History of Paluma, Mount Spec
We can trace the European history of the Mount Spec area back to the year 1875. Alluvial tin was discovered on Running River in 1875 and from that date, comes the spread of first prospecting and then larger scale mining into the Kangaroo hills and Paluma Range area, of which Mount Spec is the dominant feature. From roughly 1895 to the turn of the century came a period of intensive mining activity. It encompassed three areas: Kangaroos Hills, Mount Spec and Star River. The peak of the boom was reached in 1905, but from then on the decline was rapid. The Mount Spec area was worked exclusively for tin but the Kangaroo Hills area yielded copper, silver-lead and wolfram, as well as tin in large quantities. The Star River area was worked for its silver deposits.
The Paluma Range is an offshoot of Hervey Range, and was named from HMS Paluma, an early Government survey ship. The demarcation point between Hervey Range and Paluma Range is Rollingstone Gap. Surprisingly, there is no definite authority as to the naming of Mount Spec. Queensland place name expert, Mr Sidney May of Ipswich, says there are two theories. One, and the more likely, is that the name is derived from the name of a horse. Right through to the early part of the century, provisions were taken to the top of the mountain by pack horse teams. One of the horses in a particular team, probably the team leader, is said to have had a white star or speck on its head and was called Old Speck. The theory is that the horse could be seen in the distance because of its 'speck' and that gradually the miners and packers applied the name to the mountain itself.
Activities of miners and packers in the area resulted in the opening of a network of interlocking and interconnecting pack horse tracks. Within only the recent past, those tracks have been added to by timber cutters and loggers. Pack tracks can be distinguished by the distinctive hoof marks left still on roots and stumps, on the tracks.
The commencement of mining activity in the Running River-Mount Spec area coincided, independently, with the development of sugar plantation activity in what is now the Herbert River area.
Probably the first to work tin in the Mount Spec Range and jungle area were the Goringe Brothers, two surveyors who left their jobs when they found a tin lode in the mountain scrub. They put through a wagon track from Hidden Valley to the Paluma Range. With teams, they pulled in a small battery and worked it for several months in the scrub with a team plant. However, the lode proved unsatisfactory and the area too difficult and the battery was dismantled and hauled out into the open forest of Hidden Valley to operate on a big low-grade tin lode.
Goringe Brothers Road from Hidden Valley to Mount Spec carried wagon traffic but tracks into the Paluma Range from the coast were for pack teams or foot traffic only.
Those who blazed their way into the tangle of range spurs from the coast, left their names on the tracks they opened and in map land marks. The Benham Brothers, Gard Brothers, Jack Johnson, Sid Jacobsen, Phil Foxlee, and 'Bullocky Tom' Andrews are all remembered in this way. Sid Jacobsen opened his track from Francis Creek over the Range to Hidden Valley. Benham's Track was opened by the Benham brothers in connection with the many mining ventures with which Arthur and his brothers were associated. The family name is commemorated in Mount Benham, Ethel Creek and Benham Falls. Arthur originally maintained the clearing at what became known as 'Cloudy Clearing' and what is now the Paluma township. He is credited with opening the track through to Cloudy Creek.
Phil Foxlee opened his track over an arduous route from Saltwater (now Crystal Creek) passing along the range at the lookout which bears his name and connecting with the other network at Mount Spec. These tracks were opened in the 1880-1890 period. Henry Bell established a store near Moongobulla (Ollera Creek) in the 1890s. His sons operated pack teams back into the ranges.
Only the tracks remain to mark the passing of the prospectors and miners, the packers and teamsters. Hundreds of men walked into the Range with stores and tools on their backs. It was an area of loneliness and privation. Each clearing or old settlement has its graves, some marked, some unmarked.
Aboriginal tribes in the early days were numerous in the coastal area at the foot of the range and an old Aboriginal burial ground is located on the slopes of Mount Ruth. There is no record of native attacks in the immediate area - the nearest being at Pappin's Road and Hidden Valley.
Forestry activity in the Mount Spec area is relatively recent. An area of about 65,000,000 acres of Mount Spec was proclaimed a timber reserve on November 5, 1921. Subsequently in 1937, the Forestry Department initiated action for a National Park Reservation at Mount Spec of about 22,430 acres. These were the reasons advanced in support of the request: The area possessed outstanding scenic attraction; magnificent panoramic views were obtainable; the many boulder-strewn watercourses dropping quickly to the coast through virgin Northern jungle and forest country made the area an ideal one to preserve in its natural condition.
The present road to Paluma was largely completed by 1935. Construction was undertaken as a Depression unemployment relief project. Most work was done by men with picks and shovels, mostly labour intensive, with up to 180 men employed at a time. The masonry arch bridge over Little Crystal Creek was built at this time, with stone quarried from Barrett's Bluff, not far past Crystal Creek. A series of guest houses and camping grounds were established along the length of the road during its construction. As construction teams moved slowly up the mountain building the road, they built ten tent camps. One team would work up the mountain from their camp while the other would work down to meet them from a higher camp. They would then abandon camp and move on and up.
McClelland's Lookout (The Loop) was named after the Main Roads Officer-in-Charge of the construction of the Paluma Road.
Mount Spec National Park was proclaimed in 1952 and was included in the World Heritage Wet Tropics Area in 1989 World Heritage Listing is only awarded to areas of exceptional natural and cultural value and provides for the protection of the natural values, conservation for the future and presentation to the public.