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Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park

© Tourism & Events Queensland

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park

Experience soaring red cliffs, deep emerald waters, expansive savanna landscapes and one of the richest fossil mammal deposits in the world.

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Climb the Island Stack for the best views.
Climb the Island Stack for the best views. Mark Nemeth © Queensland Government
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Park Boodjamulla
Traditional Owner Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger
Australian Fossil Mammal Sites Riversleigh World Heritage Area

Boodjamulla is one of Queensland's most exceptional parks, boasting spectacular gorge scenery, diverse wildlife, exhilarating walking and canoeing, and fossils deposits dating back 25 million years. Here, Lawn Hill Gorge carves a serpentine ribbon of green through the dry savannah landscape, creating an oasis in the outback.

The gorge's vivid orange sandstone cliffs tower above emerald green lime-rich waters of Lawn Hill Creek. Paddle your canoe serenely through lily-clad waters on the Lawn Hill Gorge canoe trail, looking for crimson finches along the creek edge and turtles in the creek.

Make an early start and walk the short but strenuous Island Stack to experience first light over the gorge, or in the later afternoon, hike the Constance Range track, for sunset views over the dry flat landscape of the Barkly Tablelands, a stark contrast to lush gorge.

Appreciate the connection between the Waanyi Aboriginal people and their land on the Rainbow Serpent track, and marvel at rock art and engravings on the Wild Dog Dreaming track. Stay in Lawn Hill Gorge camping area and revel in the peace of the outback and this special oasis.

Discover ancient fossils on the Riversleigh fossil trail at Riversleigh World Heritage Site, and gain a fascinating glimpse into the distant past.

Riversleigh is part of the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte) World Heritage Area, famed for its outstanding examples of the record of life and evolutionary history.

Keep discovering

Top things to see and do

The gorge camping has thoughtfully-planned camp sites and access roads.

Boodjamulla's camping areas

See Boodjamulla's camping areas.

Canoeing on the emerald green waters of Lawn Hill Creek is an ideal way to explore the middle and upper gorges.

Boodjamulla's journeys

See Boodjamulla's walks and canoe trail.

Relax in the shade of large fig trees, have a picnic or hire a canoe and explore the beauty of the gorge.

Boodjamulla's attractions

See Boodjamulla's day-use area and ranger office.

Getting there and getting around

Getting there

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is in remote north-west Queensland, close to the Northern Territory border, 270km north-west of Mount Isa.

  • The park can be accessed from the south via Mount Isa or Camooweal; from the east via Gregory Downs, or from the north.

From the south

  • From Mount Isa drive 118 north-west along the Barkly Highway; or, from Camooweal drive 71km east on the Barkly Highway to the Gregory–Burketown sign.
  • Turn right at the Gregory–Burketown sign, and drive 56km north-east on the Thorntonia–Yelvertoft Road.to the Gregory Downs–Camooweal Road (from here the roads are unsealed).
  • Turn right and drive 61km north on the Gregory Downs–Camooweal Road then turn left onto Riversleigh Road and drive 35km north-west to the Miyumba camping area, and a further 4km to the Riversleigh fossil trail in the Riversleigh section of the park.
  • Continue travelling north-west for 41km to a T-intersection, then turn left and travel for 4km west on the Lawn Hill National Park road to the entrance to the Lawn Hill Gorge section of the park.
  • Drive a further 3.5km to the Lawn Hill Gorge camping area, ranger office and canoe hire at the Middle Gorge day-use area.

Alternative route from Camooweal

  • Drive 2km east on the Barkly Highway then turn left onto the Gregory Downs–Camooweal Road and drive 151km north.
  • Turn left onto Riversleigh Road and drive 35km north-west to the Riversleigh section of the park at Miyumba camping area and a further 4km to the Riversleigh fossil trail.
  • Continue travelling 41km north-west to a T-intersection, then turn left and drive 4km west on the Lawn Hill National Park road to the entrance to the Lawn Hill Gorge section of the park.

