Innot Springs in Far North Queensland is to the west, deep behind the Atherton Tablelands. It is a special place to visit and is to be found between Ravenshoe and Mount Garnet on the Kennedy Highway. You can sink you feet into the light flow of Nettle Creek, burying them in the grainy sands, which have been gathering in an Outback creek since the Dreamtime and it’s a great treat in the dry Outback.
Just 600 metres below your toes is a magma chamber, fed by the Earth’s internal engine. It’s a chamber that heats the subterranean aquifer and forces boiling water under pressure to the surface. This water along with natural run off has formed what is Nettle Creek and it flows on into the Herbert River.
This is Mother Earth’s hot spa. The temperatures hover around 71.5C (160F) and can be hotter at the source of the spring, which flows freely behind the pub at Innot. Throughout the pools scattered all along the creek, if you watch carefully, you can see where bubbles of hot water where they have forced their way to the surface through the sands. These also heat the shifting pools in various places. The natural creek pools vary from warm to hot, the more you move about the hotter they become. They have been known to cook eggs, dogs and unwary travellers with tales of the colonists cooking chooks for dinner within the hour in certain places.
The caravan park on the edge of the creek offers heated pools fed from the springs where the temperatures are more controlled but it is the greatest pity that their tariffs are so high. For a family with four kids you would need the better part of $60 to stay the night in your own tent or van, so many choose the freecamp some 10klm away. Archers Creek Reserve is open to all as a freecamp and very much appreciated by the travelling public. It has its own swimming holes and deep grassy area’s. The river edge area has now been restricted to foot traffic and tents, with vehicular traffic confined to the deep roadside camp. This is a good thing I think and a preservation necessity as well as providing a protected area for day use.
At Innot Springs on locals and travellers arrive with garden shovels to dig convenient soaks in the sandy creek. These soak pools are fed by small rivulets dug, draining from the main spring pools and this gives you some control over the heat of the water.
In the 1890’s it was a considered a great place to visit and was something of a thriving health spa with a weekly coach from Herberton. In its heyday there could be seen as many as 50 or so people taking advantage of the hot springs waters, bathing in holes dug in the sand to control the temperatures a person preferred. They are traditionally a remedy for such things as rheumatism, gout, kidney and liver disease quite aside from being a pleasant way to spend a few hours lulling about in an outside bath.
Hot springs are scattered all through the Outback. They heat the aquifers by the same mechanisms found at Innot Springs and they are places of legend and healing for many Australians.
Ancient and weathered volcano’s dot the land in this region, such as the Windy Hill volcano which erupted some 3 million years ago and as early as 1¼ million years past. This left deep valleys and rugged hills that now feed the beautiful Millsteam Falls nearby. Windy Hill is now a wind farm east of Ravenshoe where the turbines turn against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean on a clear day.
I loved our visit and learning about the volcanic landscape sweeping around us was an added bonus. But there is something eerie about being away of the magma chamber gurgling way just 600 metres below my feet.
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