Wooroonooran National Park

Wooroonooran National Park, John Carnemolla / Auscape International
Barbecue Caravan Disabled Toilets Watersports Aboriginal site Camping area Lookout Picnic area Ranger Walking

Introduction

Part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Wooroonooran National Park boasts the two highest mountains in Queensland, along with wild rivers, spectacular waterfalls and lush rainforests, which blanket the landscape from foothills to summits. Widely regarded as one of the most scenic areas of the Wet Tropics yet receiving few visitors, Wooroonooran is one of Queensland’s best-kept secrets.

Fact file

Access

From Cairns via Burce Hwy then Gillies Hwy (Goldsborough Valley section); via Bruce Hwy (Josephine Falls and Walshs Pyramid sections); via Bruce Hwy then Palmerston Hwy (Palmerston section)

Best season

All year; summer months can be hot, wet and humid

Location

46 km south-west of Cairns (Goldsborough Valley section); 75 km south of Cairns, 7 km west of Babinda, 23 km north-west of Innisfail (Josephine Falls section); 33 km west of Innisfail, 25 km east of Millaa Millaa (Palmerston section); 26 km south of Cairns (Walshs Pyramid section)

Park information

NPRSR 13 7468

Permits

Camping and rafting permits required; fees apply; bookings required

Size

79 800 ha

Visitor information

Babinda (07) 4067 1008

Innisfail (07) 4061 2655

Malanda Falls (07) 4096 6957  

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Picnic at beautiful Josephine Falls

    Look for platypus and freshwater turtles in Henrietta Creek

    Enjoy the view over North Johnstone River gorge from Crawfords Lookout

    Go whitewater rafting on the North Johnstone River

A look at the past

In 1882, bushman, gold prospector and explorer Christie Palmerston, assisted by Aboriginal guides, walked west from Innisfail to Herberton in 12 days. The highway, named in his honour, follows his route. Four years later Palmerston became the first European to climb Mount Bartle Frere, taking two days to reach the summit. Today’s Mount Bartle Frere Trail follows a rough track used by miners and adventurers since the 1890s.

Aboriginal culture

The Wari and Dulgubara people are the traditional owners of the Palmerston (Doongan) section of the park, while the Goldsborough Valley section is the traditional land of the Dulabed Malanbarra Yidinji clan. The Mount Bartle Frere area is the spiritual home of the Noongyanbudda Ngadjon and the place to which their spirits return when they die.

Natural features

Wooroonooran protects the Bellenden Ker Range and the escarpment country west of Innisfail. The range boasts the two highest mountains in Queensland: Mount Bartle Frere at 1622 metres and Bellenden Ker at 1561 metres. It also receives some of the highest rainfall in Australia, creating the rivers and creeks that cascade through lush rainforest.

The park is divided into four sections: the Palmerston (Doongan) area in the south, and Josephine Falls, Goldsborough Valley, and Walshs Pyramids sections in the north. The North and South Johnstone rivers flow through the Palmerston section, distinguished by the North Johnstone River gorge, numerous waterfalls and an incredible diversity of rainforest vegetation. Each of the northern sections is dominated by a mountain: Josephine Falls by Mount Bartle Frere (the falls themselves are fed by rains falling on this peak); Goldsborough Valley by Bellenden Ker, and Walshs Pyramid by the mountain of the same name.

Native plants

The lowland and upland rainforests in the park support a great diversity of plant species. More than 500 rainforest trees grow here, including palms, milky pines, water gums, black beans, red tulip oaks, silver silkwoods and crowsfoot elms. Beneath the dense rainforest canopy are cool, moist conditions that support vines, orchids and an abundance of ferns, including bird’s nest ferns, tassel ferns and staghorn ferns. Many plant species are confined to these high-altitude rainforest areas, such as Australia’s only native rhododendron.

