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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.
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.
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…
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 shortage of information will probably be lamented for many years
- This threatens the outcomes biodiversity enthusiasts seek and their motivation to assist.
- The Dry Tropics region has little data and is another greenfields site
- We can justify stepping ahead of others.
- Decision-makers often have little natural asset information system experience.
- Many experts in these fields are extremely conservative.
- we have already collected information from Australia’s best experts
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:
- can be fast tracked (carefully!!) at Paluma because of JCU knowledge.
- It can be fast tracked in the wet tropics because of people like Bernie Hyland
- But there is little foundation data for the dry tropics.
Community involvement index
This walk calls for commitment by locals to help.
- All groups seem very keen for tracks.
- Many want tracks partly in order to develop a broad sense of community ownership that treasures and protects natural assets.
- The work done must be seen to be successful in all these ways or risk loosing the interest of volunteers.
- There is a special talent needed to blend paid people with volunteers. Risks are to be taken seriously. Perceptions of bureaucracy, inadequate knowledge, misunderstandings, resources that are wasted while volunteers work for nothing, premature funding cuts, expectations that cannot be achieved.
The Many Peaks Range walking track to Bald rock has a reputation as a failure and that sticks in the minds of many here.
- Probably only expectations were not met.
- Sure it is no longer always kept clear of long grass, with only occasional clearing, but it is regarded as just a marked trail for fitter walkers (was it always only that?) and as such it is still successful.
- Certainly in part grassy tracks here quickly hide awkward rocks and erode much more easily than on Hinchinbrook Island’s Thorsborne trail.
- There is suspicion that the recent Castle Hill track construction work was way overpriced.
- Annual brushcutting and walkers motivated to assist with secateurs should deal adequately with Lantana.
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.
- Little Star River (South) cascades
- Tin mine huts tracks
- Links to Paluma township and Jourama Falls
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)
- Mt. Flagstone: This regionally unusual limestone geological formation is much older than all other visible coastal plain formations. This limestone was formed by skeleton accumulations from marine animals before their world renowned mass extinction event just before life first emerged on land. Even the recrystallising of now indistinct fossils is evidence of the heat and pressure of those subsequent mountain building periods. Limestone is mined at nearby Calcium.
- Geologically speaking there were a few mountain building then erosion periods here. (E.g. our granite dome hills and mountains, acid volcanics, Pinnacles old volcanic vents). These culminated in a huge almost flat inland plain that still remains west of "The Range".
- The subsequent sculpting forces that gave rise to most of the features visible here today date from the time grasses and grass-grazing animals first evolved. These forces included land block movements associated with the breakup of the ancient Gondwana continent, coastal cliff erosion, varying sea levels and reef building periods.
- Rich in historical significance, a temple to time, our natural ecosystems long predate the aboriginal presence. Over hundreds of millions of years some species have probably remained unaltered while others evolved only a few thousand years ago. Many have probably moved backwards and forwards hundreds of kilometers in concert with cycles of mountain building, erosion and climate change.
- Steep and varied regional environmental gradients are reflected in the exceptionally diverse and interesting scenery. Mountains and plains clothed with living ecosystems. Certainly this region’s biodiversity is up there with the most diverse in Australia.
- Well south of the Pinnacles was the Bindal aboriginal tribe. Hervey Range and coastwards the Wulguru tribe, Northwards of the Star River to the Herbert River and on the coast was the Njawaygi. Their history will of course be very rich but unfortunately was nowhere near as well recorded as in the Herbert or Tully areas.
- Special places filled with indigenous meaning and rock art sites may be able to be visited.
- Steep landforms combine with historic bullock routes and stories to show much about early European experiences.
- The recent timber industry history is strong and evident but the power of natural regrowth is obvious. Even world war two sites are well overgrown.
- Rapid ecological change is here again, see our threatened ecosystems and species.
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:
- Eucalypt dominated
- "Poplar Gum Woodland" exists in the dryer locations west of the range, or down on the clay plains, drier foothills and steeper or drier uplands.
- Relatively pure "Ironbark Woodland" exists in dryer possibly silty-gravelly places on the fans and slopes.
- "Hilly Woodland" consists of various intermingled combinations of certain Eucalyptus spp. that are common at the top of the range where there is a little more moisture.
- "Coastal Ranges Forest" also at the top of the range but where there is more moisture again (like Sheoak Forest but without the Sheoak)
- "She-oak forest C" at the top of the range where there is more moisture again. With Eucalyptus emergents. Conservation status is generally "Of Concern".
- "Tall Blue-gum forest" (includes it’s rough barked relatives) on highlands where it is wetter again.
- Coastal Riverine Forest/woodland" and Inland Riverine Forest/woodland" riparian ecosystems are dominated by Melaleuca spp, Eucalyptus (E. tereticornis and E. camaldulensis respectively) or River Oak spp. Some coastal regional ecosystems are considered endangered. Some others inland are considered "Of Concern"
- Closed Forest. index
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.
- "Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest" +/- Hoop Pine, dry areas (low water availability) typically within Eucalyptus drier woodland ecosystems. Conservation status is often "Of Concern".
- "Semi-evergreen Rainforest C" +/- Hoop Pine, within Hilly Woodland, or dryer Eucalypt Forest. Conservation status is often "Of Concern".
- Evergreen Rainforest in wetter places within Eucalypt Forest or stand alone in permanently damp places.
- "Riverine Evergreen Rainforest C", in wetter places. Conservation status is generally "Of Concern".
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.
- Start Flinder’s Highway near Calcium (bus Townsvillle or Charters Towers)
- Climb Mt. Flagstone. Views. It’s limestone was formed from skeletons of sea creatures before life ever left the sea. This formation is much older than anything else visible here. (Poplar Gum Woodland)
- Walk to the Humpybong plateau (Hilly woodland and Ironbark woodland) via the narrow isthmus and on to Humbybong Falls. (Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest C) The campsite here may be rather rough.
- (A much more direct route to upper Reid River potential campsite exists via the road over the plateau.)
- Boulder hop down Humpybong Creek to Reid River and walk up through Reid River Gorge (quite nice) to the road crossing at Langai Creek junction. Camp here (very good campsite). Ironbark woodland and Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest C. The Coastal Riparian Woodland in Reid River Gorge or adjacent areas contains regionally very unusual species like Graptophyllum.
- Day trip the next day to Peach Hollow Knobs and on to Jackes Plateau and return. Pretty scenery. Dry Tropics. Hilly Woodland with regionally most unusual species like Grevillea sessilis and massed Acacia jackesiana.
- The rest of this section has not been discussed with anyone who has walked it.
- Up the road 2km and down to Langai Ck to avoid the Army High Range Property boundary and up the creek. Also with patches of She-oak Forest C.
- Decend Hervey Range more or less as marked to avoid freehold land and Army land. Camp in the creek somewhere? (mosaic of Poplar Gum Woodland and Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest).
- Cross the plains to the Pinnacles foothills and the creek that supplies Granite Vale Station. (this part of the route not yet discussed with the Brabons) Perhaps we need to camp elsewhere as the homestead is downstream. (Poplar Gum woodland, Ironbark woodland, cleared land, Coastal Riparian woodland)
- (potential exit from here is a tedious walk up Granite Vale road, past the locked gate and on to Hervey Range Road and occasional buses to Townsville).
- Ascend creek and climb above the saddle to the Pinnacles Plateau. (mosaic of Poplar Gum Woodland and Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest).
- (The interesting razorback ridge obvious route up to the south east is on freehold land and the sandy Ross River there may often not have surface water.)
- Cross to the open She-oak forest campsite at the South Pinnacle saddle. (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.
- For now access via a Bus and a long tedious walk to access and follow the powerline road. A car/taxi saves a few kilometres. 4WD vehicles can directly access the mountain now and save a few more kilometres
Front Pinnacles Route to the top
- Ascend via the two front pinnacles direct to the plateau and on to the South Pinnacles Campsite. A long day may also allow time to visit Frederick’s Peak. (generally Poplar Gum Woodland and Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest but see the next paragraph)
- Especially the general public will like the lowest pinnacle, because it is the most easily reached, no rock climbing is required to reach the summit and yet it still has the Pinnacles feel. A 1-2 km walk from a possible nearby car park and a climb of 250m will be required (the height of Castle Hill).
- Especially the first Front Pinnacle features the only place in the world where Dubouzetia saxatilis (Elaeocarpaceae, small shrub) can be found, perhaps some thousand steep cliff crevice loving plants. This is the only place in Australia for the Dubouzetia genus except for another cliff loving species that inhabits a few Northern Territory waterholes. A first guess set of mechanisms that could be limiting the species to this location include: unique crevice dampness or chemical water status, or soil borne disease isolation mechanisms, etc that are involved limit the species to this location.
