The Juwun and Jambal walks provide challenging walking adventures. All of the Wet Tropics Great Walk tracks have been given traditional language names by the Traditional Owners.
Juwun walk — 43.5km one way (allow 4–6 days) Grade: difficult
The Juwun walk is a strenuous walk through the Herbert River Gorge. From Blencoe Falls, walkers travel through open forest before steeply descending into the Herbert River Gorge to Blanket Creek walkers' camp. From here walkers follow the river to the Yamanie pick-up point. There is no designated walking track along the gorge beyond Blanket Creek. The Juwun walk is suitable for experienced, self-sufficient walkers with a high level of fitness.
Jambal walk — 20.6km return (allow 2 days) Grade: difficult
The Jambal walk is for experienced, self-sufficient hikers. The Jambal walk follows the Juwun walk through open forest and into the Herbert River Gorge. Walkers then camp overnight at Blanket Creek walkers' camp before returning the same way.
Following is an overview of the Juwun walk broken into sections identified by natural landmarks. The notes are written from the Blencoe Falls end so reverse the notes if starting at the Yamanie pick-up point. The distances are approximate and depend on the route that you take. Allow 4–6 days to complete the walk.
For those undertaking the shorter Jambal walk (two days), follow the Juwun walk from Blencoe Falls to Blanket Creek and then return the same way.
Walk times are approximate only. They are based on an average walker travelling in good conditions. You will need to adjust these times to suit your group’s level of experience and fitness. The times are for walking only. Remember to allow plenty of extra time for rest stops, meal breaks and sightseeing.
Beyond Blanket Creek, no specific camping sites have been identified. Walkers are permitted to camp anywhere along the walk in the gorge between Blanket Creek and Orange Tree by booking 'Herbert River Gorge camping zone'.
Note: There is no designated walking track in the gorge.
Blencoe Falls to Blanket Creek — 10.5km (about 4.5–5hrs)
The Juwun and Jambal walks start to the east of the Blencoe Falls camping area, marked by an information sign. Ensure you carry adequate drinking water for the day’s walk. There is no reliable water source available between the Blencoe Falls camping area and Blanket Creek.
Wind your way through 9km of open forest before reaching the escarpment. This countryside may appear dry and desolate, but there is a lot to see. Look for emus and kangaroos resting from the heat and listen for laughing kookaburras or screeching sulphur-crested cockatoos.
This country is rugged and one of extremes. During the dry season, the land is parched and vulnerable to fire. Grasses dry out and some trees lose their leaves, giving the appearance of a dying landscape. With the arrival of the wet season, the countryside is inundated with water and the plants spring back to life.
The track winds its way to the top of the escarpment above Blanket Creek before dropping steeply onto the banks of the Herbert River that is lined with shady she-oak trees. This is Blanket Creek walkers' camp, your home for the night. Beware! As refreshing as a dip may seem, do not swim as the river is home to estuarine crocodiles.
Note: Visitors undertaking the Jambal walk stay overnight at Blanket Creek walkers' camp before returning by the same track to Blencoe Falls camping area the next day.
Blanket Creek to Smoko Creek — 5.5km (about 3hrs)
After a good night’s rest under the stars, follow the Herbert River as it leads you towards your destination. At the start of the day’s walk you will need to cross over to the southern side of the river, upstream of Blanket Creek walkers' camp. A suggested crossing point has been marked on the map.
Not far from Blanket Creek, there is a long series of shallow rapids. This challenging stretch of river has been affectionately named the Rock Garden by the many canoeists it has caught out.
Through the middle of the gorge runs the Herbert River that provides a permanent source of water for wildlife. Look for fishing sea-eagles and basking estuarine crocodiles as you walk.
Estuarine or saltwater crocodiles are an important part of north Queensland’s wetlands, and fresh water and marine areas. They are often the largest predator in these habitats and help to maintain the overall health and balance of these ecosystems. Estuarine crocodiles live in the tidal reaches of rivers, as well as in fresh water lagoons, swamps and waterways up to hundreds of kilometres from the sea. They are most active at night.
Rocky surfaces can make the trip through the gorge slow and difficult. In places, animal trails may make the walking easier. Keep watch for cattle and pigs. Never startle or approach these animals and ensure they have a clear path to the scrub.
