What could be more fun than a bush walk through rainforest on a track that features an abandoned railway bridge, a freshwater swimming hole, a suspension bridge, and the chance to spot a Platypus? The Peterson Creek walking track at Yungaburra has all of these things. There’s also abundant bird life and butterflies too!
The Peterson Creek track takes about 1-2 hours and is considered a Grade 2 walk, meaning no bushwalking experience is required, though there are some steep sections (and, let’s face it, not everyone is going to like the suspension bridge). We chose to start the circuit at the roundabout in front of St Patrick’s Church. After a short walk along Mulgrave Road, we turned left onto a grassy corridor – where the railway line once ran.
The Tolga to Atherton section of the Cairns to Ravenshoe railway line was opened in 1903 and a branch line from Tolga to Yungaburra opened in 1910. The rail bridge over Peterson Creek was completed in 1958 when part of the branch line was rerouted to make way for the Tinaroo Dam. In fact, three steel bridges were constructed for this line across Peterson Creek, Barron River and Mazlin Creek. The bridge over Peterson Creek spans 78 metres; its steel girders sit 28 metres above the creek bed, supported by concrete piers. Its use was very short-lived, as the line closed in 1964.
The track then begins to climb slightly, and follows the path of the creek along an elevated ridge. After negotiating a steep pinch down stone steps and crossing a footbridge over a ravine, we were rewarded with a surprising vista when the bush track opened on to a sunny little glade next to a swimming hole. Frawley’s Pool was named after a local schoolteacher named Mick Frawley, who reportedly taught many children how to swim there. A shady little stream running beside the grassed picnic area completed the delightful scene.
Further along, a short diversion down a sidetrack takes you to Williams Weir, and the site of a water wheel turbine, which used to supply power to the village of Yungaburra. A point of interest for lovers of old machinery, is an old Fitz-Burnham turbine, on the site of an old pump house, which was used to pump water from the creek up to the village.
Perhaps the most fun part of the walk is traversing Lloyd’s Suspension Bridge, which spans 30 metres across Peterson Creek. Planned by Yungaburra Landcare Group, it was engineered by Robert Colefax, designed and built by John Nott and privately funded by Lloyd Abell. A sign warns that no more than 10 people at a time should be on the bridge. I think I prefer one person at a time, as the timber platform sways quite significantly under your feet. Understandably so – it’s a suspension bridge after all. I suspect visiting children love its wobbliness.
On the other side of the bridge the track hugs the creek line, and its here that you are very likely to spot a Platypus – if you’re quiet, and you stop for long enough. We did see one, but it darted through the murky water so fast, I only got a (very) blurry photo. Plenty of Saw-shelled Turtles were posing for photos though. The trail meanders a little further on, skirting the boundary fence of adjoining farmland, then you walk underneath the road bridge (on the Gillies Highway) and then up to the Platypus Viewing Platform, which is basically the end of the track. We’ve never actually seen a Platypus from this viewing platform, perhaps because there is so much noise from the traffic on the road right beside it.
The Peterson Creek walk is also known as an area where the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo can be seen, but we lucked out on this occasion. The Yungaburra Landcare Group have spent decades rehabilitating the Peterson Creek area, revegetating endangered forest plants and maintaining the walking track, and the sheer beauty of the place is testament to their efforts.