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Danbulla National Park and State Forest

Karl Seelig © Tourism and Events Queensland

Danbulla National Park and State Forest

Everyone will enjoy spending a couple of days exploring the natural, geological and cultural wonders of this feature-packed area.

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Set up your tent, campervan or camper trailer on the banks of Lake Tinaroo at Downfall Creek camping area.
Set up your tent, campervan or camper trailer on the banks of Lake Tinaroo at Downfall Creek camping area. Maxime Coquard © Queensland Government
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Park Danbulla
Traditional Owner Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger

There’s so much to see and do here! With forests, plantations and World Heritage listed-rainforest, this park is nestled between the Tinaroo and Lamb ranges and stretches along the banks of picturesque Lake Tinaroo.

Spend the day exploring the walking tracks, lookouts, drives and picnic areas along the 28km Danbulla Drive, or set up base at a lakeside camp site that will tick all your camping boxes.

Get wet and active on the waters of Lake Tinaroo—fishing, swimming, kayaking and waterskiing are all popular. You can fish year round for the lake’s monster barra and even catch a feed of redclaw for dinner.

Back on dry land, jump in the 4WD (or on your bike!) and head into the rugged Lamb Range beneath ever-changing forests and along graceful mountain streams. Channel your inner geologist and form your own theory on how the Mobo Creek ‘Crater’ was formed. Greet the sun and be blessed by a dawn chorus at the aptly named Cathedral Fig Tree.

Whatever you do, remember to always take your camera. This area has a fascinating history and is alive with all types of wildlife.

Danbulla National Park is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, famed for its exceptional natural beauty, outstanding examples of the record of life, evolutionary history and remarkable diversity.

Keep discovering

Top things to see and do

Remember your kayak when you camp at Downfall Creek camping area.

Danbulla's camping areas

See Danbulla's camping areas.

The Lake Euramoo lookout affords excellent views of this volcanic maar.

Danbulla's journeys

See Danbulla's walks and drive.

Stunning views await you at the Gillies lookout.

Danbulla's attractions

See Danbulla's day-use areas and lookouts.

Getting there and getting around

Danbulla National Park and Danbulla State Forest are on the central part of the Atherton Tableland, 70km (1.5hrs) from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland.

Danbulla Road runs through the park and forest and all camping areas, day-use areas, walks, drives and attractions are accessed from this road. Most of Danbulla Road is unsealed but it is accessible to all vehicles.

You can access the Atherton Tablelands via the Gillies Highway, Kuranda Range, Rex Range, Palmerston Highway, Savannah Way and Mulligan Highway.

From the north (Kuranda Range, Rex Range, Mulligan Highway) to the western entrance

  • From Mareeba, travel 29km south on the Kennedy Highway to Tolga.
  • Turn left in the centre of Tolga onto Kairi Road, and follow it for 7km to the T-intersection at Kairi.
  • Turn left onto Irvine Street and follow it as it winds through Kairi and becomes Tinaroo Falls Dam Road.
  • Follow Tinaroo Falls Dam Road, through the township of Tinaroo (7km) and across the Barron River (1.1km).
  • Here the road becomes Danbulla Road. Follow it for 2km to the state forest boundary.

From the west (Savannah Way) to the western entrance

  • From Atherton, follow the Gillies Highway east and turn left onto Tinaroo Falls Dam Road.
  • Travel for 10.8km to Kairi where the road becomes Irvine Street.
  • Follow Irvine Street as it winds through Kairi and again becomes Tinaroo Falls Dam Road.
  • Follow Tinaroo Falls Dam Road, through the township of Tinaroo (7km) and across the Barron River (1.1km).
  • Here the roads becomes Danbulla Road. Follow it for 2km to the state forest boundary.

From the south (Palmerston Highway) to the western entrance

  • From Yungaburra, follow the Gillies Highway west for 7km.
  • Turn right into Marks Lane and follow it for 2.6km to Tinaroo Falls Dam Road.
  • Turn right onto Tinaroo Falls Dam Road and follow it for 4.2 km to the T-intersection at Kairi.
  • Turn left onto Irvine Street and follow it as it winds through Kairi and becomes Tinaroo Falls Dam Road.
  • Follow Tinaroo Falls Dam Road, through the township of Tinaroo (7km) and across the Barron River (1.1km).
  • Here the roads becomes Danbulla Road. Follow it for 2km to the state forest boundary.