Wildlife

In Wooroonooran, Wet Tropics’ endemics include the tiny musky rat-kangaroo, double-eyed fig-parrot and chowchilla. At Palmerston’s Henrietta Creek there are platypuses and freshwater turtles. Josephine Falls is home to the Bartle Frere skink. Golden bowerbirds, which only live at elevations above 900 metres between Paluma and Cooktown, can be seen between November and January in this section of the park. These smallest of bowerbirds build the tallest bowers in the world (up to 3 metres).

Introduction

From picnicking amid lush rainforest to climbing Queensland’s highest mountain, Wooroonoonan offers a variety of recreational activities. For great views, stop at Crawfords Lookout over the gorge in Palmerston. Go birdwatching during the day or search for possums by spotlight at night. The many beautiful waterfalls along the walking tracks are a photographer’s delight. In the Palmerston (Doongan) section, you can have a picnic at Goolagan’s picnic area or other spots along the highway. The picnic area at Josephine Falls has tables, a shelter shed, a coin-operated gas barbecue and wheelchair-accessible toilets, and similar facilities are provided at Goldsborough Valley. There is no day-use area at Walshs Pyramid.

Bushwalking

In the Palmerston (Doongan) section, you can see the rainforest along Tchupala Falls walk (1.2 km return, 40 minutes, easy) and Nandroya Falls walk (6 km return, 3–4 hours, medium difficulty), which has an optional 1.8-kilometre detour to form a circuit.

In the Josephine Falls section, Josephine Falls Track (1.2 km return, 30 minutes, easy) takes you through lush tropical rainforest to viewing platforms overlooking Josephine Creek and falls. The viewing platform at the top pool is wheelchair accessible. Do not enter the restricted-access area around the top of the falls – serious injuries and deaths have occurred here.

In Goldsborough Valley, Wajil Walk (1.7 km return, 1–1½ hours, easy) offers detailed information about the natural features of the park and the stories of the Dulabed Malanbarra Yidinji clan as you approach Kearneys Falls. Those looking for a more involved walk can follow the footsteps of gold miners on the Goldfield trail (19 km one way, 7–9 hours). If you take on this rewarding walk, don't forget to arrange transport to meet your group at the other end.

The only walking trail in Walshs Pyramid scales the mountain, a challenging 6-kilometre hike (5–6 hours, difficult) that is rewarded by 360-degree views over Gordonvale and to the ocean.

For more experienced walkers, Josephine Falls is the starting point for the Mount Bartle Frere Trail (15 km return, 2 days, difficult), which leads to the summit and back. Broken Nose Track (10 km return, 8 hours, difficult) offers a shorter but equally steep alternative. The summit can also be approached from the Atherton Tableland, again a challenging two-day walk. Make sure you check weather conditions with the ranger before undertaking these longer walks, as clouds can move in quickly on the upper reaches of the mountain and rainstorms are common all year. The dry season from May to October is the best time. The Misty Moutains Wilderness Walking Tracks, a 130-kilometre network of trails and walkers' camps, passes through the Palmerston (Doongan) section of Wooroonooran.

Whitewater rafting

Whitewater rafting is possible on the North Johnstone River. The tours commence by helicopter and can take up to four days to complete. Permits are required. For details contact Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre (07) 4051 3588.

Campsites

Downey Creek camping area (walk-in camping)

This campsite on the Gorrell track, one of the Misty Mountains Wilderness Walking Tracks, is 15.5 km from eastern Gorrell trailhead and 10.3 km from western Gorrell trailhead. There are no facilities provided; bring all... Find out more


Goldsborough Valley camping area

This grassy, shady site for self-sufficient campers is on the banks of the Mulgrave River, 25 km south-west of Gordonvale. There are 4 numbered sites for e-permit holders, each with its own alcove. Open fires are... Find out more


Henrietta Creek camping area

Accessible by 2WD, this grassy camping area is signposted off the Palmerston Hwy, 38 km from Innisfail. There are 3 numbered and 20 unnumbered sites. The park’s Wet Tropics’ endemics include the tiny musky... Find out more


South Johnstone camping area

This small spot on the banks of the South Johnstone River offers room for about 5 tents (camper trailers are accommodated in the nearby carpark). The main activities here are swimming and short walks, and it connects... Find out more


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