About Millaa Millaa Falls
The Millaa Millaa Falls were discovered during exploration of overland routes to connect the Herberton mining fields with Queensland coastal ports. The falls are named after the nearby township of Millaa Millaa. The name “Millaa Millaa” is derived from a phonetic adaptation of the Aboriginal word “Malay Malay”, which in the language of the local Mamu Aboriginal people refers to the rainforest vine (Elaeagnus triflora), which fruit was a seasonal food source. This plant occurs throughout the surrounding area and is commonly known as the Millaa Millaa Vine. This is contrary to the popular belief that the name Millaa Millaa means either “water fall”, “many waterfalls” or “plenty water”, but does demonstrate how important the falls are in the regional psyche.
In 1882 tracks were blazed through the rainforest close to the falls by both Sub Inspector Alexander Douglas (May 1882) and Christie Palmerston (October to December 1882). Palmerston also mapped an improved track through the area during 1884-85, which subsequently became known as the Palmerston track. The popular belief that Palmerston camped at and named Millaa Millaa falls, which is in part commemorated by a monument at the site, cannot be substantiated from the historical record.
A clearing at the Millaa Millaa Falls was used as a rest stop for the early horse and mule pack teams that traversed the Palmerston track when travelling to and from the Herberton mining field. This clearing was also used as a base for land surveyors working in the area in 1909 and as a camp for workers constructing the railway line between Malanda and the Millaa Millaa township in the 1920’s.
Also during the 1920’s a quarry was established next to the Millaa Millaa Falls to supply a nearby crushing plant with stone, which was used to produce road-making materials. Blasting and excavation work at the quarry threatened to damage or destroy the falls, but due to the efforts of the Millaa Millaa Progress Association it was protected, and by the mid 1920’s had become a popular stop for tours of the Atherton Tablelands. Conversely, the quarry, which was abandoned in 1927, was also partly responsible for the latter popularity and preservation of the falls because of the access that it provided to the site.
In the late 1950’s access to a popular swimming hole known as “Rawson’s Pool” which was located on private property downstream from the falls was stopped and the focus then shifted to Millaa Millaa Falls. The access road to the quarry was upgraded and extended down to near the base of the falls and a small car park constructed. Also at this time, public facilities were added to the site including toilets, shelter shed, and barbeques. Further safety and interpretive improvements were carried out in 2002. In 2003, the quarry was converted into a car park and a walking track and steps created which lead down to the falls viewing area. In 2005 a biological toilet facility, shelter shed and interpretive bus shelters were built. Millaa Millaa Falls is now part of what is known within the tourism industry as the “waterfall circuit” near Millaa Millaa township, which also includes the Zillie and Elinjaa Falls.
The Millaa Millaa Falls is an icon within the tourism industry, not only within North Queensland but also nationally and internationally. A 2008 search of the internet revealed at least 917 tour sites advertising the falls, with 276 containing photographs. The falls has also featured in numerous movies, documentaries and television commercials; advertising everything from Indian lotto to Swedish Timotei shampoo. The place is also used for a range of community events.
The Millaa Millaa Falls are approximately 18.3 metres in height and are formed from volcanic basalt which has weathered to create distinctive vertical striations (pipe formations) in the surface of the rock and which gives the falls its pleasing textural backdrop. There is a large pool below the falls that is surrounded by rainforest, except for a grassed viewing area facing the falls and a concrete block pad on the waters edge.
A set of concrete steps leads from the lower bus park down to the viewing area. The bus park is separated from the viewing area by a low post and rail fence. An circa 1950 timber-framed weatherboard toilet block is located on the north-eastern side of the falls and remains in use. A biological toilet facility has been constructed on the northern side of the bus park (2005). A shelter shed and interpretive bus shelters have also been erected on the north-western end of the bus park (2005). A track with steps runs from the 1950s toilet block and terminates at the upper car park.
There is a stone monument on the fence line, erected in 1982, at the western end of the lower bus park with a bronze plaque attached that commemorates the explorer Christie Palmerston.
The Millaa Millaa Scenic Reserve also may contain other sites of heritage significance that have not been formally identified at this time. These include the original clearing near the falls and its associated campsite; railway objects located near the western boundary of the reserve adjacent to the Irwin Track; and blazed trees associated with survey and logging tracks within the reserve.