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Published April 28th 2021
A walk with informative signposts and amazing views
A short trail in Paluma Village with lots of history about a radar station in WWII and the construction of the road during the Great Depression.
While my first day in Paluma was a glorious sunny clear day, the second-day Paluma Village, true to its name, was wrapped in clouds. It was great to experience two different types of weather in Paluma.
The start of McClelland's Lookout Walk in the mist. Photo by Author.
I went to the east side of Paluma Village to discover McClelland's Lookout. I walked to Mount Spec Rd, where there is a signpost with the history of the area. The McClelland's Lookout is about 300m from the starting of the trail, where it is possible to enjoy extensive views of Halifax Bay and Palm Islands on a clear day.
An American Invasion
In March 1942, Townsville schools were closing down, with women and children evacuated to Brisbane. Japanese forces pressing south towards northern Australia were a real threat of invasion. Until the construction of concrete igloos for permanent RAAF radar stations, soldiers from the US Army's 565th Signal Battalion provided vital radar coverage of the Coral Sea from a portable station located at McClelland's Lookout.
Four men staffed each four-hour shift. The timber rotating tower provided almost 180 degrees of efficient radar operation. At 60 feet high and 15 feet wide, it looked like a giant Hills Hoist. Their unstaffed radio telegraph station was at Witt's Lookout, back-up to the tenuous telephone connection to Townsville via a single copper wire strung on trees up the mountainside.
Although the Americans admit to being fairly informal most of the time, their radar operators claim to have been the first to detect Japanese bombers flying south on their first raid on Townsville in July 1942. - from the signpost.
More than a view
McClellands lookout commemorates the overseer who built Paluma Road and the bridge across Little Crystal Creek during the 1930s. McClelland and his family lived in a tent during this time-their last campsite was about 200m from the picnic area.
Lobbying to build the road took place over more than 30 years. Access for tin miners, timber cutters, farmers and tourists, along with more general ideas of progress and settlement were just some of the arguments for its construction.
In 1875, tin was discovered and, with Aboriginal footpaths being the only tracks in the area, the lack of access became a problem. By 1928, the value of the rainforest and open forest timbers had been identified and Mt Spec State Forest had been declared- increasing the need for access.
Growth of vehicle ownership spawning local car clubs added to the push to find a track up the range, with wealthy businessmen from Townsville and Ingham lobbying the government. The push was led by Townsville's Mayor W Green, who was convinced a road would also provide access to a reliable water supply for his thirsty city.
In the end, it was the State Government's need to deliver unemployment relief during the Great Depression that secured the construction of the road. Thousands of men were employed for periods of 6-10 weeks as part of the unemployment, including McClelland and his gangers, pay clerks and a few truck drivers. - from the signpost.
The McClelland's Lookout is about 300m from the start of the trail. The walk is about 5 km long including McClelland's Lookout, Cloudy Creek, Witt's Lookout and Andre Griffin Trail. Allow two hours. You must have a certain amount of fitness to enjoy this walk. Hiking boots or hiking shoes are strongly recommended.
The start of the McClelland's Lookout in Mount Spec Rd. Photo by Author.
Tropical rainforests are home to hundreds of species of trees. Flowers and leaves are mostly in the canopy so species are hard to recognise. Two easily identified species are the ironwood with its smooth, mottled trunk and the paperback satinash with its reddish flaking bark. Sometimes it can be hard to see trunks as they can be covered in moss, lichens and vines, known as a symbiotic relationship. - from the signpost.
Spreading buttress roots like those of this quandong are found on many rainforest trees. Scientists believe trees do this to help the tree take oxygen from the air as roots are often in shallow, waterlogged soil.
The roots help to retain leaf litter around the tree base to provide essential nutrients.
The roots help stabilise the tree in soggy ground, the wider the base, the less likely the tree is to fall. - from the signpost.
There is an upper and a lower Witt's lookout. Photo by Author.
Would be very helpful if the geographical locale was listed in articles. Had to Google to find out where Paluma Village actually is - sounded rather nice to visit but useless getting excited when it is far north Queensland when the reader is in Brisbane. The author may know where they are but, unless it is stated, no-one else does.