From the south (Palmerston Highway) to the eastern entrance

  • From Yungaburra, follow the Gillies Highway east for 12.9km to Boar Pocket Road.
  • Turn left into Boar Pocket Road and follow it for 4.4km to the boundary of the park.
  • The road becomes Danbulla Road 100m further along (at the Gillies Lookout track).

From the east (Gillies Range) to the eastern entrance

  • From Gordonvale, follow the Gillies Range for 30.7km to Boar Pocket Road.
  • Turn right onto Boar Pocket Road and follow it for 4.4km to the boundary of the park.

The road becomes Danbulla Road 100m further along (at the Gillies Lookout track).

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.

Road conditions

  • Danbulla Road is narrow, unsealed and has sharp curves and rough surfaces. Be aware of other vehicles including logging trucks, pedestrians and wildlife on the road.
  • The Tablelands Regional Council has erected signs indicating Danbulla Road is unsuitable for caravans. For any road access problems, please contact the Tablelands Regional Council.
  • You will need a high-clearance vehicle to drive the Mount Edith and Kauri Creek roads and the road to Gillies lookout. These roads are also unsuitable for trailers.
  • Lake Tinaroo has many submerged trees and other hazards that vary as water levels change. You need to navigate the lake's waters with extreme caution. Follow marked channels where possible.
  • 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 supplies are available from any of the towns on the tableland. The closest town to the eastern end of the drive is Yungaburra, and at the western end is Tinaroo township.

Wheelchair access

There are various wheelchair-accessible facilities throughout the park and forest.

Camping

Explore all that Danbulla has to offer from a base camp at one of the five lakeside camping areas along Danbulla Road.

If you have a boat, you can get to camp sites that others can't reach. Facilities vary at each camping area but most have toilets, all allow camp fires and some have shower rooms and rubbish facilities.

See camping areas

Other accommodation

Walking

Walk through lush rainforest, along sparkling creeks, around volcanic craters and immense fig trees, and to the top of rocks on the many tracks that wind through the area.

Distances vary from 150m to just over 5km, so there's bound to be a track to suit everyone.

Map of walking tracks

Picnicking

Picnic on the lake, beside a rainforest stream or at a large grassy area with plenty of room for the kids to run around. Facilities vary but all day-use areas have picnic tables and toilets.

Map of picnic tables/facilities

Viewing wildlife

Wildlife abounds at Danbulla!

  • In the rainforest keep an eye out for vulnerable green-eyed treefrogs and well-camouflaged yet colourful Boyd's forest dragons.
  • At night, you may catch a glimpse of an endangered northern bettong as it searches for truffles in the wet sclerophyll forests.
  • The variety of habitats and vegetation types, and its proximity to Lake Tinaroo, also support a wide range of bird species. Don't go anywhere without your binoculars!
  • Read more about the park's natural environment.

Cultural and historic sites

The Danbulla region is full of farming, timber-getting, forestry and world war history and some sites can still be visited today.

  • Visit The Chimneys to see all that remains of a the Hanley family's house, built in 1924.
  • The forestry plot at School Point is on the site of the old school house, also built in 1924.
  • 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.

Mountain biking and cycling

Pedal your way high into the Lamb Range on a 43km road circuit. Stop for a breather at one of the many streams and marvel at the drastic changes in vegetation as you climb to 450m.

Four-wheel driving and scenic driving

Climb 450m into the Lamb Range on a 43km road circuit for high-clearance vehicles. Take in the views, stop at clear forest streams and marvel at the drastic changes in vegetation along the route.

Trail-bike riding

Enjoy a ride on a 43km road circuit that climbs 450m into the Lamb Range. You'll be surprised at how much the vegetation changes over such a small area.

Canoeing and kayaking

Launch a canoe or kayak from any of the camping areas and some of the day-use areas. Explore the intricate shoreline of Lake Tinaroo, drop a line in for a barra or sooty, or just take in the views and birdlife.

Swimming

Swim in Lake Tinaroo from the camping and some day-use areas.

  • There are no patrolled swimming areas in Lake Tinaroo, and you enter the water at your own risk.
  • Swimmers have been seriously injured by boats. Take care around boats and skiiers.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Fishing

Lake Tinaroo is a stocked impoundment. You can fish for barramundi, sooty grunter and other species from the bank or a boat. Throw in a pot and catch a feed of redclaw.

Boating

Lake Tinaroo is a popular area for waterskiing, swimming, sailing and fishing.

