Copperfield Gorge may not be as well as known as Cobbold Gorge, but it’s well worth a visit when you’re in the area. Copperfield Gorge is located in the very small township of Einasleigh, which is about a 2-hour drive from Cobbold Village via Forsayth. The road between Forsayth and Einasleigh is in good condition, with only about 10km of it being unsealed. The gorge itself is a short walk and/or drive from the Einasleigh Hotel and is people and puppy friendly, scenic and a great place for a swim. We visited in April and there was plenty of cool, clear water still flowing through the gorge, which allowed us to pump-up our stand up paddle boards and go exploring. If you are in the area, then add Copperfield Gorge to your itinerary and bring your towels.
Copperfield Gorge was formed by the Copperfield River, eroding the basalt from the lava flow of the McBride Volcanic Province. It sits at the western edge of the Undara lava flows.
We have visited Copperfield Gorge twice, once at the start of September 2022 and again in April 2023. The difference in visits, was amazing. In September the air was hot, the water wasn’t running and swimming was unappealing (and we didn’t). Fast forward to April, the air was still hot, but after a very impressive wet season, the flowing water was cool and clear, perfect for swimming, stand up paddle boarding and relaxing (and we did all of those things). The gorge itself is wide and long, its basalt walls are visually striking with patterns and shapes always changing as you explore its length. It’s very accessible too, being just a short walk from the on-site parking and covered picnic tables. However, please note you are walking over the basalt outcrop, which is uneven in places and the surface can be very hot in the middle of the day. You can wander atop its walls and peer down and along the gorge, or explore more by traversing down a fissure in the rocks to the water below – again we did both, with the stand up paddle boards (SUP) and our adventurous border collie.
“To get the SUPs to the water, we carried them over the headland from the car park and down a fissure to the waiting water. It was about a 5-minute walk from the car to the water. Meantime, to get the dog into the water and find somewhere we could comfortably relax in the shade, we walked further along the headland and scrambled over some rocks to a wide sandy beach below. Here the puppy party and SUP party joined back together, and we took turns exploring the waters and walls of Copperfield Gorge. From the ‘beach’, the water was shallow and good for splashing, with deeper water further out and up the Gorge for swimming and stand up paddle up boarding – the small waterfall was an unexpected surprise.” – Julie Johnston
Copperfield Gorge is adjacent to the major building in town, the Einasleigh Hotel which was constructed in 1909. Einasleigh, which was originally named Copperfield – for the river and gorge – ‘was laid out in 1900 by the mining warden on a new township reserve established near the Einasleigh Company’s copper mine’*. This was one of north Queensland’s earliest mineral discoveries and the copper was sent to the Chillagoe Smelters for processing (this is another gem of the Gulf Savannah area, check out our 48 Hours in Chillagoe review). The Einasleigh Hotel is still operating today and you can stop in for a cold drink and meal (call ahead to check opening hours), you can even take your dog with you.
Anyway, back to the gorge. Definitely the most impressive aspect of Copperfield Gorge for me, was its basalt walls with its columns and changing faces. Getting up close to them on the stand up paddle boards was excellent and for me, the perfect way to explore the gorge. Other Copperfield Gorge SUP highlights included gliding through the calm waters and over submerged boulders, watching schools of archer fish and brim dart through the water like shimmering, silver bullets, and making our way right up to the waterfall before letting the current take us back down. Our little ‘beach’ spot was secluded and shaded too and our border collie loved splashing around in the shallows and cooling down in the water. To get to the ‘beach’ was about a 10-minute walk from the car park (which seemed to take longer due to my concern regarding hot rocks and dog paws), you walked on to the headland and then turned left, tracking across the rocks, over a dilapidated barbed wire fence, down some rocks on to the ‘beach’. Access to the gorge is free and as it is not a national park or nature reserve, you can take your pets with you.
Yes you can swim at Copperfield Gorge and in fact, the locals love doing just this in summer.
Yes you can stand up paddle board at Copperfield Gorge too. Getting the boards from the car to the water does involve carrying them over the basalt headland, and then down a naturally occurring fissure in the rocks. The rock surface can be uneven and is hot. It’s about a 5-minute walk – a little more when carrying the boards.
It’s another yes. Copperfield Gorge is dog friendly and as it is not a national park or nature reserve, they are welcome to visit and explore the gorge with you.
The locals tell us that ‘yes’ there are crocodiles in Copperfield Gorge, but they are just freshwater crocodiles and they have not heard of any incidents. We didn’t see any on either of our visits.
Copperfield Gorge is located in the tiny township of Einasleigh, a part of the Etheridge Shire. It’s a 2-hour drive from Cobbold Village, a 5 hour drive from Cairns and a 4.5 hour drive from Townsville. The roads are a mixture of sealed and graded dirt.
Yes you can and it’s certainly worthwhile factoring in a day trip to Copperfield Gorge when you are staying at Cobbold Village. It’s about a 2-hour drive both ways, via Forsayth. While we think Cobbold Gorge is definitely the more ‘impressive’ of the two gorges, due to its shapes, colours and atmosphere, Copperfield is still interesting to visit and we enjoyed both of our visits.
Yes you can in fact we first visited Copperfield Gorge while staying at Talaroo Hot Springs, it is about a 1-hour 15-minute drive from Talaroo, please note nearly all of this drive is on unsealed roads, we found the road conditions where good but you should always check the road conditions prior to travel.
Whenever you are in the area really. If you want to swim and stand up paddle board, then I’d suggest going at the start of the season – which is around April – but check the roads are open first. Summer is the wet season and the rivers do rise quite dramatically, sometimes closing the roads.
No, entry and access to Copperfield Gorge is free.
We took our own SUP boards, to Copperfield Gorge and had so much fun! There are not any there to rent / hire.
Copperfield Gorge at Einasleigh is a great inclusion on any Cobbold Gorge and Gulf Savannah drive itinerary. Its size, scale and basalt walls are impressive, as is the timber railway bridge. Access is free and there is plenty of car parking, with some covered picnic tables. The Einasleigh Hotel is right by the gorge and has cold drinks and pub lunches. Copperfield Gorge is family and pet friendly, we visited it as a self-drive day tour while camping at Cobbold Gorge (check our review) and highly recommend it. (*Historic town information from www.etheridge.qld.gov.au)
© I Love Cairns 2023