Melaleucas and blue gums frame the point where the seasonal Smoko Creek runs into the Herbert River from the north-east. At the junction, boulders, metres high are scattered across the river. Water and time have left these rocks perfectly smooth.
Smoko Creek to the Big W — 5km (about 4hrs)
The river straightens from Smoko Creek. The walls of the gorge no longer appear as tall and the river flattens out into a wide shallow pool. Large open flats are broken by a number of dry creek beds running into the Herbert River, along its southern banks.
Keep watch for bird life such as cormorants and sulphur-crested cockatoos. Sea-eagles and falcons also reside in the gorge. Sea-eagles feed on freshwater turtles, fishing them from the river. Rings of empty turtle shells can be found in the “drop zones” beneath the eagles’ nests or favourite perches.
Just when you think that this straight stretch of river will go on forever, you reach a large bend. This is the start of the Big W. Here, the gorge walls close in again. Take a moment to look back upstream, and enjoy the spectacular rock formations.
An impassable bluff exists on the southern side of the river in the Big W. Please ensure you cross to the northern side of the river before reaching the Big W. Refer to the map for a suggested crossing point.
The Big W to Yamanie Creek — 10km (about 8hrs)
There is a marked change in vegetation throughout the “W”. Along most of the river, she-oaks, bottlebrush, figs and sarsaparilla line the river banks. These plants rely on high water levels to survive. The Herbert River floods each year and these plants have adapted to periods of inundation.
Flood waters are powerful and these plants must withstand the force of up to 20m of water rushing down the gorge. Through time, they have developed strategies to cope with these extreme conditions. Plant roots entwine around rocks, anchoring them to the ground. Leichhardt trees can re-shoot if they are broken or flattened in a flood. The stunted appearance of other plants indicates just how tough life in the gorge can be.
In the Big W, stands of paperbarks start to appear. Large flats of couch grass can also be seen on the southern side of the river. After rain and grazing by cattle, the grass looks like a manicured lawn.
Yamanie Creek to Orange Tree — 5.5km (about 3hrs)
Yamanie Creek runs into the Herbert River on the northern side. The mouth of the creek can be difficult to see from the river. Take a detour to the spectacular Yamanie Falls. See map for suggested crossing point. It should take about 1.5hrs to walk the 1.8km stretch along Yamanie Creek to the falls. Along the way you will come across a fork in the creek. Keep to the right-hand side.
As you approach the falls, the boulders get bigger. At the base of the falls, look up — spectacular sheer cliffs frame the creek. From the top of the escarpment, Yamanie Creek plunges in a single drop from the cliff top into a pool below. From here, the falls separate into five drops that tumble into a crystal-clear rock pool. As you get closer to the bottom of the falls, large boulders create crevices and walkways to explore. Above, climbing pandanus cling to small ledges and crevices in the rock face.
Returning to the Herbert River, there is an impassable bluff opposite the mouth of Yamanie Creek, on the southern side of the river. Generally, the easiest walking is on the northern bank of the river.
Where the seasonal Herkes Creek runs into the Herbert River, there is a distinctive rocky bend filled with rapids. The river then straightens into a second long pool before reaching another set of rapids.
Note: To connect with the remainder of the track, ensure you cross to the southern bank of the river at the top of these rapids. Refer to the map .
Orange Tree to Yamanie pick-up point — 7km (about 2hrs)
At Orange Tree, on the southern side of the river, follow the walking track through open forest along the banks of the Herbert River. Keep your eyes and ears open for resident wildlife. Listen for the noisy chatter of scaly-breasted lorikeets or the deep, gruff call of wompoo fruit-doves.
Small gullies are scattered throughout the open forest. If you look carefully, you might catch a glimpse of brilliant blue Ulysses butterflies or forest kingfishers as they seek sanctuary from the heat.
This country is special. It is the western boundary of the mahogany glider’s habitat. Only recently re-discovered to science, the nocturnal mahogany glider is an endangered species with only a tiny part of its habitat remaining.
The track winds back to the Herbert River where you must cross one last time. Resident crocodiles live in this part of the river. Always remain on the track and only cross the river at the marked location. Avoid travelling along the bank near sections of deep water as crocodiles may be encountered in dense grass and shrubs.
