About Wheel of Fire Falls
Wheel of Fire Falls was a waterfall excursion that can be done in addition to the Araluen Falls (or Araluen Cascades), especially since they share the same trailhead.
It was a mysterious waterfall that had very little literature about it, and we were even prevented from getting to the falls on our first visit to the Finch Hatton Gorge in May 2008.
However, it was only after 14 years of waiting and finally getting to do this excursion on my own in early July 2022 did I finally understand why this waterfall was shrouded in obscurity and mystery.
To make a long story short, while Araluen Cascades had an easy on-trail hike to access, being able to witness Wheel of Fire Falls involved a dodgy creek crossing, a dodgy scramble or swim, and dealing with blood-sucking leeches.
As you can see from the photo above, even getting a good look at the waterfall was elusive, but there were more scenic cascades on Finch Hatton Creek further downstream.
So in this write-up, I thought I’ll share what I was finally able to experience during my visit and lift the shroud of mystery surrounding the Wheel of Fire Falls.
Trail Description – The Adventure To Wheel Of Fire Falls
First, for this write-up, I’ll assume that you’ve already reached the Finch Hatton Gorge Trailhead and did the hike to the trail junction where the trail splits and goes to either Araluen Cascades or Wheel of Fire Falls.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then read the write-up for the Araluen Falls.
From the trail junction, I then headed to the right to go upstream alongside the Finch Hatton Creek.
There was one short spur trail that reached an interesting series of cascades that were further upstream of the Araluen Cascades though I wasn’t sure if these cascades were suitable for swimming despite the spur trail getting there.
Continuing past this access point, the trail then went to the so-called Callistemon Crossing, which was an unbridged and somewhat dodgy crossing of the Finch Hatton Creek.
There were some columns and remnants of concrete suggesting that there used to be a bridge here, but apparently that bridge was washed away.
And now in order to continue with the hike, I had to cross the fast flowing stream that could get up to thigh or waist-deep depending on where you choose to make your crossing.
I did see one pair of women figure out how to rock hop their way across without getting wet, but they must have been real skilled because I didn’t have the confidence to do what they did without slipping and falling.
Needless to say, if there’s a risk of flash flooding, it might not be a good idea to go across unless you risk getting stranded and have to wait out the flooding before safely getting back across.
By the way, a callistemon is a type of bottlebrush flower endemic to Australia, and apparently they may have been abundant in this part of the Finch Hatton Gorge.
Anyways, beyond the Callistemon Crossing, the trail continued further in the upstream direction ascending up several steps alongside cascades on the Finch Hatton Creek.
Some of these cascades were quite attractive and easily can be attractions by themselves.
Nevertheless, the hike continued for another 600m or so before finally descending past warning signs (about males who have died here) to the edge of Finch Hatton Creek at a pretty sizable plunge pool.
Unfortunately, there was no view of the Wheel of Fire Falls due to its concealed position behind a long slab of slippery rock that also had signs discouraging people from climbing onto it.
So the only way to see the Wheel of Fire Falls without a drone would be to do one of two things.
On the one hand, you can bring a waterproof camera and swim to where you can see the falls (hoping not to get caught in a downstream current).
On the other hand, you could very carefully scramble on the long slippery slab (disobeying the signs here) and get to a point where you can partially see the Wheel of Fire Falls.
I did the latter (probably against my better judgement), and that yielded the photo you see at the top of this page.
By the way, the name of this falls has to do with a wiry flower (kind of reminding me of a waratah with more “wires”) and nothing to do with the appearance of a fire or a wheel.
After having my fill of this place, I then returned the way I came, where I got to witness the intermediate cascades again, where in hindsight, I found them to be more scenic than the Wheel of Fire Falls itself.
Then, after getting back across the Callistemon Crossing, the rest of the hike was pretty smooth sailing.
So overall, this additional excursion to the Wheel of Fire Falls would add at least an additional hour (more like 2 hours in my case) to the Araluen Cascades excursion (that one itself takes about an hour to 1.5 hours).
Wheel of Fire Falls resides in the Eungella National Park near Mackay, Queensland. It is administered by the State of Queensland Department of Environment and Science. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Since I’ve described the Wheel of Fire Falls adventure as an add-on to the Araluen Cascades excursion, I’ll just punt you to the driving directions on that page.
Both waterfalls share the same trailhead within the Finch Hatton Gorge about an hour drive west of Mackay.
To give you a sense of geographical context, Mackay was 126km (90 minutes drive) south of Proserpine, 336km (over 3.5 hours drive) north of Rockhampton, 389km (4.5 hours drive) south of Townsville, 732km (nearly 9 hours drive) south of Cairns, and 952km (11 hours drive) north of Brisbane.
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