About Blencoe Falls
Blencoe Falls was a waterfall that Julie and I went on a bit of an adventure to visit. Even though it shared Girringun National Park (also known as Lumholtz National Park) with Wallaman Falls, access to Blencoe was a very non-trivial affair as it took us a good three hours of rough driving to even get to the car park for the falls (see directions below). This drive included a few scary sections where we probably would have been better off with a high clearance vehicle instead of our low clearance 2wd passenger vehicle. It took us equally as long to get back to civilization so we spent a minimum of six hours of driving.
So was it all worth it?
Well, what lured Julie and I to this remote waterfall in the first place was that it featured prominently on the reality TV show Survivor in its second season, which took place in the Australian Outback. More specifically, it was where the tribal council took place, which was right at the top of this remote falls.
As for Blencoe Falls itself, Blencoe Creek initially plunged some 90m before cascading another 230m (as you can see from the photo at the top of this page). These three major stages were what made this waterfall a relatively hidden giant though its flow seemed to reflect an increasingly diminishing flow as Far North Queensland was transitioning from the Wet Season of the Australian Summer to the Dry Season of the Australian Winter. Our visit took place in mid-May 2008. Shortly downstream of the dramatic waterfall, Blencoe Creek then fed the Herbert River, whose gorge we were also able to see as we walked towards the overlook that yielded the best views of the falls.
Speaking of the walk, it was a mere 200m from the car park to the lookout platform at its end. In addition to the regal view of all of the waterfall’s tiers, we also noticed some hardy hoop pine trees, which were said to be abundant during the days of the dinosaurs and were now only found in rugged gorges like this one where they would be less prone to fire. This walk was sufficient for us to get the feel of the rugged Australian Outback as neither Julie nor I felt we were hardy nor self-sufficient enough to endure an extended multi-day stay here, let alone do the even longer walks in the area. Although there were primitive bush camping sites (one of which seemed to be as close to the tribal council location that you could legally stay at), we were merely content to spend 40 minutes here before intrepidly heading back out towards civilization.
Since most of this adventure was during the long drive, we did notice quite a bit of wildlife as well as free-roaming cattle. Amongst the fauna we witnessed, there were at least 5 gray kangaroos, 1 wallabie, 2 emus, and lots of cows. We even saw a flattened section of bush that seemed to be the remnants of damage from Cyclone Larry. Indeed, Nature was in charge in this part of the country, yet the amazing thing about our visit was that we weren’t the only ones who were at Blencoe Falls as we shared the experience with one other guy who was about to spend some time alone bush camping here!
There were a couple of approaches to Blencoe Falls that we were aware of.
The first approach was a dry-weather only 4wd route just north of Cardwell at Kennedy (I believe it would start from Kennedy Creek Rd), which led some 71km west to the rugged 4wd turnoff leading south to the falls car park itself. Unfortunately, according to some locals we’d spoken to at Cardwell, Cyclone Larry made this road so bad that 2wd vehicles (which we were driving) shouldn’t even bother. So we didn’t go this way, and we can’t say more about it.
So we took the longer approach from the north just west of the remote dusty town of Mt Garnet. From the town of Millaa Millaa, we took our 2wd rental vehicle along the Hwy 25 (Millaa Millaa-Malanda Rd/East Evelyn Rd) towards the Kennedy Hwy (Hwy 1), and then we followed Hwy 1 south and west towards Ravenshoe. Continuing west of Ravenshoe, we then passed through Mt Garnet (73km from Millaa Millaa). At about 3km west of Mt Garnet, we then left the Kennedy Hwy and turned left onto the unsealed Gunnawarra Rd.
We followed the sandy Gunnawarra Rd for about 30km to a junction after following the signs at each junction. Then, we kept right at this junction and then made a left at the following turnoff about 3.1km later. After 2.3km, we kept right and then kept right again another 2.7km later (again, we were following the signs at each junction). Nearly 15km later, we kept left and then continued on the rough road as it curved east over the next 30km or so crossing the Herbert River in which the water level was actually low enough for us to get across without issue, but the rockiness of the riverbed was killer on our low clearance 2wd vehicle. There were also a few small mud patches that still managed to retain some water from recent late season rains.
Finally, we reached a signed junction to our right, which was the final 5.2km stretch to Blencoe Falls. Unfortunately, this stretch of road was the roughest of them all and the signs were correct in warning that high clearance vehicles were recommended for this route. A particularly hairy stretch involved going over a hill where just beyond its apex was a large hole that was deep enough to scrape the underside of the car. This would be an issue going in the other direction (on the way out) as the hill was steep enough that we needed momentum to make it up the hill. Unfortunately, we couldn’t just slow down over the hole to avoid scraping the car’s underside, then try to go up over the hill without the momentum. So by gunning it, we ultimately pried loose the dust cover (protecting the oil pan).
Eventually, the car park was at the end of this rugged stretch of road. As mentioned earlier, the route that we took consumed a solid three hours in each direction. We definitely would not have even entertained driving this route if there was even the slightest threat of rain as we would very easily have been stuck in the mud or at the river crossings.
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