  • The nearest boat ramps are at Church Street and Black Gully Road in Tinaroo.
  • Read about boating with care in the park.

When to visit

Opening hours

Danbulla National Park and State Forest is open 24 hours a day.

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

Climate and weather

Danbulla National Park and State Forest are 800m above sea level, with lower humidity and temperatures providing a pleasant escape from the coastal tropical extremes. Maximum summer temperatures reach around 30°C while winter temperatures can fall below 10°C at night, when frosts are not uncommon. Most of the rain falls during the wet season, between December and March.

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.

Fishing permits

Pets

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

Brochure

Download this brochure and take it with you:

Information provided in this guide is correct at the time of printing. Check park alerts for the latest details.

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.
  • Dogs are allowed in some areas of the state forest but you need check the rules before you head off. They are not allowed in the camping areas.
  • Queensland Police Service enforces laws relating to alcohol misuse and nuisance behaviour. For emergencies please dial 000 if you have reception. For non-urgent incidents, contact Policelink on 131 444.
  • 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

  • Open fires are allowed in the existing fire places only. Bring your own firewood as you cannot collect it from the forest.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Rubbish

  • There are bins in the camping and day-use areas. The bins are for food waste, and food and drink packaging.
  • Take all other rubbish with you when you leave.

Drinking water

Dump point

  • There are toilets in all the camping areas (except Curri Curri camping area ) and some of the day-use areas.
  • In all other places, move well away from camp sites, walking tracks and creeks, and use a trowel to bury waste at least 15cm deep. Bag all personal hygiene products including disposable nappies and take them away for appropriate disposal in rubbish bins.
  • If you're camping with a portable toilet, the nearest dump point is at the Grove Street sewerage works in Atherton.

Camping

  • The use of generators is permitted at Fong-On Bay and Downfall Creek camping areas. Generators can only be used between 8am and 7pm, and must not exceed 65dB(A) at a distance of 7m.
  • Native, giant white-tailed rats are active in the camping areas. These large rats can chew through vehicle wiring and engine components, plastic and tins. They are attracted by food and warm, dark places to nest. Discourage rats from damaging your vehicle by keeping your car bonnet open. Keep food and cooking utensils in a rat-proof container or store in your vehicle overnight.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Walking

Cycling

Driving

  • Danbulla Road is narrow, unsealed and has sharp curves and rough surfaces. Be aware of other vehicles including logging trucks, pedestrians and wildlife on the road. The Tablelands Regional Council has erected signs indicating this road is unsuitable for caravans. For any road access problems, please contact the Tablelands Regional Council.
  • Mount Edith and Kauri Creek roads are unsealed and may be closed during periods of extended wet weather. Take care to remain on the left side of the road and be on the lookout for oncoming traffic.
  • Read 4WD with care for important information on 4WD safety and minimal impact driving.

Boating and fishing

  • Lake Tinaroo has many submerged trees and other hazards that vary as water levels change. You need to navigate the lake's waters with extreme caution. Follow marked channels where possible.
  • Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol enforces fisheries and boating safety laws and conducts periodic patrols on the lake.
  • You need to purchase a stocked impoundment permit before fishing in the lake.
  • Fisheries regulations apply. You can obtain information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures from Fisheries Queensland.
  • Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.

Around water

  • There are no patrolled swimming areas in Lake Tinaroo, and you enter the water at your own risk.
  • Swimmers have been seriously injured by boats. Take care around boats and skiiers.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Abseiling

  • To access the anchoring points, you need to submit a group activity notification so we can unlock the gate.
  • You will also need to have all the necessary safety gear and equipment.

Natural environment

Special animals

Danbulla is home to a range of endangered, near threatened (rare) and vulnerable mammals and reptile. Endangered fauna includes the spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus gracilis and northern bettong Bettongia tropica.

Three possum species—the Herbert River ringtail Pseudocheirus herbertensis, green ringtail Pseudochirops archeri and lemuroid ringtail Hemibelideus lemuroides are listed as near threatened, as are the Atherton antechinus Antechinus godmani, Mareeba rock-wallaby Petrogale mareeba, rusty monitor Varanus semiremex, Thornton Peak calyptotis Calyptotis thorntonensis and Bartle Frere cool-skink Bartleia jigurru. Vulnerable animals include the yellow-bellied glider Petaurus australis reginae and spectacled flying-fox Pteropus conspicillatus.

