Slaughter Falls, Mt Coot-tha: A Matter of Perspective


We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one. – Kent Nurburn

I pity the poor people who have to pay a small fortune to attend saunas. Here in sub-tropical Brisbane we get to live in one free for a few months of the year!   A few days ago, I spent the morning freestyling in my own perspiration in order to complete an album of pictures for this blog post. I’ve been to the Slaughter Falls area in Mt Coot-tha Forest a few times but I’ve never actually seen the falls flowing fast. After recent heavy rain, I was anticipating some breathtaking cascades. Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide…

I intended this to be a simple post about a short walk, but it seems to be my natural state to complicate matters so once again I’m going to foist my traditional ramble upon you. That’s what happens when I research an area I’ve hiked. Suddenly I view the whole place differently.

The Slaughter Falls area is part of Mt Coot-tha Forest which is only about 6km from the central business district of Brisbane city and is comprised of 1300 hectares of open eucalypt forest, creeks and waterfalls. There are numerous picnic sites and trails which are described and mapped here.  The Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens are huge and feature flora from different regions of the globe as well as interesting sculptures. It’s also the location of a planetarium, of interest to sky gazers.

During important astronomical events, the summit is a popular viewing spot. Here my daughter is using an impressive telescope to view the Transit of Venus.  A café meal on the summit has been a birthday treat for me on one occasion.

Before it was re-named Mt Coot-tha, local settlers  referred to the area as “One Tree Hill” because by that stage Europeans had chopped down every single tree apart from one tall eucalypt left at the very top. It’s hard to believe the place was tree-less when you see the thick forest and botanical gardens there now.

Before European settlement in 1825, the area was inhabited by the traditional Turrbal owners. Mt Coot-tha was a popular hunting and food gathering area. In fact, “Coot-tha” is derived from the word “Kuta” which was their name for “a place of wild honey.” Mt Coot-tha was home to a large population of native stingless bees and the honey was collected by Indigenous owners and European settlers in the area. Much of the basic road infrastructure of Brisbane was based on established Indigenous Turrbal tracks. Waterworks Road and Old Northern Road are good examples. If you are interested in learning more about Turrbal history of the area read here.

The timber from Mt Coot-tha was used for many buildings and structures in Brisbane that still stand today. Mt Coot-tha was also used at one point for gold mining and as an army training reserve. Most times I research the history of an area, I’m surprised by how much the land was changed in the name of progress or civilisation in just a short space of time. The tree removal, the mining, the land degradation, and the war-time activities all combined to radically change the landscape. For a history of the European use of Mt Coot-tha, Janet Spillman has written this account. Fortunately, Mt Coot-tha is no longer a “One Tree Hill”.

My first trip to the summit of Mt Coot-tha was very memorable for me and changed my attitude towards the city at the time. As an introverted eighteen year old who had left a quiet seaside town to start studying at the University of Queensland, I felt overwhelmed by city living. There were no longer solitary walks on the beach to calm my mind and I missed the people who knew and understood me. I was now sharing noisy corridors with hundreds of other students. It was quite a shock to the system. However, one evening a new friend drove me up to the top of Mt Coot-tha to see the city lights. Viewed at night from a mountain top, the city took on a completely different appearance. Instead of an ugly grey concrete jungle, darkness transformed the city into a beautiful glittering living thing. I felt a new fondness towards Brisbane after that night. It was less alien to me because I had glimpsed another side to it.

“Distance lends enchantment to the view.” – Mark Twain

Brisbane city at dawn.

Brisbane city at dawn.

I’ve since been to the summit a few times at night and also at dawn to watch the sun rise over the city.  Unfortunately, the summit is now very popular with tourist buses and other visitors so it’s very hard to get a carpark. However, if you don’t mind a little exercise, you can park your car at the Slaughter Falls Picnic Area and walk up the summit track. This is what I’ve done with family members on a few occasions. Alternatively, you can take a bus from the city  or if you have super calves and quads give cycling it a go.

Brisbane at dawn.

Brisbane at dawn.

Like many people I wondered about the dramatic name of Slaughter Falls. Was there a murder or other dire crimes committed in this area? Well, the falls were actually named after a town clerk, J.C. Slaughter, and over time the initials have been dropped by locals. However, it does have a bit of a dark past with murders, suicides, rapes and strange happenings occurring. Slaughter Falls is also regarded by some as being haunted, with stories of a raped and murdered girl’s ghost circulating online. There are also tales of satanic rituals.   And of course let’s not forget the removal, ill treatment and murder of Indigenous inhabitants, part of the history of this country which is sadly not often recognised or is swept under the carpet. The name “slaughter” could be used in the naming of many places in our country where massacres have occurred.

