World Heritage Area
Most southern part of the Wet Tropics
The traditional name for the Paluma Range is Munan Gumburu, which means ‘misty mountain’, an apt description as morning and evening mists are very common to cover the small village.
Approximately 74 per cent of Paluma Range National Park is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450km between Cooktown and Townsville.
The unique ecosystem of the wet tropics provides a habitat for a fascinating diversity of birdlife. It is a bird watchers paradise. Paluma is home to one of three Australia’s Birds of paradise and if you are lucky, you might spot the Victoria’s Riffle Bird out in the forest.
Tin Mining & Logging History
From mining to logging to recreation and eco-tourism
The first Europeans were miners, who came from the south-west, following tributaries of the Burdekin River from Charters Towers and Ravenswood in search of alluvial gold. Little gold was found around Mt Spec, but alluvial tin was found (in 1875). Later, at the turn of the twentieth century, tin ore was also mined from hard rock. Tin-mining continued until the 1980s, when the drop in the world price made it uneconomical.
From the very beginning of European settlement of the ranges, the scenic attractions of the area were noted, as was the cooler climate. Visitors to the area could camp out, or stay at “guesthouses” like Shay’s Hut near Mt Spec itself.
In the 1920s, the forest as an economic resource was noted, and State Forest 268 was declared in 1928. The rainforest was logged from the 1930s until the 1960s, with the 1988 declaration of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area preventing the second round of logging due to start in the 1990s.
The scenic qualities of the rainforest and the difficulties in getting tin and timber down the range were motivations for the construction of the Mt Spec Road as an unemployment relief project in the Great Depression. Clearing started near Ollera Creek in 1930, and the road reached the site of the new township of Paluma in 1935. The stone and concrete arch bridge over Little Crystal Creek reflects recognition of the aesthetics of the area.
Townsville’s water supply
Lake Paluma is a drinking water storage facility owned by NQ Water and is situated close to Mount Spec, high above the Paluma Range National Park. Lake Paluma has a capacity of 11,800 megalitres.
The dam is part of a unique water supply system that gravity feeds up to 50 megalitres of water per day to the city of Townsville. For most of the year water flowing from the Mount Spec part of the national park is collected and filtered at the Crystal Creek intake and then piped under gravity to Townsville. When Crystal Creek water levels are low, water is released into the creek from Lake Paluma via another gravity pipeline.
Lake Paluma is nestled among World Heritage listed, wet tropics rainforest. The lake is open for a range of nature based recreational activities such as canoeing, sailing and swimming. Lake Paluma is only accessible via a 12 kilometres gravel road just past the township of Paluma. Visitor facilities include picnic shelters and barbecues and bookings are essential. The area is home to the platypus, peregrine falcon, eastern water dragon and a range of rainforest fauna