Location: Paluma Range National Park
Article: Written by Damien Burrows; Imagery by Damien Burrows & Michael Pugh
Directions: Access is via Private Property or Paluma Walking Trails (http://paluma.org/attractions/walking-tracks)
Have you ever driven down the Bruce Highway from Ingham to Townsville and just south of Jourama Falls, noticed the large series of waterfalls cascading down the mountain on the western side of the highway. This series of waterfalls appears to cover >1km in distance and are located on the aptly named Waterfall Creek (not to be confused with Waterview Creek to the immediate north which houses Jourama Falls).
One of better-known features of Waterfall Creek are Diorite Falls, in its upper reaches, which can be easily reached on-trail from Paluma Dam as part of the Paluma trail network (see http://paluma.org/attractions/walking-tracks). These falls are at least a 2hr walk each way from Paluma Dam. The distance to Diorite Falls (1.5hr driving to Paluma Dam, then >2hr walking), the difficulty of the creekline, and the long car shuffle required at the end) would make this a very long and challenging day trip. Three of us decided to avoid the long walk-in and car shuffle, by starting at the bottom of Waterfall Creek. Within a few minutes of leaving the car (on private property, organized with permission of the landowner), we were into a beautiful, shady creekline. Despite being early December, and with the rains not yet started, the creek was flowing strongly. The rocks were dry and we were able to safely bounce along – a real joy. Despite not having gained any height, it was surprisingly cool along the creekline, something we have found with many of our summertime creekline hikes.
After an hour of rock-hopping, our jaws dropped when we suddenly happened upon a large, beautiful swimming hole with a small, but strongly flowing waterfall at its head. This was the cue for our first of many swims for the day. The waterfall was one of those where you can easily sit behind the curtain of water and get a back massage, both of which we took turns in enjoying. This waterfall alone, we all agreed, would make the day worthwhile, but little did we realise that this was only the entrée – a portent of greater sights to come. As we continued upstream, ascending and scrambling our way over rocky boulders and taking the occasional foray into the forest around obstacles, we came across more small waterfalls and swimming pools. The flow of water in this creek, so late in the dry season, really impressed us, and we have hiked nearly all the creeks emanating from Paluma Range. Upon the top of one large rock, we were able to see the coastal plains below us and all the way due north to the prominent rocky spires of Hinchinbrook Island. Knowing that we were still below 200m elevation and that we had not yet reached the waterfalls visible from the highway, we speculated about what magnificent sights lay ahead. Well, just 2hrs into our hike, and just upstream of the junction with Hillary Creek, we reached a series of three waterfalls, each with a swimming pool and contained within a narrow, heavily-shaded rocky gorge. Each on their own was a magnificent sight, but with all three visible in a series, it was a stunning scene. As magnificent a sight as they were, they also marked the end of our upstream progression. The high, steep gorge would have taken much time to go around and although we did manage to scale the waterfalls (to ~260m elevation), this was slow and risky due to the slippery surfaces and we realised that many more waterfalls lay ahead. To scale these three waterfalls, we ditched our backpacks, swam across the pools and carefully ascended their sloping but slippery, flowing faces. After briefly exploring above the waterfalls, we swam in all their pools and then re-collected our gear and began our descent.
On the way back, we swam for a second time in the pool and waterfall that we had first encountered on the ascent. This was the location for the broken rope swim incident, live posted to TH&E Facebook page that day. We had not encountered any sign of humans all day, but this waterhole contained an old rope swing. Unfortunately, despite prior testing, the old rope broke and I tumbled (safely) into the deep water below. Upon our exit from the creekline into the open cane fields where our car was parked, we immediately realized just how much cooler it is along a shady creekline. We all agreed that this was among the most attractive creeklines we had hiked in the region.
Please note though – the lower reaches of this creek can only be accessed through private property by permission of the land owner, who, due to poor behavior by recent visitors to the creek, isn’t too keen on further visitors.