A weekend walk at Behana Gorge


The picturesque Behana Gorge

For a place with such spectacular landforms, it is surprising that Behana Gorge is not listed as National Park with its namesake. Located about 30 minutes drive south of Cairns, and hidden in the flanks of the grand Walsh’s Pyramid, Behana Gorge is one of Cairn’s best kept secrets, and has been touted “The Cairns Hike in Paradise” by the locals.

Indeed, the spectacle of Behana Gorge is not immediately apparent when one pulls up at the gate that marks start of the walking track. There are no interpretive signs saying “You are here”, although the path is wide and obvious.

It takes 45 minutes to get to a clear vista of the gorge, on an undulating track flanked by a water pipe that must be carrying water from the other end – Behana Gorge is one of Cairn’s water supply. There are some points along the trail where swimming holes and sneak peeks of the gorge can be accessed. And of course, the plant life is also luxuriant.

Most of the way into the Gorge, the a lot of the forest consists of rainforest, and in many parts there are eucalypt emergents, particularly the Forest Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) and Red Mahogany (E. pellita). The savanna past of these forests is apparent, and it is interesting to see savanna cycads such as Cycas media persisting as rather large individuals in the understoreys of these forest.

In some very rocky parts, the understorey of these forest totally give way to ferns! There was a profusion of Hare foots fern, (Davallia spp.), Oakleaf fern (Drynaria quercifolia) and another fern Microsorum punctatum that practically dominated the forest understorey in these areas. Never have I seen such a total dominance of ferns under the canopy of tropical eucalypts.

Understorey of a wet eucalypt rainforest dominated by the fern Microsorum punctatum

Understorey of a wet eucalypt rainforest dominated by the fern Microsorum punctatum

In the spots where streams and waterholes are present, the vegetation gives way to beautiful large stands of ghostly white-barked Watergums (Tristaniopsis exilliflora) and Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) by moss-laden banks.

Water Gum (Tristaniopsis exilliflora) flanked

Water Gum (Tristaniopsis exilliflora) flanked streams

And finally upon arriving at the majestic vista of the gorge proper, it is not difficult to understand why the place is one of Cairn’s paradisical spots. There lies a picture-perfect vision of a cascading waterfall, set against giant boulders.

The banks of the other side of the gorge is also presents a beautiful profile of the lush rainforest that flank the gorge. There are beautiful well-formed Kauri Pines (Agathis robusta) along with the emergent brush boxes (Lophostemon suaveolens), Cadagi (Corymbia torelliana) and Forest Red Gum.

The rainforests that flanks the Behana Gorge. Emergent canopies of Brush boxes and Kauri Pines can be seen

The rainforests that flanks the Behana Gorge. Emergent canopies of Brush boxes and Kauri Pines can be seen

Certainly worth the walk in.


Notes of getting there

From Cairns city find the Bruce Highway, travel about 29.5 km along this highway and out into the vast cane fields of the outskirts of Cairns, upon seeing and passing the Walsh’s Pyramid (a pyramid-shaped hill) look out for a right turn into Behana Gorge Road. Travel 2 km up this road and there will be a car park by gated entrance to the walking trail.

The trail is an approximately 6km return trip, taking about 90 minutes to complete.


About David Tng

I am David Tng, a hedonistic botanizer who pursues plants with a fervour. I chase the opportunity to delve into various aspects of the study of plants. I have spent untold hours staring at mosses and allied plants, taking picture of pollen, culturing orchids in clean cabinets, counting tree rings, monitoring plant flowering times, etc. I am currently engrossed in the study of plant ecology (a grand excuse to see 'anything I can). Sometimes I think of myself as a shadow taxonomist, a sentimental ecologist, and a spiritual environmentalist - but at the very root of it all, a "plant whisperer"!
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3 Responses to A weekend walk at Behana Gorge

  1. Paula Peeters says:

    Beautiful pictures David – I’m intrigued by that fern-understorey euc forest. Cheers, Paula

    • David Tng says:

      Thanks Paula, Yes I’m intrigued too. I’ve seen similar fern (not bracken) dominated understoreys in temperate areas, but it was quite spectacular seeing it in the tropics. It’s hard to imagine an ecological condition that helps such ferns dominate in such a manner. Cheers, David

      • Paula Peeters says:

        Except of course those Sticherus-dominated understoreys of euc forests on poorer soils in the subtropics. But those ferns in your pic look very different – lusher.

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