- These plants are not thought to be at much immediate risk so are classified "Vulnerable" and the ecosystem "Of Concern". A long term management program needs to monitor effects. When advised rock climbers will appreciate the obvious need to stay away from this cliff or assist.
- Currently the perhaps four Dubouzetia plants on the second pinnacle (need rockclimbers to do a proper assessment) should probably be especially protected.
Foothill rainforest route to the top
- This excellent route passes around the foothills and up the valley behind Frederick’s Peak. Regionally unusual vegetation also exists here, Gympie Messmate Forest C covers many slopes, Argyrodendron trifoliatum Semi-evergreen Rainforest on the foothills almost in Townsville’s suburbs, and a huge (by local standards) Ficus virens, not so tall, but with a 5m trunk diameter very roughly. Low creek elevations have reliable water for 9-11 months, but possibly always.
- Continue up to the saddle south east of South Pinnacle (Gympie Messmate Forest C, Semi Evergreen Rainforest)
- At the first saddle descend 500m to Feather Palm Creek (reliable water for 9 months of the year) and scramble along the pretty cascades/low gorge for a while before returning to the saddle.
- Camp at the saddle or proceed to the South Pinnacles main campsite via Featherpalm Creek (regionally unusual Feather Palm Rainforest C) (collect water on the way) or boulder hop over the peak itself (big boulder’s probably OK but not checked yet.
- From South Pinnacle saddle campsite walkers can day walk to the spectacular Frederick’s Peak (4 hours return) or to Featherpalm Creek cascades (4 hours return).
To continue on the Great Walk
- From South Pinnacles campsite, recross the plateau and descend to Moroides Gorge Creek. (Poplar Gum Woodland). A few hours walking up the open rocky creek is enjoyable (scenery, rocky swimming holes).
- Water should be available here for 9 months of the year or longer.
- Descend to the small by quite nice lagoon campsite in the foothills (Riverine Coastal Woodland).
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?)
- Proceed to Scrubby Creek and Log Ck (Riverine Woodland Coastal) where apparently there may be at least trickling water most of the year.
- Climb a little further up the side of the Range near Hervey’s Range Road to pass through pretty special patch of closed forest (water 6 months plus) to Palm Creek and possibly view an excellent example of Indigenous Rock Art. In the wet season the Palm creek cascades have a number of visitors.
- Cross the road and descend to Black’s River campsite on council reserve (Poplar Gum Woodland, Coastal Riverine Woodland)
(Black River often tends to be sandy… does the almost permanent 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.
- Either…. Up Patterson’s Gorge alongside Black’s River
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.
- Follow up Patterson’s Gorge, slopes Poplar Gum Woodland slopes, Coastal Riverine Woodland E,
- Perhaps camp in the uppermost alluvial area ~1 km past the railway bridge though the further from the last camping site the better.
- Climb out up the end of the gorge to an 800m peak on the northern rim. (Semi-evergreen Rainforest C, route uncertain, no-one known to have even attempted to walk it)
- Or… railway tunnel, Patterson’s Gorge scenic rim
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.
- Follow the Pre European Aboriginal trail/bullock track up Hervey’s Range to the mouth of the nearer 350m long out of service railway tunnel and pass through. (Poplar Gum Woodland 80% mosaic with Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest)
- Visit the large grave headstones of important business family who lived here. I think they ran a hotel.
- Descend to the creek bed at the end of the tunnel and climb steeply up the scenic creek. A bit of a scramble at times to negotiate boulders and cliffs, but pretty. (Semi-evergreen Rainforest C, water available 6 months of the year)
- Continue through the Semi-evergreen Rainforest C filled valley up to the scenic rim and follow for a kilometre to admire what probably are magnificent views down into Patterson’s Gorge and across to Mt. Cataract Ridge. Hard to believe that there will not be big view points in between vegetation here but not sure.
- (Lantana may be a considerable problem.)
- Descend into Bog Hollow to camp. (Poplar Gum woodland)
- (it would be possible to continue straight on along the scenic rim… but often no water)
- At the lowest end of Bog Hollow water can be found 10 months of the year, longer than in the Keelbottom Creeks. Probably camp.
- Take a different more direct route back to the scenic rim and follow around to the 800m peak on the northern rim. Semi-evergreen Rainforest C, then Tall Bluegum Forest.
