Sapling Pocket

Sapling Pocket is an Ipswich City Council reserve tucked away in a secluded bend of the Brisbane River between Pine Mountain and Fernvale.

On his webside, Upstream Paddle,  canoeist Peter Ringland describes this section of the river as “the jewel in the crown” for paddling in South East Queensland, having platypus, ducks, geese, swans and eagles.

After obtaining permission from the council and local land-owners, we thought we’d explore this scenic spot on our bikes.

We parked at the Kholo Botannical Gardens.  Mountain Bikers prefer dirt over bitumen wherever possible,  so we rolled down the hill along dirt tracks and quiet grassy reserves towards the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT).

This former railway line stretches over 160km from Ipswich to Yarraman, with only a couple of sections still awaiting completion.  When finished, it will be the longest continuous rail trail in Australia.

Over the last few years we’ve completed several long rides from Brisbane via the BVRT, D’Aguilar National Park and Fernvale.  But the BVRT also connects with the Bicentennial National Trail in Blackbutt – a trail which traverses our continent from North to South covering over 5,300km.

If you’re looking for adventure, Ipswich is a great place to start.

At Borallon we left the rail trail and followed a quiet paved road towards the River.

At Burtons Bridge, the Brisbane River is crystal clear.

The road is fairly quiet here, so we stopped briefly to admire the view.

After the bridge, we instinctively smiled again as we heard the crunch of our tyres on the gravel.  Amid the grassy fields and tall blue skies it felt like a perfect day to be out on the bikes.

Earlier in the week I had spoken to the land-owner at the end of the road who kindly allowed us to ride along the riverbank through his property.

Russell tells me that during floods on his property he has seen the river rise over 20 meters in height.

It was hard to imagine as we watched the tranquil water slip quietly by.

As we rode over the river gravel, the dry vine rainforest of Camerons Scrub loomed ahead of us.  Hoop pines reached up from the hilltops.

We crossed the Brisbane River a second time at “Sellars Bridge”.

(Photo: Jason Reed)

This area was once a gravel quarry.  Dump trucks crossed the river via the bridge to access the river gravel.

These days the bridge is in disrepair – but easily crossed on a bike.  And the riverbanks are slowly regaining their former beauty.

We couldn’t see any bees at the “Bee Tree”, but we didn’t stick around too long in case they saw us first.

Sapling Pocket adjoins the state government nature reserve.  The old quarry tracks trace out a large circle which follows the river before looping back through the pine forest.

We followed the grassy tracks down towards the river.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Wow – what beautiful spot!

Many people only see the Brisbane River at its end point – slow-moving mud-brown water coursing through a bustling city.

This far upstream it’s alive, pristine and vibrant.  The sort of river that beckons to the dormant child inside: “Quick! Jump in!”

In response we hopped off the bikes and decided to have a splash.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Some of us old blokes might be in our fifties, but we turned into kids when we sat in the cool water.

This is how every Saturday morning should be.

Eric joked that we should take one of Darb’s huge fat-bike inner tubes, pump it up and float way.  Darb didn’t seem too keen.

(Photo: Adam Lynch)

My waterproof camera didn’t complain.  I sat in the babbling shallows and happily clicked away.


The Ipswich City Council has a great long-term vision for this site.

Currently it’s going through a regeneration phase, allowing the land to recover as native species return, with weeds and other pests being brought under control. Large scale access at this time would jeopardize the regeneration process.

Once this is complete, the park will be opened up to the wider community, allowing hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and camping.

I imagine long-distance trekkers on the BVRT and the BNT will one day spend a quiet night or two here resting from a long trans-continental journey.

It’s an exciting plan.

After a quick dry-off, we got back on the bikes and followed the track through the swaying grass.

(Photo: Jason Reed)

We slowly made our way back up the hill towards the forest.

Even though the grass was tall in spots, the tracks were well-maintained and easy to ride.

Back in the pine forest, Darb pointed out a spot on the other side of the river where we had come a couple of weeks previously.  Although it was only three hundred metres away, between there and here lay thick impenetrable scrub.

We slowly made our way out of the pocket along the dirt road.

“Bog Hole Reserve” – what an amusing name.  How could we not stop for a photo in the shade?

We followed the gravel back towards Pine Mountain along Stokes Road.

(Photo: Jason Reed)

Some of the historic buildings around here are delightful.

We decided to detour through Pine Mountain Bush Reserve to explore some of the horse tracks.

I wasn’t sure where they’d lead, and hoped that we could follow some sort of loop through the area.

Alas, there was no loop, so we retraced our steps out of the reserve and back on to the dirt road.

There are miles of quiet gravel roads like this around Ipswich.  It’s an enjoyable place to ride a bike.

Back on the Rail Trail we made our way back towards Kholo.


