Coopooroo Creek

Old Boonjie Road to Russel River take-out

Unverified! Steep Creek Advanced Waterfalls Autumn Winter CLASS III CLASS IV


Far North Queensland. Malanda

Contributed by Fraser Johnson


Class: III - IV (p)

Season: Generally end of Wet Season (Aprilish) or when it rains a bit

Gradient: 30m/km

Time: Long day maybe overnight

Length: Coopooroo about 4.5 km, then about 14 km on the Russel

Level: You wonít know the exact level until you have hiked in. As a guide Russel River around 2.5m (Bucklands gauge). Check the Russel River railway bridge on the Bruce Hwy. There is very small window with regards to the level. About 2 inches below the block is a good level, about 2 inches over is very high. 8 inches below will probably see the Russel really low and you may need to walk the gravel races

Gauge: Bucklands gauge

Shuttle: 1 hour 40 mins, one way. (Palmerston Hwy). Good roads / gravel

Character: Magnificent creek which is box canyon in places. Lots of cool waterfalls. There are 3 or 4 portages

Suits: River runner / creek boats. Has been done in playboats, although could be a bit dodgy, and unpleasant for all the flats on the Russel. Confident class IV boaters as quite remote

Magnificent creek which is box canyon in places. Lots of cool waterfalls. There are 3 or 4 portages.

Russel: Two waterfalls and lots of class III, but also lots of flat water.

One rapid (The Cauldron) of particular note is a nice little waterfall, although the bottom isnít so nice. There is no portage option available! Safety cover is not possible! A higher level trip saw a boat recirculate in the cauldron for about 10 minutes.

Going from other footage it is much easier at a lower level. Check timeline 2:50 on the video below, this was a highish level.

This difficult inspection point is the best view you can get.

Note: The gradient listed on this video is incorrect. It is not over 100m/km!

Ponytail falls (about a 35 footer) is the biggest drop of the day, and is awesome fun. At lower levels the lead-in rapid is a relatively easy boof.

Ponytail Falls. Awesome! Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Ponytail Falls. Awesome!

At higher levels itís very much borderline. Getting the lead-in wrong can see you end up under a big undercut, where at least a couple of paddlers have been.

Ponytail Falls lead-in rapid. Big undercut on the right. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Ponytail Falls lead-in rapid. Big undercut on the right!

Portage option for lead-in rapid: Lower boat to the sloping ledge on river-left between the lead-in and the falls. One person (anchored to a tree above) can have a rope through tail loop and release once paddler is good to go. Last person needs to belay down with boat and can have rope through tail loop, side and / or front anchor points, with 3 or 4 Ďturnsí to create plenty of friction, followed by a simple quick-release thumb knot. Once you have your deck on simply release thumb knot and Ďbendsí and away you go. Donít have too much Ďtailí which needs to un-thread as you slide off the ledge. Take a rope youíre prepared to leave there.

Ponytail Falls (left) lead-in portage. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Ponytail Falls (left) lead-in portage

Coopooroo Creek track access. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Coopooroo Creek track access

Putting In: Old Boonjie Road (from Malanda take Glen Allyn Road. Google map it). End of the road is a gate. Go back 500 metres, park near where the bush joins the road (thereís a power pole there). Walk the tree-line for about 800m and you see an an vehicle track. Follow the pink ribbons. Take the one to the right (downhill), Follow the narrow track (and pink ribbons) to the river. Total walk-in is about 2.8 kms. Itís rainforest, wear bug spray for the leeches.

Taking Out: Golden Hole, Russel River take-out, which is about 45 minutes south of Cairns. 2km South of Miriwinni turn off the Bruce Hwy onto Bartle Frere Road. Follow Bartle Frere, Price and Biggs Roads for about 10km and you arrive at Golden Hole with picnic shelters and toilet block.

Map: Malanda 1:50000 and Bartle Frere 1:50000

Google Map:

Camping: Malanda Falls caravan park

Entry Date: April 29 2012


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