Things to see

If you're one of the lucky visitors, you may see some of these mammals and reptiles when you visit the Danbulla area.

Northern bettong

Once widespread, northern bettongs are now only found in four small populations in north Queensland. One of these populations is in the eucalypt forests of Danbulla. About the size of a possum, these small members of the kangaroo family relish the taste of truffles (underground fungi), feeding almost exclusively on them. This unique feeding behaviour helps maintain forest health by spreading truffle spores, which are essential for the health of many trees. Habitat fragmentation, changed land use, feral animals and the invasion of rainforest into eucalypt forest because of altered fire patterns have all contributed to the northern bettong's decline. Look for these tiny, delicate kangaroos along the roadsides in the eucalypt forest. Read the Recovery plan for the northern bettong 2000–2004 for more information.

Sugar glider

Flaps of skin extending on each side of the body from the fifth finger to the first toe allow the sugar glider to soar for up to 50m between trees. This social animal lives in open forest, sharing a common nest with up to seven adults and their young. Their ability to glide is an efficient way of reaching patchy food resources and avoiding predators. Sugar gliders eat insects, nectar, pollen and the sap of various tree species.

Short-beaked echidna

Able to live in a range of habitats, echidnas are found all over Australia. Using its forepaws and nose, it breaks into ant or termite nests and extends its long, sticky tongue inside. The insects stick to the tongue and are drawn back into the mouth and eaten. If disturbed on solid ground, echidnas immediately curl into a ball of radiating spines. When not wandering in search of ant and termite nests, echidnas can be found sheltering under thick bushes, in hollow logs or under piles of debris.

Red-legged pademelon

At dusk, watch the forest edges as red-legged pademelons appear as if from nowhere. These small macropods are most active between dusk and dawn, eating leaves from a wide range of plants and grasses, and the occasional fruit. Pademelons can be quite noisy, thumping their hind feet in warning and settling disputes with harsh, rasping sounds. When resting, pademelons lean against a rock or a tree with their tail folded between their extended hind legs. As they fall asleep their head rests on their tail or the ground beside it.

Boyd's forest dragon

This prehistoric-looking reptile boasts a colourful collection of folds, spines and scales. A master of camouflage, Boyd's forest dragons are usually only seen when leaving the trees to forage along roadsides, tracks or streams. Occasionally you may be lucky enough to spy one, as still as a statue, clinging to the trunk of a rainforest tree. Boyd's forest dragons eat a range of invertebrates including crickets and snails.

Amethystine python

This beautiful reptile is Australia's largest snake, with a North Queensland specimen reputedly measured at more than 7m long! Most are usually around 3.5m long. Amethystine pythons, or 'scrubbies' as they are more commonly known, are found in a wide range of habitats from rainforest to open forest and even scrubby vegetation on coral cays. They use heat sensors to locate their warm-blooded prey. Scrubbies eat rats, possums, wallabies and birds including domestic chickens. Prey is seized and held before being crushed in coils and swallowed whole.

Frog troubles

The decline in numbers of Australian rainforest frogs was first noticed in the late 1970s and continue to the present day. In the Wet Tropics, seven species endemic to the area declined or disappeared in the 1990s, and three remain missing. Only one of these species remains in the Tinaroo area—the tapping green eyed frog Litoria serrata. The exact reasons for these catastrophic declines are not known, although a fungal infection is thought to be the main contributor to the decline of stream-dwelling frog populations.

Frogs and tadpoles are an important element of the fauna in upper catchments of our tropical rivers but this is where most frog extinctions have occurred. In the upland rainforests, where relatively few fish are found, frogs and tadpoles play an important role in the food chain. Frogs feed on insects and in turn are eaten by snakes, birds and many mammals, while tadpoles, by feeding on leaves and detritus in the waterways, supply fine detritus and protein (themselves) for other animals. It is possible that the river nutrients, instead of being 'fixed' by the tadpoles, will simply be flushed out of the system.

The Recovery plan for the stream-dwelling rainforest frogs of the wet tropics biogeographic region of north-east Queensland 2000–2004 focuses on seven endangered species and aims to significantly improve the conservation status and long-term survival of each species through protection of existing populations, location of additional populations or expansion of existing populations into previously inhabited areas.

All things feathered

The variety of habitats at Danbulla has created many opportunities for birdwatching, with more than 200 species recorded for the area. Birds are attracted to the large lake, its tributaries and marshes. These areas are natural breeding sites for both resident birds and summer and winter migrants.

