In Queensland’s Boodjamulla National Park, Natural Treasures Abound

Images highlight the need to safeguard Australia’s environment

Boodjamulla National Park

Lawn Hill Creek, which runs through the heart of the park, is fed by a vast limestone aquifer and is a favourite among canoeists.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

While the classic images of the Australian Outback are of red, sandy deserts and dry bushland, parts of the country’s vast, remote landscape—including Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park in northwestern Queensland—harbor rich, tropical forests, full of plant and animal life and plenty of freshwater. Boodjamulla, which is fed by a vast limestone aquifer, is a hotspot of biodiversity and Australian history, as well as a favourite among canoeists looking for a cool place to paddle.

It’s a place I’ve known and loved for years, and recently I brought my family there on holiday. Traveling by car, foot, and canoe, we explored the ‘Gulf Country,’ which is part of the world’s largest intact tropical savanna, covering 1.5 million square kilometers (579,000 square miles). The region is named after the adjacent Gulf of Carpentaria, a shallow sweep of sea that extends in a great bight into Northern Australia. Here are some photos from the trip.

Boodjamulla National Park

A black-headed python, one of my favourite reptiles, hunts for lizards along the road edge south of Boodjamulla. We spotted this snake during our drive up, after flying into the only large town in the area, Mount Isa.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Boodjamulla National Park

While black-headed pythons can look fearsome, like all pythons they are non-poisonous and unaggressive. This one was also quite fearless, approaching my partner, Susie, to investigate her boot before sliding off between her feet after she took this close-up shot.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Also in the Riversleigh area, we saw this fossilised thighbone of a thunderbird. Experts say the big patch of dark stones underneath the fossil are from the gizzard of the long-passed bird. Like chickens and many other birds, thunderbirds ate small stones to help them grind up food.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Boodjamulla National Park

My daughter Cassia takes a break from paddling on Lawn Hill Creek, near the Boodjamulla campsite. Visitors can hire a canoe and paddle upstream through the beautiful sandstone gorge. On this excursion, Cassia volunteered to do most of the paddling while Susie and I birdwatched.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Boodjamulla National Park

The diversity of birds in the rainforest along Lawn Hill Creek is exceptional. The stick threshold seen here is a ‘bower,’ carefully constructed by a male northern bowerbird to attract a mate. This loud and conspicuous species is most particular with its bling: Here, the male arranged white glass, plastic and bones near the bower entrance and placed round green berries inside. The bigger, tougher alpha males hoard choice decorations to attract the most mates.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Boodjamulla National Park

This natural dam, which runs across Lawn Hill Creek, was formed by deposits of limestone from the calcium-rich spring waters. Fig trees and other vegetation growing on the wall provide a vibrant green setting for the waterfalls.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

As in all parts of the Outback, protecting the water flows of Boodjamulla National Park is vital to maintaining wildlife, people and nature in the park and downstream to the coast.

Barry Traill directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Outback to Oceans program.

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