The walk from the car park to Slaughter Falls is only about 1 km. The paths follow creek lines which are dry for much of the year but run in the wetter months. The picnic grounds are well set up with barbecue areas, toilets and covered tables and seating. Every time I’ve been there I’ve continued on to do the 2 km summit track. When you combine the falls,  summit walk and the return journey it turns out to be about 6km which is a reasonable uphill wander on a hot humid day. Many people run the track for training purposes. On the humid 35 C day I was last there I saw many intrepid, sweaty, red faced individuals.



Close to the beginning of the walk is a bush chapel. Rumour has it that it is sometimes used for “dark” purposes, however on this day, the red substance on the altar was only candle wax.

The well equipped, heavily shaded, Slaughter Falls picnic area is very popular for large gatherings.

Picnic grounds with toilets, covered tables and barbecues.

Picnic grounds with toilets, covered tables and barbecues.

Kids are often there, doing what kids like to do in creeks.  I enjoyed looking at the  foam patterns in the water, some interesting tree roots and the friendly ducks. The next hot day I may ditch the camera and join the kids in the water for some fun though.

stream - Slaughter - Falls - patterns






I  came across this brush turkey that was violently pecking away at a large round nut/seedpod. It looked a little like a macadamia nut covered in white mould but I couldn’t see evidence of a tree. There were about 100 of these round nut cases  scattered on the ground but I couldn’t tell which tree they had fallen from. Perhaps one of my Australian readers will know? The nut inside is white. The turkey was very obsessed with breaking it open and eating it so I am guessing it was the bird version of chocolate or he was ravenous. He moved far too quickly and the light was too poor for decent shots but I’ll include the pics anyway to show you his intent expression.

Moving along, my daughter and I came to a weir type set up with a concrete walkway. Instead of a quiet place to reflect, the tranquility was being disturbed by a man and his young sons who were throwing large rocks, bread and a yabby trap into the water. This is how I got to view these hungry little fish. Maybe someone can tell me what species they are.

Anyone want to take a guess at what these fish are?

Anyone want to take a guess at what these fish are?

Brown, much like our Brisbane River.

Brown, much like our Brisbane River.

There were a few bushes flowering along the way. I thought this was a native  but apparently it’s the environmental weed, Ochna serrulata. The bright red, flower-covered bush is quite startling and originally comes from South Africa and Lesotha.

Ochna serrulata - (Bird's Eye Bush, Mickey Mouse Bush, or Carnival Plant)

Ochna serrulata – (Bird’s Eye Bush, Mickey Mouse Bush, or Carnival Plant)

However these ones are all native (I hope!)

white flower




native flower


As we got closer to the falls, I was anticipating a visual delight…and melting very quickly in the blazing sun! The heat was already creating attractive streams down my body  and after a small sweaty waterfall made it down onto the camera hanging below my chin, I decided to pack it away for a while (after I took a few more  pics of course.)




“The Aboriginal Art Trail was created in 1993, as part of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People.  It was created in partnership with indigenous artists and was intended as a temporary installation.  More than 25 years later and the installations are still there, but very weathered and in very poor condition.  We have consulted with the original artists and they have advised to decommission the art trail.  We don’t want visitors who read about the Art Trail on various websites to be disappointed if they make a special trip to Mt Coot-tha and find that the installations are not in good condition. Council will be continuing to explore opportunities for art and culture at Mt Coot-tha, particularly in a way that reflects the importance of indigenous history and culture.” Brisbane City Council 17/4/19

Aboriginal Art Trail

Indigenous Art

It was in this area on another visit that I saw a thrill seeker boulder-hopping with his bike. Something for me to try one day? It looked difficult and painful and I’m not in a hurry to give it a go anytime soon unless someone wants to pay for my emergency surgery and rehabilitation.


There are plenty of towering eucalypts along the way to give you a tree fix. I call one of these a cellulite tree because of the texture of the trunk. It’s funny how we can find wrinkled, patterned, peeling, and bumpy trunks interesting and sometimes beautiful but people’s faces usually have to be smooth for compliments. A grand old tree is majestic but a grand old woman who has survived many struggles in life is often regarded as just…old.

gum tree

Cellulite trunk

gum trees

Ok, I know you’ve been dying to see Slaughter Falls. It’s time to finally reveal their magnificence. Aren’t they spectacular?!