Rainforest plants such as quandongs, candlenut and figs merge into the open forest, eventually closing the canopy along the last 2km of the track. You will appreciate the shade and cooler temperatures for the last part of the walk.
This area was used extensively for grazing cattle by previous land managers. Many cattle still inhabit the area.
The Juwun and Jambal walks are remote and isolated. Walkers must be well prepared and responsible for their own safety. Consider your ability and the track conditions carefully before setting out.
Remember to tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. Let them know your route and contact them on your return. Have a contingency plan in place if you fail to contact them by the agreed time. If you change your plans, inform them.
- Never walk alone. Small groups of four are ideal.
- Carry adequate drinking water. Treat water collected from creeks and rivers and know how to Be crocwise in croc country.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt, even on cloudy days.
- Creek beds and rocky surfaces can be slippery. Always cross where the water is shallowest.
- Wear insect repellent, clothing and shoes to protect yourself from stings, scratches and bites.
- Cattle and pigs may be encountered along the walk. Never startle or approach these animals and ensure they have a clear path to the scrub. Never camp near areas where they frequent.
- Set up camp well before dark. For your safety do not walk at night.
To ensure your walk is comfortable, be prepared for wet weather. After rain, creeks and rivers along the Great Walk may flood. Always check the weather forecast before you start walking. Strong water currents in the Herbert River may persist long after the rains have finished. Contact the Bureau of Meteorology for the latest weather reports.
Watch out for snakes. Though rarely seen, they are always around. If you do see a snake, calmly walk away without disturbing it. Some snakes are more active at night, so always use a torch, wear shoes and watch where you walk. Remember all native wildlife, including snakes, are protected.
Be aware that estuarine crocodiles may be encountered in waterholes, creeks and rivers along the Great Walk. Crocodiles can be dangerous. Do not take unnecessary risks and remember to Be crocwise in croc country.
Take the opportunity to observe crocodiles from a distance. Stay well back from crocodiles or croc-slide marks. If you are approached by a crocodile, move away from the animal.
While on the Juwun walk, there are times when you will need to cross or obtain water from the river. To ensure a safe and enjoyable walk, always follow these guidelines.
- Water should only be collected from shallow, flowing rapids. Treat water before drinking.
- Only cross the river at shallow rapids. Be careful, rocks may be extremely slippery.
- Wear sturdy shoes when crossing. Sharp rocks can cause discomfort and bullrouts (freshwater stonefish) live in the river. If stung, seek medical attention.
- Remember to Be crocwise in croc country.
Note: Suggested crossing points have been marked on the map . Caution should still be shown when crossing at these points as river heights and conditions vary throughout the year.
In case of emergency
In the event of an emergency, communication equipment is vital. You should carry at least one form of communication equipment. Many options are available such as mobile phones, satellite phones and personal EPIRBs (emergency position indicating radio beacons).
EPIRBs are often the best emergency communication equipment in remote areas. Satellite phones give workable coverage inside the gorge. In case of an emergency, if network coverage is available, dial 000 on your charged mobile phone. If 000 does not work, you can dial 112.
Always follow your progress on a map. Natural features such as creeks running into the Herbert River, a compass or a GPS can help you to accurately pinpoint your location.
Carry a good first-aid kit and know how to apply first aid. It may save someone’s life.
For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.
We need your help to protect this area and keep it in its natural state. Please aim to leave no trace.
- Never chase, scare or feed animals.
- Take all rubbish with you including food scraps.
- Use fuel stoves only. Open fires are not permitted (except at Blencoe Falls camping area).
- Always stay on the track (where provided). Do not cut corners or create new tracks.
- Wash at least 50m from creeks and rivers. Use gritty sand, hot water and a scourer instead of soap to clean dishes. Avoid allowing soap, detergents, toothpaste and cosmetics to come into contact with water resources.
- Toilet facilities are not provided within the gorge. Use a trowel to bury toilet waste and paper. Dig a 15cm deep hole at least 100m away from watercourses and tracks. Take all sanitary items with you as they do not decompose.
Remember, this is a national park — everything is protected.
See caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.
- Upcoming wet season closure: Wet Tropics Great Walk, Girringun National Park 1 December 2022 to 31 March 2023