Fergusson’s Sawmills, Gympie, ca. 1872

Nestled in Queensland, Australia, Gympie is often remembered for its rich gold mining heritage. However, beyond the allure of gold, timber has played a substantial role in shaping the socio-economic and cultural facets of this region. Delving into the history of timber in Gympie and its surrounding areas provides a fascinating perspective on a region that once thrummed with the sounds of sawmills and logging teams.

Before the Gold Rush

Before the gold rush put Gympie on the map in 1867, the region was blanketed with native forests. These forests, dominated by species like hoop pine, cedar, and various hardwoods, were home to the indigenous Gubbi Gubbi people. They utilized the timber for various purposes, including crafting tools and shelter.

Gold and Timber: Parallel Industries

When James Nash discovered gold in Gympie in 1867, it brought a rush of settlers to the region. While gold was the primary attraction, these settlers also recognized the vast timber resources surrounding them. As Gympie transitioned into a bustling town, timber became essential for infrastructure — from building homes to constructing mining supports.

The Timber Boom

By the late 19th century and early 20th century, the timber industry in Gympie and its surrounding areas was thriving. Numerous sawmills cropped up, and logging tracks were laid through the forests.

The town of Imbil, located to the south of Gympie, stands as a testament to the area’s timber heritage. By the 1920s, Imbil was home to one of Queensland’s largest sawmills. The Mary Valley Rattler, a heritage steam train, once played a pivotal role in transporting timber from the Mary Valley region to Gympie.

Evolution and Challenges

As the years rolled on, challenges began to surface for the timber industry. Over-logging and a lack of sustainable forestry practices threatened the very resource upon which the industry depended. Simultaneously, there was a rising awareness about conservation and the environmental impacts of unchecked logging.

By the mid-to-late 20th century, the timber industry faced declining yields and increasing regulations. Many mills closed or downsized, and the region was forced to adapt.

Today’s Timber Landscape

Today, the legacy of the timber industry is still visible in Gympie and its surroundings. Heritage sites, museums, and historical records keep the stories alive. The Mary Valley Rattler, now primarily a tourist attraction, stands as a nostalgic testament to the area’s timbered past.

Modern forestry in the region leans towards sustainability. Plantation-grown timber and responsible logging practices ensure that the industry remains, but with a more eco-friendly approach.


Gympie’s history, often shimmering with gold, has deep roots in the timber that once blanketed the region. From indigenous uses to the sawmill-laden landscapes of the 20th century, timber has significantly shaped the region’s destiny. While the sounds of sawmills may have dimmed, the legacy of timber in Gympie and its surroundings stands tall, a reminder of an industry that once was.