Side trip option
Alternative route from Bog Hollow . index
Alternatively follow cattle pads along Acacia Ck. (Poplar Gum Woodland) or Oaky Ck. (straight route obvious, some semi-evergreen Rainforest C ) to Keelbottom East.
Either follow Keelbottom Creek East directly upstream to Forestry Road
- From the entrance to the 350m tunnel, walk up to Thornton’s Gap and on another 10 km return to see another excellent example of Aboriginal rock art. This was an important indigenous route.
- From 800m peak to Forestry Rd.
- Semi-evergreen Rainforest C and Tall Bluegum forest
- Continue via Keelbottom Creek East. (Riverine Evergreen Rainforest C)
- Camping should be readily available here but not checked on the ground. Water in this general Bluewater area should be OK, though this end of the range is considerably drier than the Paluma end. Others say the Keelbottom Creeks run dry for some time (further downstream?).
Or visit Junction Lagoon and Keelbottom West Branch (bypass Forestry Road)
- initially Poplar Gum woodland on the west of the creek and Hilly woodland on eastern side of creek then hilly woodland both sides. Inland Riverine Woodland in the creek but for the last 4 km Riverine Evergreen Rainforest C with Tall Bluegum Forest first only to the east, then both sides.
- Travel down Keelbottom Ck East to Junction Lagoon. (Inland Riverine woodland and Poplar Gum woodland. Slopes above Lagoon have a patch of Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest) Camp.
- Patterson’s Gorge (Black River Gorge) is very pretty but Peter Fryer would prefer to camp at "Junction Hole, at the junction between Keelbottom East and Keelbottom West. Nice water here from January (when the mud settles) to August/September. Over the years many have camped here. The fishing for Black Brim is good.
- Follow up Keelbottom Creek West to the turnoff to the Little Star River cascades. (Inland Riverine woodland only for the last km becomes Riverine Evergreen Rainforest C. Beyond the river at first is Poplar Gum Woodland with the last several/few km as Hilly Woodland)
- Note do not stray up over the western bank of this creek, the Army defense area starts right on the western bank of this creek.
- Either leave the creek and travel on to the Little Star River (South) or continue on up the creek to join the top of the range road, the fast route north.
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
- Go to Keelbottom Creek (West) turnoff to Little Star River (South) (to the north west of this point is a large area of thick tangled closed forest that is hard to walk through.
- Either via Forestry Road extension along the road in Evergreen Rainforest and back down the creek. (Riverine Evergreen Rainforest C in Blue Gum Forest).
- Or direct from the hut at Forestry Road follow the road west briefly then cross country to Keelbottom Ck West (Tall Bluegum Forest then Hilly Woodland) then upstream (Inland Riverine woodland only for the last km becomes Riverine Evergreen Rainforest C. Beyond the riverine vegetation is all Hilly Woodland)
- Or if coming from Junction Lagoon travel up Keelbottom Creek (West), see elsewhere for details.
- Camp. The west branch has more water longer than the east branch, but lower stretches of these creeks both dry after August/September. Possibly these upper sections will have soaks?
- Leave the creek and travel over the easier to travel ridgetop to Little Star South near it’s junction with the Army’s Star Station boundary. (Hilly Woodland then a little Poplar Gum Woodland). Hopefully camp near here.
- Rockhop upstream through the cascades. First Inland Riverine Woodland then Coastal Riverine Woodland C ecosystem type with hilly woodland and Poplar Gum Woodland above the riparian zone on the south bank, Sheoak Forest C to the north.
- Take the right creek branch for the potentially popular route that returns to the road and a possible future car park (Tall Bluegum Forest) (go this way to proceed to Mt. Halifax by road)
- Take the left branch for the more direct main through route via Sheoak Forest C then Evergreen Rainforest. This route bypasses Mt. Halifax. (untested route, is the Sheoak country here as navigable as I hope?)
On to Circle View Mountain and on to Paluma. index
The feature here is Evergreen Rainforest.
Circle View Mountain has good views.
- Much of this route follows an old survey route brushed in advance of the Forestry Road top of the range extension (there was talk of pushing this road on a number of kilometres a few years ago, did it happen?
- The gap between these routes is apparently only 5 km (Marty McGlauchlin).
- The Evergreen Rainforest walk. If there is a road most of the way seek opportunities to travel in parallel with the road in open easy rainforest for periods or to shortcut a hairpin bend. Regularly offer detours to elevated rocks with a view towards the coastal plains and/or a view over the rainforest canopy (via. aerial photos).