The last track of the day was St Michaels Terrace – a narrow trail twisting through the bush back up to Riverside Drive.

The track finishes with a quick bumpy descent.  We reached the bottom with involuntary smiles – the perfect way to end a ride.

The “Commercial Hotel” at Redbank served up some excellent Mountain Bike fuel.

Total distance: 40.81 km
Total climbing: 772 m
Average temperature: 27.9
Total time: 04:03:42
Download file: activity_1108034766.gpx
More data

We rode 40km in four hours including breaks.

During this time we climbed about 600 metres in vertical ascent, and I burned about 2,400 kcal.

This was an easy enjoyable ride with stunning scenery.  I’ll rate it 6 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thanks Eric, Darb, Russel, Jason, Adam, Calum, Raquel and Kaye for a great day out.

Thanks also to Councillor David Pahlke and the good people from the Ipswich City Council for your support.

Finally, a big thankyou to Russell Bernitt for allowing us to ride through your beautiful property.


High res images available here:

9 Replies to “Sapling Pocket”

  1. Hi Neil,

    Do you need landowner’s permission to ride Mcmullen rd, i think i recall a gate toward the end, according to your track notes you must have gone through this gate, is it private property??
    I live in that area, lots of little know tracks round there…

  2. Hi Hayden
    It’s Ipswich City Council (ICC) Land. We spoke with Cr David Pahlke who arranged permission for us.
    There is no longer a quarry in there (used to be).
    The ICC’s strategy for Sapling Pocket for the moment is a regeneration phase. So they’re not publicizing the area or encouraging lots of visitors. They’re just giving the place a chance to regenerate. The long-term plan is to open it up for recreation.
    Hope this helps.

  3. Thanks for this report Neil. Not sure if you have seen our Sapling Pocket birders guide, but you have illustrated well what we love about the area. Sadly there are some 4wd and trailbike morons who wish to destroy the wonderful work that ICC have done. Tread gently! Tim and Marg

    1. Hi Tim
      Thanks for your comments.
      Yes – Sapling Pocket is a great place, and well worth protecting.
      I look forward to seeing it again in a few years after the rehabilitation process has progressed a bit further.
      Did you see our photos of the other end of the reserve from the previous week?

  4. Its a great place to be sure. Only a little further downstream from your first river crossing is a slightly better known and infinitely more popular area of the river called hills crossing reserve, the only problem with the popularity is people tend to leave all sorts of crap behind when they leave. Beer cans, maccas wrappers, dirty nappies etc. You name it and garaunteed its probably discarded somewhere along the banks of this great river. The missus and I have taken to carrying several large garbage bags whenever we go out that way so we can cart some of it home to dispose of properly. Its such a shame that a few ignorant people think they have the right to spoil it for the rest of us.

    1. G’day Jay
      Thanks for the comments, and thanks for being one of the “good guys” who leaves a place better than where they found it.
      You’re lucky to live in such a pretty part of the world.

  5. It is always a a balancing act between closing these places to all for conservation and letting responsible people access these areas without the need for jumping through hoops.
    The access to the river by canoes is important as this is the best canoeing area close to Brisbane for training people to canoe. Access by support vehicles can assist in these activities.
    Obviously open access leads to misuse by a very small number of people that make their presence all to visible.

    1. G’day Michael
      From what I’ve seen the ICC seems to be handling that balancing act quite well. They have a plan for Sapling Pocket which will eventually allow public access, 4WD access, camping, etc. The main issue at the moment is rehabilitating the site to let some of the native vegetation to recover. If you needed 4WD support access near Sapling Pocket at the moment I think the landowner to the North-West would be easy to talk to. Plus there’s the a road reserve (Shelley Road) near Lake Manchester which allows direct access to the river bank opposite the eastern section of Sapling pocket.
      Thanks for your comments.

  6. We are property owner next to Sapling Pocket. Our family have been in Pine Mountain sine 1862. Sapling Pocket was our swimming hole. The council allowed gravel extraction from Sapling Pocket which totally destroyed the area. There was no requirement on the extraction company for a regeneration process of the area at the end of their lease. The rate payers of Ipswich have had to foot the bill. We do not want 4WD in the area. There are two gates on McMullens Road because of the idiots coming out from Ipswich and hooning in their cars and leaving behind their rubbish. We have also had cars set on fire in McMullens Road. Local residents were locked out of the area because of the damage to equipment etc by the hoons.
    We also are concerned about people camping in the area and lighting fires as our property is in the Fire Risk Area.
    The historic building photographed on the web site is not original it was moved there!!!!
    The Bog Hole was a permanent waterhole where the original settlers did their washing
    There have been small dams built on Watercress Creek and clearing of the creek banks and nothing seems to be done to stop these activities. It has changed the flow of Watercress Creek and the filling of the natural waterholes further down the creek where there were platypuses.

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