Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL)

Lakefield National Park, Peter Lik / Courtesy of Tourism Queensland
Barbecue Drinking water Fishing Shower Toilets Watersports Wildlife Aboriginal site Camping area Four-wheel drive touring Ranger Walking

Introduction

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park Cape York Aboriginal land (CYPAL) on the Cape York Peninsula is Queensland’s second largest park. Stretching from the small outback town of Laura in the south to Princess Charlotte Bay in the north, it is renowned for its vast river systems and spectacular wetlands. Gallery rainforest grows along parts of the Normanby and Kennedy rivers and monsoonal scrub is found on sections of the park’s sandstone escarpments.

Fact file

Access

From Cairns and Laura via Peninsula Developmental Rd, 4WD recommended; from Cooktown via Battlecamp Rd; from Coen via Musgrave Roadhouse, 4WD only; check current road conditions before travelling; nearest supplies and fuel at Laura and Musgrave

Best season

April to November; closed in the wet season

Location

340 km north-west of Cairns; 118 km west of Cooktown; 27 km north of Laura

Park information

NPRSR 13 7468

Permits

Camping permit required and fees apply; bookings essential

Size

544 000 ha

Visitor information

Cooktown and Cape York (07) 4069 6004

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Catch a tasty barramundi for dinner

    Marvel at the huge termite mounds on the grasslands

    Visit the beautiful Red and White Lily lagoons

See Also

A look at the past

William Hann made a crossing of the North Kennedy River during his expedition to Cape York in 1872. The site is now known as Hann Crossing. Hann was one of many explorers, geologists and surveyors, including Kennedy, Mulligan, Logan Jack, Bradford and Embley, who traversed parts of what is now Lakefield National Park after the mid-1800s. Hann also discovered gold on the Palmer River, initiating the rush of 1873, which resulted in tracks through the southern end of the park. The first cattle grazing lease was granted in 1879 for Laura station. Old Laura homestead is open to the public and, north of Kalpowar Crossing, a delightful lagoon and 100-year-old mango trees mark the site of Breeza homestead, where horses were bred for the Palmer River fields.

Aboriginal culture

Prior to European settlement in the 1870s numerous Aboriginal clans of the Lama Lama and Kuku Thaypan language groups occupied the area now designated as national park. Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake), Rinyirru (a bora ground near Blue Lagoon) and Hann and Kalpowar crossings are among a number of culturally significant sites associated with occupation, ceremonies and stories of ancestral spirits. In June 2011 ownership of the park was returned to its traditional owners and the park renamed from its previous European name (Lakefield); traditional owners now jointly manage the park. Rarda-Ndolphin, also known as Low Lake, is a particularly important ceremonial site, from which food is never sourced; visitors are restricted to the car park and viewing area.

Natural features

Gazetted as a national park in 1979, Rinyirru has an extensive river system comprising the Normanby, Morehead and North Kennedy rivers and their tributaries. During the wet season, these waterways join to flood vast areas, eventually draining into Princess Charlotte Bay; the park is completely closed during this period. During the dry season, the rivers and creeks shrink, leaving large permanent waterholes, lakes and lagoons interspersed by flood plains, ridges and riverbeds.

Native plants

To the north of the park around Princess Charlotte Bay are river estuaries and mudflats with fringing mangroves. Open woodland of eucalypt and paperbark spreads across the flood plains while elsewhere there are extensive grasslands. Near Lakefield ranger station are fan-leaved palm trees (Corypha utan), a rare species that flowers and fruits only once in its life then dies, sometimes reaching 100 years of age. For a spectacular sight, visit the Red and White Lily lagoons, around 8 kilometres north of the ranger station.

Wildlife

The park’s wetlands attract a diversity of animals, particularly waterbirds. Look for brolgas, sarus cranes, black-necked storks, comb-crested jacanas, magpie geese and ducks. A good viewing spot is picturesque Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake), 3 kilometres off Lakefield Road. In open woodland and grassland areas agile wallabies are abundant; the northern nailtail wallaby and Australian bustard are harder to find. Termite mounds – both magnetic and cathedral constructions – are a common sight on the grasslands, particularly on the Nifold Plain. The park also protects a number of threatened species including the golden-shouldered parrot, star finch, red goshawk, Lakeland Downs mouse and spectacled hare-wallaby. A variety of fish inhabit the rivers, including barramundi (for fishing details see Things to do).

Introduction

Never swim, canoe, clean fish or prepare food at the water’s edge, or camp close to deep waterholes, as estuarine crocodiles live in these waters. Rinyirru is one of the few Queensland parks where fishing is allowed. Anglers can target barramundi, tarpon, catfish and archerfish in the freshwater regions, and mangrove jack, fingermark, cod, trevally, queenfish and salmon in the saltwater areas. Recreational fishing is permitted at all camping areas. The Bizant boat ramp provides the best access to Princess Charlotte Bay. Check with a ranger for current fishing restrictions and regulations. Canoeing is not recommended due to the presence of crocodiles.

Only one walking trail exists in the park: the Kalpowar Discovery walk (4 km return, 1½ hours) at Kalpowar Crossing. Visitors can also stretch their legs by exploring the Old Laura and Old Breeza homesteads, walking out to the viewing platform on Red Lily Lagoon, or along the walking track to the Rarda-Ndolphin viewing area.