Image:Brigitte Werner (

Image:Brigitte Werner

Oops , sorry about that! How could I get Niagara Falls mixed up with this album? It’s a mystery… 🙂

THIS is actually Slaughter Falls. Try not to get overwhelmed by the majesty of its trickle! One relative told me he could urinate stronger than this. Hmm…

Slaughter Falls in all its "glory"!

Slaughter Falls in all its “glory”!

A hiking partner once suggested to me that some of the crimes committed here may have been due to anger, disappointment and the heat because a walking partner had dragged the perpetrator away from their afternoon nap in the middle of summer just to view this dribble. It’s a theory I suppose.   I must admit I wondered if he was hinting at something when he told me this, as it was a very hot day and he could have been watching sport on TV in air conditioning instead…

Of course it’s all relative. When we lived in many outback locations my kids would have been delighted to come across this “trickle” after a few months of dry, scorching heat. They would even have given it a special name like “Magic” or “Enchanted” Falls. So it depends on what you are used to, I guess.

Apparently nearby Simpson Falls is much better so I’ll have to investigate. Anyway, I was actually relieved that they weren’t very impressive as I am not very good at taking waterfall pictures, so at least I can’t make a hash of this one! A silver lining to everything I suppose.

There you go, Slaughter Falls – an impressive name for a modest trickle. While I find the summer heat and humidity sometimes very difficult to deal with, Brisbane and Ipswich provide many  green escapes for locals and really I am very lucky to be living here for this reason.

Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, crisscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.

– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Me in winter viewing Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha lookout.

Me in winter viewing Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha lookout.

34 thoughts on “Slaughter Falls, Mt Coot-tha: A Matter of Perspective

  1. Oh thanks for that little piece of home! I grew up in Toowong so spent many years at the JC Slaughter Falls picnic grounds for lots of gatherings – and I remember being sad that I never saw any falls. Guess I would’ve been disappointed by the trickle too! And once again, wow at the history lesson! Thanks!

    • I’m delighted this brought you a piece of home. 🙂 I love the area myself. The next time we get really heavy rain, I’ll throw the raincoat on and zip up there, just in case. Apparently, Simpson Falls is better. I’ve driven past the car park many times without noticing the signs. It’s only when I researched it today that I found out about it. I’m glad you enjoyed the history element. I tend to bore people with my interest in it usually! Thanks for reading and commenting. Always so lovely to hear from you. 🙂

  2. It’s funny that you should use a photo of Niagara Falls in your post, as I live just a few hundred kilometers from Niagara Falls, It’s the water draining from the four Great lakes that surround the state of Michigan, where I live, that have created those falls.

    You live in such an arid area, I suppose any waterfall is notable. Here, we have falls much larger than Slaughter falls that have never been named, since there are so many of them. What we don’t have though are the beautiful exotic flowers that you do. It’s much like when you saw the lights of the city from afar, it’s all a matter of perspective I suppose.

    It does look like a wonderful place to spend a day, and I appreciated the history lesson as well!

    • I hadn’t thought about the fact that you live near Niagara Falls. To be honest, my US geography is extremely poor! I just wanted to pick one of the most impressive waterfalls I could think of. It must be so spectacular to view in real life and I imagine very LOUD! Maybe one day I will see it. Ah, to have so many waterfalls that you don’t name them? We name just about every trickle here! 🙂 Kind of like how we name our hills, “mountains”. Yes, it’s all about perspective isn’t it?

      Thanks for telling me more about the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls. I think I might be happy to swap a few of our exotic flowers for a few extra waterfalls actually!

      Thanks also for reading and commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I really appreciate your regular encouraging feedback and reading your blog is always a delight. 🙂

      • We name our hills mountains also, as our mountains weathered away eons ago.

        When you see a photo in my blog that looks like an ocean, it’s really one of the Great Lakes, Usually Lake Michigan, but occasionally Lake Huron or Superior. They are fresh water seas, large enough for ocean going freighters to sail. So, it’s hard for me to relate to an area as arid as where you live. But, that’s also why I find your blog interesting, to see other other types of terrain and geography.

