"The Big Hole", Yabba Creek, Imbil, Queensland

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Comments (17)

♫ Swissmay on January 15, 2010

Ian, I just love to listen to your adventures of childhood and the presence. The picture, I got by the Irwins and - I can't remember the name of the bare footed adventurer - just gets more complete. I had to look up the bum-breathing turtles and the ceratodus, to understand what they are - the internet is great ;).

It's so amazing, what can be encountered in Australia, though I would always be a little anxious about snakes and other poisonous animals, which are ready to defend their territory. Your photo is beautiful, together with your description it's as if we were on the journey with you, thanks again, dear friend!


Ian Stehbens on January 15, 2010

This 9M bank was one of our favourite childhood challenges. To leap into the deep water of the Big Hole from here was one of the rites of initiation into the ranks of the "Brave". Naturally, when it was boasted about the bank was "50ft high" though as we grew older it diminished in height, somehow.

One of the local service clubs decided to build real swimming facilities here, with pontoons on either bank 33.3 yards apart, and both 12ft and 3ft diving boards on the point to right of centre.

How well I remember the swimming carnival that was held here - complete with a beauty contest for girls. Former locals the Skillen brothers (Jim and Rob) then from Bundaberg and the Stehbens brothers (Robert and Phillip) from Maryborough were the ace swimmers, and Kay Skillen won the beauty pageant. I think she was only 12, then!

The floods soon removed the pontoons and the boards, and years later an official chlorinated pool was constructed at the nearby school. Yet, today it is still a kids' playground though the local landholders have attempted to restrict its use to those who come from out of town to pay to camp in this little piece of paradise... where platypus, bum-breathing turtles and ceratodus live.

(2nd Edition. I made an error in the first edition of this. I had the pontoons only 10M apart!)

Theolfa on January 15, 2010

A beautiful picture and a nice description of the fun you had there. I can see how it might be an adventure to leap off the top and make a big splash in the water, but how did you get back up? Have to go now and search for bum breathing turtle on the web ;D Theolfa

Ian Stehbens on January 15, 2010

Dear May,

The water of this creek runs through my veins! I spent enough time in it for the osmosis to have occurred! In it, beside it, crossing it, diving into it, skiing on it, drinking from it, canoeing it, watching its big floods with awe, loving it, respecting it and recently fighting to save it. The State Government intended to inundate it with a big dam at Traveston Crossing downstream on the Mary River.

Wisdom prevailed, and the Federal Minister for Environment vetoed the project for environmental reasons primarily, after a 3 year process and intense campaign. The Ceratodus and the bum-breathing turtle were just two of the species that would have been severely affected. The Ceratodus for example breeds in the riffles (the shallow gravelly sections of the river) and the major breeding areas would have been inundated. The dam was to be built at the mid-point in the Mary Valley, thus isolating upstream areas from downstream environments.

Thank you for your appreciation of my little stories. They are written for "my silent companions" who virtually walk with me when I am photographing.

In warmest friendship,


Ian Stehbens on January 15, 2010

Dear Theolfa and May,

Where else can I chat to friends about bum-breathing turtles and ceratodus?? Or to confide that I really wasn't all that brave and didn't do repeated jumps! The diving board at 12ft was high enough for me.

Hope the turtles don't bite, Theolfa.

It was reasonably easy to climb the bank at the point, but there were always toeholds dug in the clay bank that allowed us to ascend with ease. The tricky bit was that as the red clay gets wet, one tends to slip and wet children quickly make the bank slippery!

How deep the water was we don't know. 30 ft was our consensus. No one ever managed to go deep enough to find out. But whatever depth we played here without any adult supervision for hours, and never a drowning, nor can I recall a single accident. I learnt to swim (around 8 years old) just copying the others, first dog-paddling to the other side.

When I grow up, I told my 3 year old grandson, I want to be a little boy.