From Gregory Downs

  • Travel 72km west along Wills Developmental Road then turn south onto Riversleigh Road.
  • Drive 21km to the entrance to the Lawn Hill Gorge section of the park.

From the north

  • Several 4WD routes on rough unsealed roads via Hell's Gate or Doomadgee lead to the Lawn Hill Gorge section of the park.

Getting around

Riversleigh section

Lawn Hill Gorge section

Road conditions

  • Roads in this area are mostly unsealed and not suitable for 2WDs and caravans; the only route suitable for 2WDs and off-road caravans is via Gregory Downs, although we recommend 4WDs.
  • Unsealed roads in the area make access unpredictable. Road surfaces can be rough, with patches of bulldust and corrugations; and sections of roads can also be impassable for extended periods after rain.
  • Road access can be cut during the wet season (October–April) when creek levels rise dramatically within a short time and with little warning. You can become stranded for several days.
  • Check the Burke Shire Council Road Report for up to date road conditions in the area.
See traffic and travel information for road and travel conditions.

  • Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Fuel and supplies

  • Fuel and basic supplies are available from Adels Grove, 10km from Lawn Hill Gorge, and at Gregory Downs, 100km east of the park.
  • The nearest major centres offering a full range of supplies and services are Burketown and Mount Isa.

Wheelchair access

Camping

Camp in the well-developed Lawn Hill Gorge camping area with toilet and showers, or bush camp at Miyumba camping area near the Gregory River in the Riversleigh section of the park, with no facilities.

See camping areas

Guided tours and talks

Guided tours are provided by commercial tour operators.

  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Walking

Explore the lush Lawn Hill Gorge and surrounding savannah landscape on walking tracks of varying length and difficulty. Enjoy impressive views over the gorge and from vantage points on the Constance Range, explore tufa formations in the creek, marvel at Aboriginal rock art and discover ancient fossils in a surprising landscape. Best walking is early morning and later afternoon to avoid the heat of the day.

Map of walking tracks

Picnicking

If you are visiting the gorge for a day, enjoy your lunch at the picnic tables in the Middle Gorge day-use area. You can also use the toilets and cold shower at the Lawn Hill Gorge camping area after your walk, swim or paddle.

Viewing wildlife

The gorge is an oasis for wildlife. Birdwatching is always rewarding—varied lorikeets and red-winged parrots streak overhead; bower birds construct their ground-level bowers while channel-billed cuckoos perch in high branches; crimson finches and purple-crowned fairy-wrens dart around the creek edges; and waterbirds, such as egrets, darters and cormorants, abound.

The camping area and gorge walking tracks are great places to see other animals—olive pythons, ring-tailed dragons, 'ta ta lizards', wallaroos and agile wallabies. Look for many kinds of fishes and turtles and even freshwater crocodiles in the creek. Spot the rare and endangered Gulf snapping turtle, as well as barramundi, sleepy cod and catfish.

Find out more about the park's wildlife.

Cultural and historic sites

The entire gorge landscape has cultural significance for the Waanya Aboriginal people. View ancient rock art and stone engravings on the Wild Dog Dreaming track.

  • These sites are easily damaged and are irreplaceable. Look at them, enjoy them, but please do not touch or damage them.

  • Read more about the park's cultural history.

Canoeing and kayaking

Paddle a canoe along the Lawn Hill Gorge canoe trail to explore the Middle and Upper gorges of Lawn Hill Creek. Bring your own or hire a canoe on an hourly basis from the canoe hire at Middle Gorge day-use area.

  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Swimming

Refresh in the cool clear waters of Lawn Hill Creek near the Lawn Hill Gorge camping area or take a dip in the Gregory River at Miyumba camping area.

  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

When to visit

Opening hours

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is open 24hrs a day.

  • Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Climate and weather

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park has a tropical savannah climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. During the dry season (May–September) the sky is generally clear and humidity is low. Average temperatures in July range from 12–32°C. Nights can be cool with temperatures occasionally falling to single figures overnight. The wet season (October–April) brings heavy rain, high temperatures and high humidity. Average wet season temperatures can range from 30–45°C.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.

Canoe hire

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Telstra Next G coverage is available outside the park  to the north on the Riversleigh-Doomadgee road from 10km east of the mine turn-off all the way to Adels Grove, and along the Lawn Hill National Park road up to the entrance grid at the park; and outside the park to the south along the Riversleigh Road for about 10km. It is also available inside the park at Duwadarri lookout and on top of the Constance Range, Lawn Hill Gorge camping area, Rainbow Serpent track and Island Stack. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Be prepared

  • Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
  • Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.

Open fires

  • Camp fires are not allowed in Lawn Hill Gorge camping area. Use a fuel or gas stove for cooking.
  • Camp fires are allowed at Miyumba camping area.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Drinking water

  • Treated tap water is provided at the Lawn Hill Gorge ranger office and camping area. Avoid drinking water straight from Lawn Hill Creek—it can make you very thirsty because of the high levels of calcium carbonate.
  • Tank water is available at Miyumba camping area.
  • Treat all water before use.
  • There is no drinking water on the any of the walking tracks so make sure you bring your own.

Rubbish

  • Rubbish bins are not provided. Take your rubbish with you when you leave the park.

Dump point

  • Dump points for portable toilet waste are not provided. The nearest dump point is at Adels Grove, 10 km from Lawn Hill Gorge camping area.
  • Use the toilets provided.

Camping

  • You can't use generators in the park.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Fishing

  • Fishing is prohibited in Lawn Hill Creek but you can fish in other creeks and rivers in the park.
  • Fisheries regulations apply. You can obtain information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures from Fisheries Queensland.

Walking

  • Due to high temperatures almost all year round, we recommend that you walk only early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Its best to start your walk before 10am or after 5pm (but make sure you leave enough time to finish the walk before it gets dark).
  • Stay clear of cliffs and steep rock faces and take care on uneven track surfaces.
  • Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly.

Around water

  • Cover up when canoeing, as the sun's reflection off the water can cause sunburn.
  • Don't take your canoe to the Cascades as you may damage the tufa formations, or into the Lower Gorge.
  • Motorised vessels are not permitted here to ensure that the waterways are kept unspoiled.
  • Be aware that freshwater crocodiles live in Lawn Hill Creek. They can become aggressive if disturbed and can cause injury. Do not approach or interfere with these animals and take care if swimming.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Driving

  • Carry a UHF radio (channels one and six are local repeaters) or satellite phone.
  • Read 4WD with care for important information on 4WD safety and minimal impact driving.

Natural environment

Lawn Hill Gorge

Millions of years in the making

Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park is one of Queensland's most significant geological parks, with interesting rocks and landscapes spanning hundreds of millions of years.

Ancient shallow sea

The red, hard sandstone in the eastern part of the main Lawn Hill Gorge and along the Constance Range was originally a blanket of sand deposited in an ancient shallow sea, about 1560 million years ago. Ripple marks from that ancient seabed are still visible in places in the sandstone today. Life in those Proterozoic times amounted to little more than bacteria and mats of algal-like organisms called stromatolites. Much later, in Cambrian times (approximately 530 million years ago), another shallow sea formed, lapping up against the old sandstone hills from the south and west. Lime- and silica-rich sediments and remains of sponges and trilobites (primitive marine animals with hard shells) accumulated to form layers of limestone. Fish had not yet evolved. These grey limestones containing chert (silica) now occur in upper parts of Lawn Hill Gorge and west of Riversleigh.

Shaped by water

Over millions of years the sandstones and limestones have been gradually stripped away by erosion. The Constance Range is gradually being eroded westward by the headwaters of the Gulf streams. Lawn Hill Creek and other similar streams were once at a higher level, but have cut down through the limestone and sandstone along prominent fractures, forming gorges.

In the Riversleigh area, much younger pale-grey limestones, deposited between 25 and 15 million years ago in Tertiary times, lie on top of the older Cambrian limestones. The younger limestone was deposited in small rainforest lakes that flourished in the wetter climate of the time. This limestone has become famous for the innumerable fragments of fossil vertebrate animals it contains. Early relatives of today's fauna fell, or were washed into those lakes, and were preserved for posterity in the lime-rich sediments.

Always changing

Water continually alters the Boodjamulla landscape. Where lime-rich water flows over obstructions, such as rocks or vegetation debris, it evaporates and deposit skins of calcite (calcium carbonate). As the calcite is deposited in the creek, plant and animal matter can be trapped and fossilised within it. The calcite forms a porous, brittle rock known as tufa (pronounced 'tyoohfah'), and, over time, this builds up into fragile formations. Indarri Falls and the Cascades are tufa formations.

An assortment of plant communities

Different plant communities grow throughout the park. Where and how they grow is determined by the rock, soil and moisture in the area.

Sandstone is like a sponge—it has a remarkable ability to hold moisture—while rainwater drains through the more porous limestone. Some plants, such as figs, have developed specialised root systems to gain access to moisture and nutrients deep within rock crevices. Brittle Range gum, native gardenia, turkey bush and grevillea species grow on the sandstone hilltops, while the rocky slopes feature rock figs, emu apples, acacias and spinifex.

Open woodlands and grasslands, of Mitchell grass, supplejack, whitewood, western bloodwood and silver-leaf box, extend over the black clay plains.

Wet riverine forest occurs along Lawn Hill Creek and the Gregory River. Plants there include pandanus, cluster figs, Leichhardt trees, ghost gums, cabbage palms and large paperbarks. Within the river and creeks water lilies, ferns, mosses, sedges and bulrushes flourish.

Residents and visitors

The gorge is home to animals that live there year-round and others that visit seasonally. It is an important corridor for wildlife movement, particularly migrating birds. The park has similar habitats to those of the Northern Territory's Top End and forms the extreme eastern limit of the range of animals such as the rock ringtail possum, purple-crowned fairy-wren and sandstone shrike-thrush.

Birdwatching is always rewarding at Boodjamulla. The rare and beautiful purple-crowned fairy-wren can often be seen among the pandanus lining the gorge, along with the buff-sided robin with its distinctive high-pitched call. Waterbirds abound including the great egret, Australian darter, cormorant and the secretive black bittern. Varied lorikeets and red-winged parrots are a stunning sight as they streak overhead. The gorge is one of the few places in Australia where channel-billed cuckoos are found all year round—attracted by the warm winters and bountiful fig supply. In the camping area, listen for the distinctive barking owls calling to one another through the night air.

Olive pythons and ring-tailed dragons are commonly seen along with the 'arm waving' Gilbert's dragon, also aptly known as the ta ta lizard. Common wallaroos (euros) and purple-necked rock wallabies live amongst the escarpments and hills while agile wallabies frequent the river flats.

Lawn Hill Creek provides excellent viewing of freshwater fish and turtles. More than 20 types of fish occur in the creek. The most commonly seen are bony bream, long toms, black striped grunters and sooty grunters. Look out for the vertical spots of the archerfish near the water surface. This fish emits a jet of water to knock insects down on to the water surface. Freshwater crocodiles also occur in the park and are often seen in Lawn Hill Creek.

Two turtles, the northern snapping turtle and Worrell's short-necked turtle, can be seen amongst the vegetation lining the creek. The gulf snapping turtle, was first described in 1994 from a fossil discovered at Riversleigh. For several years it was thought to be extinct, until a living turtle—matching the fossil—was caught in Lawn Hill Creek. This turtle is Australia's first living fossil and largest freshwater turtle.

Riversleigh D Site

World Heritage wonder

The Riversleigh World Heritage Site is part of Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. The World Heritage area is in the south-east section of the park and covers 10,000 ha. Riversleigh D Site is the only area open to the public. In 1994, Riversleigh and Naracoorte in South Australia were jointly inscribed as the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte) World Heritage Area. Located 2000km apart, these sites provide evidence of different stages in the evolution of Australia's mammal fauna and are outstanding for their extreme diversity and the quality of preservation of their fossils.