- An occasional loop off into nearby Bluegum Forest and ecotone areas would enhance the walk. E.G. the Star Valley slopes and tributaries have many small cascades.
- Circle View Mountain has good views. Water in the amphitheatre? A rainforest campsite.
- Apparently water is available every 10 km.
- View American World War II sites
- Cross a stone bridge (probably American WW II built) on the old road from Paluma.
- Lantana here is apparently the most difficult of the route so far.
- Investigate a sidetrack to Circle View Mountain Falls or to viewpoints, probably far too steep and down too far.
- Ramps up to the Paluma to Bluewater Range
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.
- Use for tourist routes the proposed Great Walk routes to the north and south.
- Existing Tourist Tracks: DeWitt’s lookout, Cloudy Creek and the timber cutter’s H-trail are very well maintained.
- Walks to the Star Valley Basin have been popular, either direct from Paluma or along the top of the range south and then down. While there may be no big lagoons and a lot of awkward rockhopping in Bluegum Creek, there are many delightful small cascades (in tributaries).
- Walks up and down Cloudy Ck/Big Crystal Ck are walked occasionally by school groups.
- At least while the road was being constructed a route from Little Crystal Ck up the spur to the top and on to Windy Corner and Paluma was in use
Puzzle Creek transect side trip (day trips or camp out)
- An excellent route up to the Queens birthday weekend when there is certain to be water. The creek cascades are certainly a pretty feature. Some will find carrying water is well worth the effort at other times. Transport from the end of this proposed route will be required. Transport to the start would be advantageous. Circuit tracks could be popular also.
- Certainly this is also a botanically terrific Great Walk interlude from rainforest.
- Tracks through this type of country are cheap. Probably they do not erode and remain clear of grass for long periods.
- A diverse range of species can be found including a few heath species in the ground layer. Regionally unusual Grevillea shrub spp. can probably be found. The SGAP Qld. biannual conference participant’s favourite ecosystem. Eucalyptus abergiania flowers briefly but spectacularly.
- This ecosystem is an awkward fit into Hilly Woodland as the Eucalyptus spp. and understorey are different. As the rainfall reduces with distance west of the range top, here the soils suddenly also change to granite sands. Some 100 sq km of this country exist only here in our region but the extent to the north is uncertain because regional ecosystem maps do not yet exist.
- The section of Coastal Ranges Open Forest is especially notable because the locally endemic Eucalyptus leptoloma co-dominates.
- But the whole 25 km transect from Paluma is interesting, from Evergreen Rainforest to Very Tall Bluegum Forest to the small trees of this very open Hilly Woodland.
- This area is of special interest to the James Cook University botanical school, and a plant CD that covers the Paluma region will be published soon. Such broadly comprehensive publications are an essential foundation of top quality interpretation.
- Over 25 km from Paluma over the large plateau ecosystems change:
- Evergreen Rainforest
- Tall Bluegum Forest; 3 types progressively, well developed rainforest with emergents, closed understorey and open understorey C.
- Sheoak Forest
- Puzzle creek banks initially are Riparian Evergreen Rainforest C then changes to Inland Riverine Woodland
- Coastal Ranges Open Forest (notable with endemic Eucalyptus leptoloma)
- Hilly woodland (E. abergiania, E. leichhardtii somewhat heathy understorey)
- The last 2 km to the Running River junction comprises a patch of Seasonally Very Dry Rainforest beyond whose margins is more Hilly woodland but with E. lamprophylla and E. leichhardtii and scattered closed forest species
- Possibly camp at Running River?
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.
- Tin miners especially traveled these trails. Settler’s names are associated with icons like Johnstone’s Hut and Shea’s Clearing.
- Highly detailed and accurate blueprints dated 1919(?) or 1929(?) provided by the bushwalkers helped to determine original routes and show blaze markings (attached).
- The EPA have produced much more recent sketch maps of the tin miner’s hut routes (attached). This is a popular area long overdue for renovation according to the Townsville Bushwalking Club who believe the National Parks have also hoped to do this for a long time.
(Regional Ecosystem maps not available so that information is less informative)
- We suggest that the original path shown on JRH’s blueprint tracing be more or less reinstalled from Paluma to the point where it met the Paluma Dam road. I vaguely think that Paluma locals have long talked about doing this (Evergreen Rainforest).
- (consider including a side path branch west here to Running River via Puzzle Creek linking old logging tracks that are marked on maps)
- Investigate installation of a path to Johnstone’s Clearing along and beyond the nearby side road that heads eastwards. (Evergreen Rainforest) Camp at the clearing. (why was there never such a route established before, is it difficult country? Alternatively the route could follow around the southern edge of the dam.)
- Repair the existing route to Shays clearing. Side trip to Fozlee’s Lookout. (Evergreen Rainforest). Follow Benham’s track to Paluma Dam. (Evergreen Rainforest changes to Tall Bluegum Forest.) Camp
- Our guess is that Bentham’s track will be repaired along with circuits that include some of the foot tracks on the plateau east of the Dam and all will become very popular. The EPA has been thinking about repairing these old tin miners’ tracks for a long time. This effort is possibly long overdue.
- Continue to Waterview Ck (Jourama falls creek) at the high level waterfall/splits with it’s huge lagoon. (creek, Coastal Riverine Woodland, other ecosystems on the way uncertain). Hopefully find somewhere to camp near the rocky creek bed.
- (If Waterview creek could be flooding, or for a speedy trip continue along Bentham Track)
- Try to find a reasonable route upstream on the steep northern bank past the splits and back into the creek. Negotiating this by the seemingly similar southern bank was very difficult, steep and took hours. Follow the delightful Waterview Creek upstream (Coastal Riverine Woodland still) to the historic Jacobsen’s track. This track was probably the original bullock track to Paluma that linked through to Bluewater Range and down Forestry Road into Townsville.
- Follow Jacobsen’s gently graded track (mosaic of Evergreen Rainforest and tall Bluegum Open Forest), then go bush (actually are lots of timber tracks) to cross the upper Stone River and camp. Or go further on to Hidden Valley Creek) and on to the Exceed mine tracks that link to Mt Fox. or to the Seaview Range escarpment.
Paluma Access Ramps
- Bullocky Tom’s track may be the best (side walk to the water treatment plant on the way)
- 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.
- Fozlees track was never much.
- Bambaroo track is used, open forest section overgrows but the rainforest part can be followed.
- 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)
- 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.
- Jacobsen’s track would be a quick access route. Allendale Station apparently keep the gate locked.
Seaview Range. index
- Some areas here are impenetrable. Full on Stinging Trees. Has lilo’d down Garawalt Falls that are quite impressive.. this was OK. Somehow walk to here via Oak Hills, or Oak Creek. Other areas are impenetrable.
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???
- Circuits will be more popular than single tracks for short walks from popular carparks, even if only planned for later.
- Need at least daily access to drinking water, available for most of the year at campsites.
- Days of walking through closed forest can be very boring.
- Long dirt roads make great 4WD, trailbike and mountain bike tracks, not great walks.
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.
- Some just attend a "regional botanic garden wedding".
- Some just walk concrete river edge bike paths.
- Other like steeper exercise and relaxation tracks close to home.
- Many love short and varied ~1 km tracks to superb scenery on Mt. Stuart etc.
- Young people like short walks that visit swimming holes
- Families appreciate a picnic area and toilets.
- Many like longer day walks and overnight trips.
- Some want routes that explore where there are not any tracks at all.
Perhaps Townsville people can all experience bits of our natural assets:
- some themselves
- many know of others who have both walks and had a great experience
- others have only seen terrific posters or advertising and remembered how good it appears.
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
- concerns: ban rockclimbing for Dubouzetia reasons on the front pinnacle.
- top of Frederick's Peak, plants are very old and slow to recover from damage, e.g. axe damage.
- safety and the Frederick Peak razorback east ridge.
- public liability
- availability of rescue services, exit points and mobile phone range.
- Front Pinnacle, safety and falling rocks, rock screes south western side of front Pinnacle.
- Possible timber production from State Forests
- Removal of epiphytic orchids and other species from rainforests etc.
- Possible clearing or introduction of exotic timber species.
- need for fishing bans in inland creeks and lagoons…
- how are weeds like Lantana that are rife to be managed, other weeds
- lantana extending to grow over tracks
- what areas are to be high visitation, medium visitation, left alone and permission to enter very limited, how is this managed?
- drinking water and dehydration safety
- fire and safety
- flood, cliff, slippery waterfall, and landslide dangers
- accidental extra fires and fire management concerns
- rocks hidden in grass are difficult for most to walk through
- slippery creek boulders when wet.
- ban camping fires at designated campsites?
- getting around bureaucracy
- bush toilets or not and contamination issues
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)
Paluma residents (about Paluma area)
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)
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)
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.
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