        • It’s so hard for me to imagine a lake being that huge. Ours are more like puddles in comparison! Lake Moogerah (one of my posts) is a favourite place for me to go as water helps me feel more at peace. I’ve been meaning to hire a kayak there and enjoy an early morning paddle through the still waters before the noisy jet skis start up. I kayaked as a teenager a few times and loved it. That was in the sea though, which was a little rougher. Since I am a water person, it’s probably odd I have lived most of my life in arid places. Brisbane, where I live now actually has quite a high rainfall compared to outback regions though and my garden looks more like a jungle in summer. Thanks for teaching me more about where you live. Sounds beautiful. 🙂

  3. Good old Mount Coot-tha. I used to live at Indooroopilly years ago and spent many an afternoon doing walks in the area. I have never seen Slaughter Falls at more than a trickle, even after rain! Still its nice to grab a bit of greenery and peace and quiet so close to the city 🙂

    • Hi Amanda,
      Yeah, we’re lucky to have these green places really. Many cities around the world don’t have parks and reserves such as these. It sounds like I saw Slaughter Falls at its best then! I won’t try and improve on the pics. I lived in St.Lucia, Sherwood and Tennyson during my UQ studies so I know Indooroopilly well and I shop there regularly. Nice area.Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great 2015. 🙂

  4. I enjoyed seeing your photos of the flowers and trees and landscape of that area but especially I enjoyed the historical perspective and the links you included. To really understand the parts of the world in which we live we must learn and understand as much as possible of the history of those places and the people who lived there before us, including if possible, their attitudes and actions about respecting the natural things and how they lived where they did in harmony with the natural elements. I nearly always find that the ancient ones were far more advanced in the understanding of the environment of this planet and their relationship to it than we who call ourselves “modern”.

    • It is interesting isn’t it how we can regard cultures that live close to nature as less “civilised” while the “modern” ones are often responsible for much of the destruction and pollution of our land, air and sea. I’m glad you enjoyed the historical background about this area. I’m finding that now I’m blogging, I’m learning so much more about the history, geography and the fauna and flora of the places I hike.

      Some things are sad to find out about but it’s better to know the truth in order to have a better understanding and appreciation of the current situation in our country. We remember many European events such as war memorial and mass tragedy dates, so we can’t expect the Indigenous people of this land to forget significant historical events that affected them. Our history is very short in terms of European colonisation. Recognition of the pain and damage that has been caused to the traditional owners is a necessary step towards healing and justice. Thanks for reading and your thoughtful and encouraging response. I appreciate your kind feedback. 🙂

  5. Poor Jane! The length you go to in order to compile a post are heroic.
    I tried a sauna once and couldnt breathe so hopped out pretty quick. But, like you, I think doing hot activities in Brisbane on hot and humid summer days can probably count as the same thing.
    I’ve never seen Slaughter Falls running though we’ve had many family picnics up around there. I guess unless the ground is soaked, and rain that falls is simply absorbed and doesnt make it to the creek?
    Asfor the name “One Tree Hill”, there’s a hill down here in the Dandenongs, east of Melbourne, called that because once it was, though you (thankfully) wouldn’t guess it now. Just like Mt Coot-tha, its re-grown very well.
    An even more dramatic example is the township and surrounds of Walhalla, at the foot of the alps, north of Moe (Vic). Back in the 1800’s the gold mine there consumed every tree within something like 10 miles of the mine (could have been more, but i dont want to exaggerate). The bush there has regenerated and it’s a fantastic spot for birdwatching, but it would have taken a long time.

    • Hi Dayna,
      Yes, the sacrifices I make to compile these dodgy posts are unbelievable really… 😉
      So you’ve never seen the falls running despite being there often? Looks like I need to be content with my “dribble” photographs! Heheh
      It is quite amazing how land can regenerate, isn’t it? From treeless, degradation to thick towering forests. It does take a long time though, as you say, and I suppose certain species that were there may have disappeared forever. Thanks for all the great info about the other One Tree Hill and also Walhalla. Great to hear that these areas have recovered!
      I noticed Melbourne has had some nasty heat recently too. Your trip to Tassie pics looked great. Perhaps a move to Tassie could be on the cards one day? 😉
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dayna. Looking forward to reading more of your great hiking reports in 2015! I hope it’s a great year for you, with the chance of a Brompton ride maybe… 🙂

      • I’d never call your posts dodgy Jane!
        Its possible we never went at the right times to see the falls with much water. I can’t remember paying all that much attention as a kid, but later on it was always pretty dry.
        Best wishes for 2015 Jane! Im sure you’ll have plenty of great posts coming 😊

  6. I loved reading your post as it took me back to my early years of independence. I have seen the lights of Brisbane from the top on many occasions. I’ve never walked the tracks though but now don’t need to thanks to your wonderful little tour. Loved the photos of the banksias, wattle and grevilleas. Can’t help you with the nuts but the fish are guppies. We have some that we caught out at the bottom of Mt Barney living in our pond out the back.
    I’m actually off to see sunrise from Mt Coot-tha in just over a week or so. I’m looking forward to it very much. 🙂