Riversleigh—where ancient mammals rest in pieces

The Riversleigh fossil deposits are among the richest and most extensive in the world, with some fossils dating back 25 million years. These fossils have been superbly preserved in limestone outcrops. Riversleigh was once a lush rainforest filled with lakes and waterways. The high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water has ensured that fossils have been extremely well preserved. When the skeletons of dead animals came into contact with this water, the bones were quickly coated in limey mud.

Later the bones were replaced with hard minerals from the limestone-rich water. Millions of years later, the fossilised bones have been exposed as a result of weathering by wind and water that dissolved and removed layers of surrounding soil and rock. Scientific research and activities in the area are predominantly coordinated by a group of palaeontologists from the University of New South Wales who conduct studies at Riversleigh each year.
  • Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Culture and history

Waanyi culture

Dreamtime

Aboriginal occupation at Lawn Hill dates back at least 17,000 years and may extend beyond 30,000 years, possibly the longest continual occupation of an area in Australia. The Aboriginal Traditional Owners, the Waanyi people, know this country as Boodjamulla or the Rainbow Serpent country. According to the Waanyi people, Boodjamulla—the Rainbow Serpent—formed the Lawn Hill Gorge area and created the permanent spring water. To the Waanyi people, Lawn Hill Gorge is a sacred place used only for ceremonial and celebratory purposes. They believe that if you tamper with the water, pollute it or take it for granted, the Rainbow Serpent will leave and take all the water with him.

Way of life

During the wet season, the Waanyi people would gather under overhanging rocks and in caves, while in the dry months they would camp in paperbark shelters along the creek banks. They made paperbark canoes for travelling short distances and used a shield-shaped wooden dish, called a coolaman, to carry babies, prepare food or to transport fire and food.

The Waanyi people were hunters and gatherers. Men hunted while the women and children gathered edible plants. Boomerangs and spears were used for hunting while grass-woven nets were used for catching fish. Boodjamulla country provided plenty of food for the Waanyi people. Their staple diet consisted of fish (wirigatyigatyi), turtle (wabungara), kangaroo (mailadyi), and goanna (dyambapna), and was supplemented with berries, mussels (mulla mulla), pandanus fruit (bulalula), wild banana and cabbage palms cores (wodidy). They used stones to grind lily seeds for damper and used earth ovens (dundee) of hot coals and rocks for cooking.

Reminders of the past

Evidence of Aboriginal occupation can still be found today in the remaining mussel middens, grindstone relics, and rock art. Waanyi Elders have interpreted some of these sites, providing visitors with an understanding of their traditional lifestyle.

Lawn Hill's pastoral industry

Pioneers

Pastoral pioneers, including Page, Mytton and Cooper, brought the first cattle to the Lawn Hill Creek area in the 1860s. But this was soon followed by an outbreak of 'Gulf Fever' (a type of typhoid fever) that caused many graziers to leave the area. In the mid 1870s, Frank Hann purchased numerous leases launching the beginnings of the South Esk Holdings, which later became the Lawn Hill Riversleigh Pastoral Holding Company. Hann accumulated 9000km2 of land in total.

Cattle king

Over the next century several graziers became leaseholders of the land until the famous 'cattle king' Sebastiao Maia arrived from Brazil. Sebastiao Maia arrived in Sydney in March 1975. He was unable to speak English and employed a Sydney taxi driver to be his interpreter and chauffeur as he travelled the country in search of potential cattle stations. In 1976, Maia took over the lease of Lawn Hill Station that had grown to 11,000km2, and was one of the largest cattle stations in Queensland.

National park

In the early days Lawn Hill Station became the largest fauna sanctuary on leasehold land in Queensland. In 1984, Maia surrendered 12,200ha of Lawn Hill Station to the Queensland Government for a national park.

The Waanyi Aboriginal people today own 50 per cent of Lawn Hill Riversleigh Pastoral Holding Company.

Last updated: 08 November 2019
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