water supply, Springvale Station

Graham Brabon, one longer phone call, see elsewhere, GraniteVale and Humpybong Stations

Townsville Bushwalking Club (about routes, best places, accessability, suitability)

Peter Quaresmini did not want to see draft, just final meeting

John Hunter (did not want to continue with meetings,

thought others could assist much more)

Nick Wood

Alan Watson (Adventure Equipment) got draft for comment, contributed lots

Thuringowa City Council

Bob Bartlett, listened, attended first meeting, not much comment yet, got draft for comment,

Megan Dixon (manager planning, on Townsville Enterprise Ecotourism committee, saw Bob’s draft)

Lyonelle Lane, environmental services, received draft (via Sharon Tousley)

Thuringowa City Council Tourism and Event Strategy

Dry Tropics Biodiversity Group Inc.

Tim Carswell attended first meeting,

Merrilyn Thomas (phone discussions, review of draft)

Alan King (long discussions, also attended one meeting)

Doug Silke

Russell Cumming (phone link, draft sent there)

John Purdie discussed about meeting agenda, and about aboriginal rock art protection

Jutta Jaunzemis attended first meeting, more to observe

Linda Whitely discussed items

Kathy Salter (no involvement yet)

EPA, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, DNR

Marty Mcglauchlin, received draft

Russell Cumming, see above

Townsville 1:250.000 Regional Ecosystem maps

EPA Paluma tin miners huts sketch maps

JRH’s Big Crystal Creek and general Paluma plateau blueprint, 1929?

Townsville City Council. (re summit of Mt. Stuart only)

Greg Bruce, Environmental Services Manager, on Townsville Enterprise Ecotourism committee, received the whole draft.

Anne Bunnell, brief discussion amongst other things.

Grant Steen, listened to brief discussions, acting Environmental Services (Director)





List of a few other potential contacts.


The whole of the Townsville Area. index

All cherries cannot be so developed. Access numbers to many spots must be restricted. Long queues on walking tracks (e.g. Geelong’s Otway’s) destroys the wild atmosphere for many. Others who perhaps fear the bush find security in those numbers.

The Cherries provide the framework for a regional track strategy.

Terrific places the general public will instinctively adore if day walk road access points were available.

All cherries cannot be so developed. Access numbers to many spots must be restricted. Long queues on walking tracks (e.g. Geelong’s Otway’s) destroys the wild atmosphere for many. Others who perhaps fear the bush find security in those numbers.

Other cherries:

Paradise Bay (Lantana and AIMES access issue)

Bays on Magnetic Island (that developers are building resorts on???)

Mt. Cleveland lighthouse ridge (boat access?)

St. Margaret Creek (slippery slide, Prince’s pool, the falls and cascades)

The forts, Magnetic Island

Alligator Creek and the falls (walk to the falls is rather boring in places)

Many Peaks Range??

Little Crystal Creek



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