Are you a bit of a city slicker? Love to say you've been walkabout, but don't really want to venture too far from the comforting sounds of traffic in the distance? No problem! I have found just the trail walks - note plural - for you. Travelling along Steve Irwin Way - more than likely en route to Australia Zoo - I'm sure you have passed the Jowarra Section of the Mooloolah River National Park on the banks of the Mooloolah River umpteen times - much like the Wild Horse Mountain Lookout - we tend to drive past, thinking 'perhaps I'll stop by one day'.
A map of the entire Mooloolah River National Park as well as the Jowarra Section, showing the two distinct easy walks - Image: www.npsr.qld.gov
Well, this was my 'stop by one day'. I was determined to see what the Jowarra Section of the Mooloolah River National Park had in store for me and to my surprise, there was a lot more on offer than I initially expected. The Jowarra Section of the Mooloolah River National Park protects one of the few remaining coastal rainforest areas in the region. Jowarra is an important habitat for wildlife, including the wompoo fruit dove; the eastern yellow robin and the Richmond birdwing butterfly.
Is it, or isn't it? A Richmond birdwing butterfly?
The Richmond birdwing butterfly is one of Australia's largest butterflies with a wingspan of up to 16cm in females and 13cm in males. Females have dark brown or black wings with extensive white, cream or in the hindwing, yellowish markings. I managed to capture a butterfly in motion - I am not sure if it's the Richmond birdwing butterfly, but I can confirm it was the largest butterfly I have ever seen. Very exciting for me as the Richmond species is listed as 'vulnerable' in Queensland.
The Mooloolah River is home to platypus, which may be seen at dusk or dawn - though on the day we visited (late morning), this section of the river appeared to be fairly low on water, so perhaps the platypus move on to 'waterier' sections.
The Jowarra Section of the National Park on Steve Irwin Way offers plenty of parking for day trippers (like us) or an overnight respite for travellers passing through en route to more enticing pastures. This section offers a picnic area as well as toilet facilities and I'm sure is not patrolled in any way, meaning that travellers more than likely gain a freebie camping spot for a night or two.
There are two short, very easy walks leading from the rest area - the Mooloolah River Circuit (500 metres) and the Melaleuca Walk (1.3km return). The tracks for both walks are not sealed and in dry weather are actually wheelchair accessible. We managed to access both walks on the morning that we visited and despite having to listen to the traffic sounds from Steve Irwin Way, one could almost pretend that we had gone 'bush'. The walks were well signposted, so no fears of wandering off and getting lost; and the natural flora was indicated with an abundance of interesting 'nature' trivia for walkers to stop, read and enjoy.
Interesting signage indicating what happens within a rainforest
For instance, did you know? 'Many rainforest plants have adopted an aerial lifestyle - reaching and stretching upwards towards the natural light. Strangler figs develop from seeds deposited high in the tree branches by birds and bats. The Strangler fig then sends down cable-like roots to the forest floor in search of water and nutrients. These roots gradually branch out and enclose the host tree. As the fig's root system thickens it prevents the host tree from expanding its trunk. The Strangler's canopy also shades out the host tree and eventually starves the host to death, leaving the fig with a hollow trunk'.
Somehow the cannibalistic action of the Strangler Fig turns into a lattice work of art!
A cannibalistic tree? Sounds totally gross, doesn't it? My thoughts exactly…except, that the Strangler Fig trees somehow turn the action of what could be interpreted as cannibalism, into lattice works of art, in amongst the tree-scape.
Whilst walking, look out for the fallen tree trunks! When a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear? When a rainforest tree falls, it leaves a gap in the canopy allowing extra light to reach the forest floor. The warm, moist conditions cause the fallen tree to decay rapidly and provide food and shelter for insects, termites and fungi.
Extra light peeping through from above the Eucalyptus grandis - a magnificent tree!
You will find plenty of interesting educational tidbits along both walks, plus if you're into gigantic Moreton Bay Figs or Small-Leaved Figs or perhaps the mammoth Eucalyptus Grandis (Rose Gum), this is just the location to view some absolutely magnificent species. In most cases, one can barely tell the difference between the host tree and the Strangler Fig. Also look out for local wildlife - you never know who might surprise you… in plain sight!
Not quite a platypus, but a surprise Monitor nonetheless!
If you're looking for some not-too rigorous outdoor exercise and don't really want to leave the sounds of civilisation behind, I would suggest bookmarking both the Mooloolah River Circuit and the Melaleuca Walk at Mooloolah River National Park, for a quick and interesting sojourn, bushwalking!