Palaearctic wader species migrate to Australia from breeding swamps in northern Europe and northern Asia, and are commonly seen on the lake from August to December. Some of the other migrant species include whiskered terns Chlidonias hybridu, little curlews Numenius minutus, marsh sandpipers Tringa stagnatilis and little ringed plovers Charadrius dubius. Nocturnal birds of prey include a few different owls including southern boobooks Ninox novaeseelandiae.

Birdwatching

Grab your binoculars and see how many of these birds you and find while exploring Danbulla.

Lesser sooty owl

Soon after dusk this silent hunter glides through the rainforest, picking possums and gliders from branches, and rats, bandicoots and other mammals from the ground. Look for this owl as it sits on an exposed branch, carefully searching the forest and floor for its next meal. The characteristic 'dropping bomb' call is probably the first sign that a lesser sooty owl is sharing your night.

Comb-crested jacana

The exceptionally long toes of this amazing bird are the secret behind its ability to walk and run on floating water plants. When disturbed, adults usually fly with their legs hanging behind like strange streamers. Younger birds will dive and can remain motionless underwater with only their nostrils and beak above the surface. On land, jacanas are delicate and graceful, gently rocking their head back and forth as they walk. Look on the water's edge for these remarkable birds as they feed on aquatic insects, plants and seeds.

Black-faced cuckoo-shrike

If you hear metallic grinds, churrs and hisses, chances are they belong to this pretty grey and black bird. Black-faced cuckoo-shrikes make their home in open forests and woodlands where they searches the foliage for large insects, fruit and the nestlings of other birds. Black-faced cuckoo-shrikes are partly nomadic and partly migratory, roaming widely in loose flocks formed late in summer and autumn. In early spring the flocks disperse and adult birds return to the breeding territory of the previous season.

Lewin's honeyeater

The loud rolling staccato chatter, sometimes likened to machine-gun fire, often heralds the arrival of a Lewin's honeyeater. These birds are the most widespread of all the honeyeaters of Australia's eastern coastal rainforest. While this friendly bird has a particular liking for picnics and barbecues, its proper place is in the rainforest canopy, foraging for blossoms, fruits and insects.

Grey fantail

The feeding flight of grey fantails is a twisting, turning dance that starts and finishes from set perches. Small prey is swallowed in flight but larger items are shaken, wiped and swallowed while the fantail perches. Although found over much of Australia, grey fantails found on the Atherton Tableland are characteristically darker, and are occasionally mistaken for a willy wagtail.

Purple swamphen

The huge feet of purple swamphens grips onto reed stems to support its weight while it walks through waterside vegetation. Although they can swim, swamphens prefers to walk, jerking their stubby tail up and down as they search for young reeds. The reeds are bitten off at the base and gripped with a foot while being eaten. Herbs, seeds, fruit, eggs, insects, spiders and molluscs also form part of swamphens' diet.

White-bellied sea-eagle

Often seen soaring over the waters of Lake Tinaroo, it isn't hard to identify the long, graceful flight and contrasting colours of this huge eagle. Stopping at favourite perches in their permanent range, pairs often sing a duet in the morning and evening. Hunting is either from perches or the air, from which the sea-eagle will dive on fish, turtles, snakes, water birds, nestlings and rabbits. They also eat carrion from the ground and occasionally rob other birds of their prey. Purple swamphens are a particular favourite on the menu of Lake Tinaroo's white-bellied sea-eagles.

Spotted catbird

The wailing, baby-like or cat-like territorial cry is often the first sign that a catbird is nearby. Pairs of this distinctly green bird feed together within their territory, flitting and hopping through the rainforest in search of fruit. Occasionally they also dine on insects, leaves, shoots, flowers, frogs and nestlings of other birds. At night, pairs roost in vines or clumps of dense foliage. Spotted catbirds are the only member of the bowerbird group that do not have an elaborate courtship.

  • Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Flora

Danbulla National Park and State Forest cover more than 12,000ha of eucalypt and acacia forests, pine plantations and Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforest. The pine plantations in the Danbulla State Forest were first established in 1947. Today these hoop and Caribbean pines cover 1100ha and undergo a 30–45 year planting, maintenance and harvesting cycle.

Danbulla is an upland refugial area, supporting rare, high-altitude rainforest and wet schlerophyll forest. Some of these forests occur at altitudes exceeding 1200m and contain several plant species that are related to the first flowering plants. The high altitude rainforests are of particular significance for rare plant families such as annonaceae, apocynaceae, euphorbaceae, myrtaceae and proteaceae.

Geology

The distinctive Mareeba granite, south-east of Mareeba, and the Tinaroo granites, which form the mountains north of Tinaroo Dam, have been dated at between 260 and 270 million years old.

Lake Euramoo is of special geological significance, occupying a volcanic landform called a maar. Unlike other volcanic lakes, Lake Euramoo is unique because of its dumbbell rather than regular circular shape. This unusual formation is the result of two overlapping craters, which were formed by double explosions, possibly at the same time. Lake Euramoo's steep sided rim forms a closed catchment.

World Heritage Area

Danbulla National Park is a part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450km between Cooktown and Townsville. Made up of nearly 900,000ha of tropical rainforest, open eucalypt forest, wetlands and mangrove forests, the WTWHA meets all four natural criteria for World Heritage listing. These criteria recognise the area's exceptional natural beauty and the importance of its biological diversity and evolutionary history, including habitats for numerous threatened species. The WTWHA also has cultural significance for Aboriginal people who have traditional links with the area and its surrounds.

Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Culture and history

Beginnings

As you travel along Danbulla Road, through the forest and pine plantations, it is hard to believe that this area was once a thriving rural community. At its peak during the World War II, Danbulla was home to a community of around 40 families with a population of between 150 and 200 people (excluding troops).

Timber times

In 1880 the earliest European inhabitants in this area, the timber-getters, used bullock teams to take cedar until the land was divided into allotments in 1905. The Forestry Department then worked these allotments, removing all of the good quality kauri, red cedar and maple from the area. At that time the mills only accepted logs with a centre girth (half way up the trunk) of 8ft (2.43m) or more.

In 1917 the Forestry Department released parcels of land to be used for farming. Among the earliest settlers were the Morris, Sullivan, Tierney, Hanley, Ingram, Clark, Galvin and Paterson families. As in other parts of the Atherton Tableland, the new settlers were faced with the task of clearing their land and building houses before they could start farming. The families removed any remaining valuable timber and sent it for milling at various sawmills on the tablelands and in Cairns. The families were paid a royalty for the timber. Once all of the timber had been removed, the remaining scrub was burnt then houses were built and the land developed for farming. Early indications were that Danbulla would develop into a prosperous farming community supported by a profitable timber industry.

School days

In 1922 district school inspector KA Somers, in his report on the need for a school at Danbulla, noted that:

"There are at present about 20 settlers. The land is very healthy and, when cleared of scrub and grassed, is splendid dairying country."

Mr Somers recommended that a school for 25 pupils be built and that a male teacher be appointed. The Lake Euramoo State School was built and received its first pupils in May 1924.

By 1935 the community had outgrown the school to such an extent that the school committee was pushing for the appointment of a second teacher and an extension of the school to cater for the 59 pupils. Towards the end of the 1930s, the government embarked on Public Estate Improvement (PEI) program that extended the network of timber roads leading further up into the Lamb Range. The PEI was a government agency that built public capital assets, while providing jobs for the unemployed. Road workers and their families moved into the district which temporarily boosted the population and put more pressure on the school. In 1939 another teacher was finally appointed and the school building was extended.

The Tinaroo Range road network

While the roads were being surveyed and built, Herb Fryer packed supplies, over Mount Edith, to the road surveyors' camp at the headwaters of Emerald Creek. He made this journey every Tuesday and Saturday, accompanied by his son, Gordon, on Saturdays. When the surveyors had finished the Mount Edith Road, Herb helped move their camp and continued to cart supplies to their next job—the Kauri Creek Road.

A growing community

As the Danbulla community continued to grow a community hall was built and telephone exchange installed on the veranda of the house near the school. Elisabeth Beasley ran the exchange from 1930 until it was replaced by an automatic exchange more than 20 years later.

Tom Clark and Bill Hanley operated a small steam-powered sawmill on the banks of Robson Creek. The mill employed seven or eight people who lived in a village close to the mill. The mill became known as Clark and Mays when Stan Mays bought out the Hanleys in the 1940s. Clark and Mays then bought an electric-powered mill in Kairi, moving offices, houses and other parts of the old steam-powered mill to the Kairi site in 1958. The mill was then purchased by the Rankine Brothers in the 1960s.