    • Thanks Sue! I suspect there are quite a few of us with nice memories of Mt Coot-tha from our independent years. I’m glad it brought back memories for you, too! 🙂 I wondered if the fish were guppies but they were a lot darker than I’d ever seen them so wasn’t sure. I am also used to seeing them with more colourful tails in tanks.
      Enjoy your sunrise at Mt Coot-tha! You never know, you might see me up there. I’m a bit spontaneous with my trips and at least in summer there is plenty of time to do things before work, although catching the sunrise does involve rising very early. Have fun and thanks for your comments. 🙂

  7. Love this post, but it’s taken me awhile to finish reading it and commenting. I’ve been sick and having to deal with some real estate problems. It’s totally done me in and I’m struggling to keep up with posts and comments and replies. Having said that you ought to know that yours was on the ‘must reply or comment’ pile…
    That guy on the bike is utterly nuts. Falls and mountains are certainly relative. I lived back east where the hills were all named mountains, eventually lived in the Rocky Mts where I got to know REAL mountains. The desert had its own kind of beauty and I loved it, but like you, I have this need for water around nearby. I absolutely love where I live for having the Pacific so close and the weather so moderate.
    Don’t give up on me if I’m late to read or respond……. 😀

      • P.S. Just saw your other reply. Perhaps there is still a chance one day? I hope so. If not, I am glad to be able to at least share my home area with you. I would also love to visit your country. Get better soon, dear Gunta!

    • Hi Gunta,
      Oh no, sorry to hear you are sick and have real estate problems. It all sounds very, very stressful. I hope that everything sorts itself out soon. Please don’t worry about blogging stuff while that is going on. None of us would “give up on you”! I don’t expect people to read all my posts and comment all the time. I’m humbled that that you would even read and follow my blog! So, thank you!
      Yes, I really don’t understand the boulder hopping thing either. Ouch!
      So much about life is “relative” isn’t it? It interests me how we can get used to conditions in one place and then move and another spot and sometimes forget our “hardiness”. I might get annoyed with dragging the trash bin down the long driveway here, but on outback properties I had to deal with all our own rubbish myself as we had no garbage removal each week. How quickly we can get used to “luxury” again and take it for granted! The same for water supply. I had to watch every drop in the outback and I am now spoilt with a permanent town supply.
      Yes, I am certainly a water person. I seem to need to glimpse it, whether it be a lake, river or the sea on a regular basis, but my favourite is the sea.
      I hope you get better soon! Thank you for taking the time to read and make a comment, especially when life is difficult for you now! I appreciate it. But don’t worry about your followers – we are loyal. 🙂

  8. I lived 13 years in Toowong when my children were little and we loved going to Slaughter Falls on any old whim. If the kids were very tired we’d bring the travelling cot and throw a mosquito net over it so they could go to sleep. Several years we had Christmas carols there, on the principle that no one would be around to complain about the loud singing. We never saw any murders, but the road was obviously a favorite for burnouts judging by the swirling tyre marks. Everyone has their own idea of fun, I guess.
    Thanks for the pictures, the research, and the memories.

    • Hi,
      I’m so glad this this post brought back some memories for you. I really enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences and impressions of a place I’ve been to. Sounds like you had a lot of fun over the years! Yes, the place still seems to be popular for burn outs. I’m glad you didn’t witness any murders… 🙂
      Thanks for reading, taking the time to give me feedback and sharing your own memories. Lovely to have a new person drop into my blog. Happy 2015. 🙂

    • Hi,
      So glad you could drop by and read my rambling post. Thank you for the kind feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the pics and the history about the area. When I started this blog I had no idea what I really wanted to do with it. Now I’ve just decided to write what I want each week and just hope for the best. It seems other people enjoy a bit of history too which is nice. Perhaps if you are back in Brisbane again one day you can check out the lookout at Mt Coot-tha as it really gives a beautiful view of the city, especially at night. I’ve just checked out your own blog and it looks great. Fantastic wildlife pics. Am following now. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Marina. You are extremely encouraging. Yes, Mt Coot-tha is a lovely spot and I am sure you would enjoy it. Best wishes. 🙂

  9. Thanks for this trip down memory lane. I grew up at St John’s Wood and we often had family picnics at Slaughter Falls. I always enjoyed it there. I wonder if the kookaburras still swoop on unattended BBQs and steal the meat. We lost quite a few snags that way.

    • Hi! Sorry to take so long to reply. I’m pleased my blog post brought back some happy memories for you. I am sure there are probably still kookas taking advantage of the BBQs. It’s such a handy spot for residents. We are lucky to have so many green places in the city. I hope it stays that way. Thanks for commenting. Best wishes! 🙂

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