Ian Stehbens on January 15, 2010

Merci, Annie. Les salutations cordiales de la belle Vallée de Marie à l'Hautes Pyrénées Montagnes majestueuses.


sugarbag1 on January 16, 2010

Excellent Photo Ian Y*

Ian Stehbens on January 16, 2010

Thank you, David. This is place has treasured memories associated with it.


bdeh on January 16, 2010

Beautiful picture and piece of nature Ian. Good that it's saved. I have seen on TV a program of the problems with the breeding sections of the Sawfish in the Fitzroy River. That's caused by the dams in the river. Greetings Berend

Ian Stehbens on January 16, 2010

Yabba Creek, a major tributary of the Mary River is home to a diverse and varied range of aquatic species.

Besides the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), the Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus), the Mary River Cod (Maccullochella peelii mariensis), the Ceratodus or Australian Lung Fish (Neoceratodus forster), the southern barred frog are very special creatures that live in the Creek. Fish species that are native to other parts of Australia have been introduced to Yabba Creek, initially to stock Borumba Dam for recreational fishing. These exotic species include golden perch (Macquaria ambigua), silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) and saratoga (Scleropages leichardtii). A threatened species of turtle has also been breeding in this river system since being introduced. Known as the Bum-breathing turtle (Elseya irwini) it was first identified in the Burdekin River by Bob Irwin in 1990.

The common species of mullet, eel, catfish, mussels and crayfish were the most common creatures that were caught by various means and contributed to an occasional meal when I was a child.

Ian Stehbens on January 16, 2010

Dear Berend,

I delight in sharing this special place with you. Further to your comments on the Fitzroy River, I have just posted some basic information on the species in this (my) creek.


bdeh on January 16, 2010

Nice the information you gave Ian. I looked the turtle at Internet and found a picture with the late Steve Irwin. Greetings Berend

Ian Stehbens on January 16, 2010

Thank you Berend. You certainly take an active interest in Australia and I am delighted to contribute to that through our sharing.

You may have read that Bob Irwin and his late son, Steve, were camping and fishing near the Bowen River confluence with the Burdekin when they hooked a turtle while fishing. It was a new turtle to them so they brought it back for identification to discover it was a previously unrecorded species. Hence it was named E. irwini.

When the Irwin's got permission to breed them and then to release some back into the wild it was decided that the Mary River was a good choice because of its environment: lots of oxygen rich water, no sugarcane growing, and no industrial or urban effluent enters the river upstream of Gympie. It was also in proximity to the Irwin's Australia Zoo. The day of the release was a very happy day for Bob, for it was his first time to release endangered species back into the wild. The breeding program in the Mary continues with success.

Being a bum-breather, this turtle depends on oxygen rich water. This means that it is lives in streams that have plenty of riffles (= shallow rapids between deeper pools). It has been estimated to obtain 70% of its oxygen needs from its simple gill like organ which is located near its reproductive organs. It draws water in and then expels the water from its anus orifice.

The Mary River, and its tributaries such as Yabba Creek are wonderful pool-riffle environments. And E. irwini must be very relieved to be living in this catchment where there are no crocodiles, their main predator! I bet the first of these turtles to come to the Mary-Yabba Rivers were pleased to get away from Irwin's Australia Zoo that has made its name through its crocodiles!!

The above photo of the Imbil Big-hole is one of the deep quiet pools lying between a gravelly riffle and a rocky cascade section.


Elemér on January 18, 2010

Fantastic colors beautiful landscape, very nice photo!


Ian Stehbens on January 18, 2010

Dear Elemér,

It is an idyllic place. Thanks for your appreciative note.

Warmest regards,


rabble on January 5, 2013

Ian, thank you for posting these geo-tagged photos! Having just come home from a weeks camping at Brooloo Park, where the creek was too low to swim, your photos saved our lives! I was able to use the co-ordinates to find this spot, and we happily swam here for the rest of our stay :) melanie

Ian Stehbens on January 6, 2013

You weren't very far away from this wonderful swimming hole, when you were camped at Brooloo Park, Melanie. Thanks for your note of appreciation for it's good to know how our photos are being used. The Coonoon Gibber Ck would have been a bit short on water after this dry period we have had. But I am sure you had a great time at "The Big Hole". Did you venture around the corner, 250M downstream to Imbil Weir and Imbil Falls, for the rock hole there is another great place to play?

Hope you make it back to Imbil and our special creek.


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Photo details

  • Uploaded on January 15, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens