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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Head of the River

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Western Branch Road

Unlike many rivers, the Brisbane River starts at a precise point. This 344 km long watercourse begins at the junction of the “Eastern Branch” and “Western Branch” at Mount Stanley. Today I wanted to stand on that exect spot where three rivers meet.

Western Branch Road

The last time we visited Mount Stanley, the grass was brown and dry, farmers were hand-feeding their stock, and stony causeways stretched where rivers once flowed. Recent rain has transformed the dusty hills into roling emerald pastures. Farmers are smiling…

Dodging Cattle

… and the cattle are fat.

Forestry Road

We rode north, following the Western Branch of the river until we reached the old Mount Stanley forestry station.

Forestry Road

The station buildings are long-gone, but the roads were perfect as we started the long climb up the hill in the shade of a glade of Hoop Pines.

Tom with Grass Trees

It was a reasonably steep 5km ride to the top of the hill. Centuries old Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea glauca) peered down at us as we slowly made our way up the hill. Whenever I see these slow-growing trees I wonder what things may have transpired under their watch.

Forest Road

At the top, we stopped for a brief rest in the shade of the plantation pines. Our plan was to follow some old trails south to an escarpment so we could get some good views of the river from a high vantage point. Unfortunately the tracks were overgrown, so we missed out on our views from the lookout.

Wombi Creek Road

The last time we rode along steep Wombi Creek Road, it took us about an hour to climb it. Today we were zooming down hill in the opposite direction. Despite the loose gravel and rough surface it only took us a few minutes to plummet to the bottom.

“Gee that was shorter than I remember” I commented to Darb.

“Yeah I remember it was a lot longer last time”, he replied.

The End of Eastern Branch Road

At the bottom of the hill we entered the Eastern Branch valley. Rather than roll back down the valley we decided to explore upstream for a while.

I had ulterior motives. A few months ago, when we were lost in the Lantana, one of our routes out of the forest headed in this direction. I wanted to see where we would have ended up if we had managed to bash our way through.


There was no road – just bovine single-tracks in the grass as we followed Wombi Creek up the hill under some old Bunya Pines. There was a faint track. If we had escaped this way out of the Lantana it would have been almost impossible to follow at night. I think we were fortunate we didn’t have to try.

Crossing 17

And so we pointed the bikes down the valley and followed the Eastern Branch over eighteen river crossings.

River Crossing

Many of the crossings were dry.

Some had small lagoons of water.

Sadly, the river wasn’t flowing, yet. It would look stunning after heavy rain.

Barrow Annie

At the fourth crossing we met “Barrow Annie”.

Barrow AnnieBarrow Annie

This huge granite boulder sits in the middle of a magnificent section of the river, strewn with other large rocks and cliffs.

Jaime tried to climb it with his bike, for the obligatory “bike over the head” shot…

Barrow Annie

In the end he decided to play it safe and leave his bike at the bottom.

Barrow Annie

Under the shadow of pine-clad hillsides, this would be an ideal picnic spot when the river was flowing.

Eastern Branch Road

After “Crossing No. 4″ we had almost made it to the end of Eastern Branch, with only 3 more crossings to go. There was one more item of business I wanted to address…


(Photo by Tony Ryan)

At “Crossing No. 1″ we left the road, and followed Eastern Branch a short way to the spot where it meets Western Branch, where the Brisbane River begins.

Like an excited child I pointed to a spot on the ground in front of me and said “That’s where the Brisbane River starts”.

On my left was the Eastern Branch. Behind me was the Western Branch. On my right was the Brisbane River.

The river was dry. A few hundred metres downstream we could see a small lagoon.

Over three hundred kilometres downstream large ships, ferries, and pleasure craft plied her waters.

But here we stood on a dry river bed covered in thistles.



We rode a total of 47 km with just under 1,000m of climbing.

It took us almost 4 hours including breaks, and I burned about 2,000 kcal.

This is an easy ride, provided you bring plenty of water, and don’t mind one steep climb.

I’ll rate it 6 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thanks to Eric, Darb, Becca, Tom and Jaime for another memorable adventure on the bikes!

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