Josephine Falls, Wooroonooran National Park

Josephine Falls, Wooroonooran National Park


Posted 2023-07-11 by Cris follow
Adventures in the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland.

Josephine Falls is a beautiful, tiered waterfall that originated from the rains falling on the highest mountain in Queensland, Mount Bartle Frere. Josephine Creek is just a trickle on the east side of Bartle Frere and becomes bigger when it descends tumbling down the mountain for about 7.5km over granite boulders, forming the scenic Josephine Falls. The creek then just flows into Russell River.

Josephine Falls is part of the extraordinary Wooroonooran National Park in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which extends for about 450 km between Cooktown and Townsville.

Josephine Falls has beautiful crystal clear water with stunning hues of green surrounded by the rainforest in the Wooroonooran National Park.

Josephine Falls Walking Trail.

From Josephine carpark, the easy and short trail takes the visitors to the falls. The trail is 1.2 km return, allow about 30 minutes. The trail runs in a luscious tropical rainforest with many trees. Near the falls there are viewing platforms where it is possible to admire Josephine Falls and take great photos of the beautiful waters, which have drawn people for a long time. Wheelchair access is available on the viewing deck at the top deck.

It is strictly forbidden to enter the restricted area, serious injuries and accidents have happened there.

A section of the trail leading to Josephine Falls.

Complex Mesophyll Vine Forest.

The walking track of Josephine Falls meanders in the rainforest known as complex mesophyll vine forest. This type of rainforest is very complex and features vegetation with large leaves, tree with buttress roots, strong woody vines, birds nest ferns, basket ferns and other epiphytes plants using tree trunks for support.

Many trees in the forest have buttresses.

The Dangers of Josephine Falls.

As soon as you approach Josephine Falls, you can see many signs warning of the dangers around the falls. The restricted area is off-limit due to the natural hazards, like sheer cliffs, slippery rocks, submerged rocks, water with variable depths and the ever-present possibility of sudden rapidly rising water. Unfortunately, over the years, at least 15 people have lost their life at the falls.

When it rains on the top of Mount Bartle Frere, Josephine Creek swells and rushes down at high speed and with force. Downstream, unaware people in the water may not have time to move away where it is safe and get overwhelmed by the furious waters.

In the falls there is a post indicating the depths of the water and on the gate to access the falls, there are red lights. When the red lights start to flash, it is time to leave the falls because a rush of water is coming down the mountain.

At the Babinda Information Centre, I learnt that every year at least one person doesn’t survive the falls. Often the drowned person gets stuck between boulders and it is necessary to wait for the water level to go down to retrieve the body. Very sad!

The orange sign in the water indicates the depth.

Colourful Wildlife in the Rainforest.

The animals who live in the forest generally present brilliant colours to stand out in the dim light and the omnipresent green of the vegetation. Colours are important because animals can recognise their own species, especially during the breeding season. Colourful birds and butterflies attract their mates with vivid colours in the dense forest.

The blue-banded eggfly, Hypolimnas alimena, is native to the Atherton Tablelands. The larvae feed on Pseuderanthemum variabile, a plant of the rainforest.

Life in Rushing Waters.

Animals have adapted in many ways to live in fast-flowing waters, presenting grasping legs, hooks and suction pads. The larvae of dragonflies and damselflies feature a flattened body, to lie low in pockets of calm waters. Tadpoles of the Australian lacelid frog has a large mouth disk which it uses to grip on the rocks and feed on algae.

Australian lace-lid. Image credit

Aboriginal Life Before the Arrival of Europeans.

The Indigenous people called Mount Bartle Frere Chooreechillum and lived around the upper part of Russell River and at the foothill of Bartle Frere. The life of the Noongyanbudda Ngadjon people was embedded with the forest, the animals and the seasons.

The groups of Aboriginal used to live near the places where they could gather seasonal food and shelters were made with branches, bark and large leaves. They ate nuts, fruit, tubers, fish, scrub turkey, eggs, possums and carpet snakes. When the nuts were abundant, the Indigenous people put them underground, to uncover them later. The Aboriginal knew to hunt fish when certain plants were in bloom.

The Aboriginal people followed strict rules about hunting wildlife. They would eat only male animals and never during the breeding season. They did not kill female animals. The hunting was preceded by ceremonies to ask permission from the animals' spirits before killing the animals for food.

Families had totems, which define people's relationships with creation. Aboriginal people shared the land with plants and animals.

Christie Palmerstone was an explorer and prospector and travelled on the upper part of Russell River. He came in contact with the Aboriginal and ask their help to climb Mount Bartle Frere. Palmerston recorded in his diaries many aspects of the Aboriginal culture.

Palmerston discovered gold in the upper part of the Russell River and that caused a gold rush, but it did not last long because it was hard to obtain the gold. Many miners soon abandoned the hard gold fields.

With the arrival of more European, gradually the Aboriginal men ended up working for European miners, farmers and timber getters, while women worked as domestic helpers. At the beginning of the 20th century, the lands that were originally of the Noongyanbudda Ngadjon were mined, and farms and trees were cut down. The forests were seen as a hostile environment to convert into something useful and they were destroyed, the same forests that, for thousands of years, fed and protected the Aboriginal people.

Then later on, the mentality started to change and in 1921 the forests were recognised as a patrimony to protect and Mount Bartle Frere and Bellanden Ker Range were declared national parks.

Aboriginal weapons and tools, photo taken by the Author in the Mareeba Museum.

How to get to Josephine Falls.

From Atherton Town, drive east to Gordonvale via Gillies Range Road, and then head south on the Bruce Hwy. Gillies Range Road is very winding, the trip takes 1.5 hours, 107km.

It is possible to reach Josephine Falls from Atherton Town going south, via Malanda and Millaa Millaa towns, and then go north travelling on the Palmerston Hwy. Turn right onto Bartle Frere Road, on Price Road and then on Josephine Falls Road. At the end of Josephine Falls Road, there is a carpark and facilities. It takes about 1.5 hours, 121km and it is a much better driving experience.

Facilities at Josephine Falls include a shed under cover, picnic tables, coin-operated barbeque and toilets.

The sign indicates the start of Josephine Falls walk.

More articles by the Author.

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222437 - 2023-07-11 08:05:41


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