Campsites

Annie River camping area (bush camping)

The 4WD access track to Annie River, the park’s most northerly campground, is off Marina Plains Rd, about 14 km north of Lakefield Rd. Bring drinking water, firewood and a gas/fuel stove. Never swim, canoe, clean... Find out more


Basin Hole camping area (bush camping)

This basic campsite for self-sufficient campers only is on Jam Tin Creek, 28 km north of Lakefield ranger base and 9 km north-east of Hann Crossing. Bring all self-sufficient gear, including drinking water, rubbish bags... Find out more


Bizant River camping area (bush camping)

This bush camp is located on a flat patch adjacent to the Bizant River boat ramp – an unformed boat launch that offers access to the tidal Bizant River and Princess Charlotte Bay. It is 25 km north-north-east of... Find out more


Bottom Whiphandle Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Just a few kilometres north of Top Whiphandle, Bottom Whiphandle Waterhole is about 29 km north-east of Hann Crossing, reached from Bizant Outstation. Recreational fishing is permitted at all camping areas. Check with a... Find out more


Brown Creek camping area (bush camping)

This campsite, close to the Bizant River boat ramp and camping area, lies at the junction of Brown Creek and Bizant River, 26 km north-north-east of Hann Crossing by road. Bring all self-sufficient gear, including... Find out more


Dingo Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Dingo Waterhole is 33 km north of New Laura Ranger Station and a further 9 km from the Lakefield Rd turn-off. Open fires are allowed but generators are not permitted.... Find out more


Five Mile Creek camping area (bush camping)

This small site is about 5 km south-west of Annie River camping area, and suits self-sufficient campers only. Use the existing fire sites, and preferably bring a gas/fuel stove.... Find out more


Hann Crossing camping area

Most campers visiting Rinyirru stay at either Kalpowar or this campground at Hann Crossing on Lakefield Rd, 29 km north of Lakefield Ranger Station. Accessible by 4WD only, there are 17 numbered sites for general use and... Find out more


Hanush’s Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

To reach Hanush’s Waterhole, take the access track signposted about 7 km north of Lakefield Ranger Station, then travel a further 7.5 km to the camping area. This site suits self-sufficient campers only; use... Find out more


Horseshoe Lagoon camping area (bush camping)

To reach this campground for self-sufficient campers, head for Old Laura Homestead then turn onto Battle Camp Rd and travel 29 km east of Old Laura to the turn-off. Check with a ranger for current fishing restrictions... Find out more


Kalpowar Crossing Campground

Rinyirru’s most popular camping ground, with the best facilities, Kalpowar is 3 km east of the Lakefield Ranger Station, next to an 8 km stretch of permanent fresh waterholes on the Normanby River. Accessible by... Find out more


Kennedy Bend Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Kennedy Bend Waterhole is on Lakefield Rd, 8 km north of New Laura Ranger Station. Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) protects a number of threatened species, including the golden-shouldered parrot, star finch,... Find out more


Melaleuca Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

This waterhole’s access track is signposted about 7 km north-west of Lakefield Ranger Station; approximately 19 km further on you’ll find the camping area with 4 sites. Rinyirru has an extensive river system... Find out more


Mick Fienn Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Mick Fienn Waterhole is 33 km north of New Laura Ranger Station and a further 9 km from the Lakefield Rd turn-off, just north of Dingo Waterhole. There are 5 numbered sites; campsites 1, 2 and 5 provide good shade and... Find out more


Midway Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

The access track to Midway Waterhole is signposted about 6 km north-west of Lakefield Ranger Station; then it’s a further 3.7 km to the camping area. This site suits self-sufficient campers only; use existing fire... Find out more


Old Faithful Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Turn off about 23 km north of New Laura Ranger Station to reach this campground, about 6 km east of Lakefield Rd. There are 3 numbered campsites next to the waterhole on the Normanby River, an ideal spot for fishing.... Find out more


Old Laura Homestead camping area (bush camping)

This campsite is next to the historical Old Laura Homestead, a cattle homestead recently restored from years of decay and vandalism and now protected by the Queensland Heritage Register. There are no facilities, so bring... Find out more


Orange Plain Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

This waterhole is about 18 km north-east of Hann Crossing via Bizant Outstation. Campers must be totally self-sufficient; bring drinking water, firewood and preferably a gas/fuel stove. During the dry season, the rivers... Find out more


Saltwater Crossing camping area (bush camping)

This campground is on Lakefield Rd, about 32 km north-west of Hann Crossing and about 8 km east of Marina Plains Rd. There are 2 areas – on the east and west side of the causeway – both with 2 campsites for... Find out more


Six Mile Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Six Mile Waterhole is about 15 km south of the New Laura Ranger Station, 3 km east of Lakefield Rd. The park’s wetlands attract a diversity of animals, particularly waterbirds. Look for brolgas, sarus cranes,... Find out more


Sweetwater Lake camping area (bush camping)

At the northern section of the park near Nifold Plain, Sweetwater Lake is 2 km south of Marina Plains Rd near the information station. It is for self-sufficient campers only; use fire sites (a gas/fuel stove is... Find out more


Top Whiphandle Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

Top Whiphandle Waterhole is about 20 km north-east of Hann Crossing via Bizant Outstation. Campers must be totally self-sufficient, and preferably bring a gas/fuel stove; use existing fire sites.... Find out more


Twelve Mile Lagoon camping area (bush camping)

Twelve Mile Lagoon is near the Normanby River about 12 km east of Lakefield Rd; take the turn-off opposite New Laura Ranger Station. There are 9 numbered sites; open fires are allowed in the provided rings and generators... Find out more


Welcome Waterhole camping area (bush camping)

The Welcome Waterhole is about 7 km from Horseshoe Lagoon and about 6 km north of Battle Camp Rd. The turn-off from Battle Camp Rd is about 30 km east of Old Laura Homestead. Bring all self-sufficient supplies.... Find out more


See Also

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