Part of the Springbrook National Park, Mount Cougal section is a beautiful part of the ancient Gondwana Rainforest.
The brown sign leads to a National Park facility area with parking, picnic tables, and toilets. The picnic tables are surrounded in lush greenery providing a wonderful spot for us to have a picnic lunch before we headed off for our hike.
The walking trail is an easy 800m walk to a historic sawmill with viewing points and information along the way, a return distance of 1.6km. The path takes you along the Currumbin Creek passing Cougal’s Cascades and the Mountain Pool before reaching the sawmill.
The path is sealed all the way and while there are some steeper bits it is mostly a gentle slope the whole way, suitable for wheelchairs with assistance or the more capable wheelie, as well as those who prefer a to walk along a path.
There are viewing points along the way for those who stick to the path to view the scenic features of the creek. For those happy to clamber down to the creek, there are parts that let you leave the path and get close to the water.
You first come to view the cascades along the path, showing a wide rock slope that you can imagine a torrent of water flowing over after a heavy downpour. The water, however, follows a narrow channel down one side into a rock pool part way down the rock slope before continuing down into the larger rock pool below.
Getting down to the rock pool below takes some scrambling to get down to it. It would be easy to take a misstep and injure yourself down the rocks so take care if you venture down there. For those less mobile or not wanting to scramble down, you pass Currumbin Rock Pools on the way. The water there is more accessible and can be combined with a stop either before or after the Mt Cougal National Park walk.
Wander further upstream takes you to other waterholes that don’t require the same challenge to reach. There are rocks and obstacles to navigate but not as hazardous as going the other way.
We spent a fair while exploring around the rocks and water pools, discovered many things to look and wonder at. Leaf boats and leaf boat races is a frequent activity with the kids. We found a group of bees that for some reason picked a spot for regular rehydration.
It makes sense when you come across bees around flowers or come across a hive but it is a wonderous discovery seeing bees collectively gathering for a drink surrounded by nothing other than rock and leaf-litter. I came across the same thing at the cascades in Crows Nest National Park a couple of years before.
Wandering further up the walking trail takes you to the old sawmill. It seems to be in a strange place as it would still require some hauling of the finished timbers out of the rainforest. The history of the area explains the reason the sawmill exists and makes more sense for where it is.
Long before the sawmill, the rainforest was part of Gondwana when the world was a single continent… too far back? The area was the land occupied by the Yugambeh people, using the forests and waterholes to hunt and gather seasonal foods. The arrival of European settlers displaced many of them to reserves, though some stayed, working and adapted to the changed way of life.
Timber was the main reason European settlers moved into areas like Mt Cougal with valuable timber. In the 1860s, surveyors and timber-getters could see the value of the timber but it lacked practical access. Mt Cougal was safe from a sawmill for the time being.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s the area became more available. It was 1925 when it was finally bought and clearing of the land began for a banana plantation. Bananas were being successfully grown in other areas nearby. 50 acres of bananas were planted but with tall trees and mountains creating too much shade, the crop failed.
The sawmill came to life in the 1940s. The Fruit and Vegetable Act 1927 required fruit to be packed in boxes. The boxes reduced the spread of diseases, so a bush sawmill was built to supply nearby farms with banana boxes. The sawmill operated between 1945 and 1951 when it ceased to be used.
There isn’t a lot left of the sawmill but there are a few artefacts remaining. A log snigger sits outside the sawmill as the most significant reminder of the logging that took place. A snigger is used to lift and move a log from where it is felled to another spot where it is processed or lifted on to something for hauling further. There are also a few logs left stacked near it that are slowly decaying giving further indication of the timber felling that was undertaken here.
Mt Cougal National Park is great spot for an easy walk to experience walking through the rainforest, an explore and cooling dip in the water for those more able, and a bit of history thrown in as well. Only a few kilometres from Currumbin Rock Pools on the way, the two spots make for a great day out experiencing nature and simple pleasures.