A steam-powered sentinel truck, possibly owned by Lawson's Mill, was used to haul some of the timber from the Danbulla area. On 21 September 1933, when climbing a hill, the drive on the truck broke and it rolled out of control back down the hill, capsizing off a small bridge (near School Point, now inundated by Lake Tinaroo). Less than 10 years later, the same thing happened with a steam sentinel owned by the Clark and Hanley sawmill, only this time it was off the bridge at Downfall Creek.

Bill Hanley built a house near Lake Euramoo and the Hanleys were the first family in the area to get a radio. Guests were invited to listen to the radio but all that could be heard was static. All that remains of this house now are the two brick fireplaces which today are known as The Chimneys.

Home of the huge kauris

Previously called the Danbulla Range, the Tinaroo Range is known as the home of the huge kauri pines. One of the biggest of these kauris held 11,808 super feet (about 39m3) and was felled from forest reserve in 1947. Guido Poggioli, who had the contract to fell this rainforest giant, had a custom saw imported from America for this 'special assignment'. The log was then too large to be hauled by bullock teams so he used his new D8 dozer to get it to the loading ramp on the Morris family property on Mount Edith Road. An even larger kauri, of 14,000 superfeet (about 46m3), was felled by Rankine Mill contractors in 1954.

Why bullocks?

Even though some horse teams did work in this area, most timber-getters preferred using bullock teams in the rugged terrain of the Tinaroo Range. The bullock teams, mostly made up of Illawarra shorthorn steers, were more easily manoeuvred in the rainforest. They also were impervious to stinging tree strikes, which could eventually kill a horse. Team drivers and their bullocks had a language all of their own. The teams were lead by the two best bullocks and controlled entirely by verbal commands.

The war years

The entry of Japan into World War II in 1941 and the rapid advance of Japanese forces through South East Asia and into New Guinea in 1942 meant that suitable areas for training in jungle warfare had to be found. The Australian troops needed to prepare for the conditions they were going to encounter in New Guinea. Danbulla was one of a number of training areas selected on the tableland and, for the next 2.5 years, life changed dramatically for the local communities. Danbulla was a busy place with the army presence creating a market for farm produce and a hectic social scene.

The only access road from Danbulla to Kairi passed through the main army camp which, at the time, was a town under canvas. Ablution blocks and kitchens were sprinkled throughout the camp and army traffic dominated the roads. At the height of the army presence there were between 100,000 and 150,000 troops scattered about the tableland.

One of the large recreation igloo buildings from the Danbulla camp was relocated to Malanda after the war and is now the Malanda Show Pavilion. The present day Kauri Creek walking track passes through the old target areas of a firing range that, in those times, were grassed paddocks.

Beginning of the end for Danbulla

When the war ended and the troops left, things changed for the worse for Danbulla. The shift in emphasis from butter to whole milk production was a problem for Danbulla farmers who were disadvantaged by their distance from the factory at Malanda. They had little choice but to continue supplying cream and raising pigs as a sideline.

The next blow was the severe drought of 1946–7, which devastated Danbulla farmers. It also became clear that, apart from two small patches of rich volcanic soil near Lake Euramoo and Kauri Creek, Danbulla soils were generally very poor. Once the nutrients from the burned and rotted rainforest were used, productivity of the soils declined. Timber supplies were also dwindling and by the early 1950s most of the accessible rainforest area had been logged.

Lake Tinaroo

As early as 1942, army engineers had suggested damming the Barron River at Tinaroo Falls to provide water for a major irrigation scheme in the Mareeba–Dimbulah area. Harold Collins, the local member of State Parliament and Minister for Agriculture in the late 1940s, championed the dam proposal and it was eventually supported by the government of the day. Word soon spread that the dam was to be constructed and that Danbulla was earmarked for land resumptions. From this point, the Danbulla community declined as people left the district. Those who remained adopted a caretaker approach to their farms as they waited for the land to be valued and compensation offers to be made. The school closed in 1958 and the last residents departed soon after.

Lake Tinaroo was also completed in 1958. It is the first large dam built primarily for irrigation in Queensland. Its construction opened up new areas to farming and allowed different crops to be trialled. It is now a multi-purpose storage dam providing a water supply for tableland towns, power generation, crop irrigation, stock watering and recreation.

A retrospective view

Today there are a few reminders of the Danbulla community that once existed. The Chimneys at Lake Euramoo, the forestry plot on the site of the old school at School Point and the burnt foundations of the school building at its new location are all that remains of 50 years of settlement.

Last updated: 15 October 2018
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