Barron Gorge National Park
Getting there and getting around - The upper section of the Barron Gorge National Park, 27km north-west of Cairns, can be reached through the village of Kuranda on the Atherton Tableland. From Cairns, travel north along the Captain Cook Highway, turn onto the Kennedy Highway, which winds up the coastal mountain range, and take the turn-off to Kuranda. Follow the signs to Barron Falls through the village to Barron Falls Road to reach the park entrance. This entrance is beside the Barron Falls station on the scenic railway line that runs from Cairns to Kuranda. Kuranda can also be reached via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway from Smithfield. It is a 3km walk from the Skyrail terminal to the park entrance.
The lower section of Barron Gorge National Park can be accessed from Kamerunga and Lake Placid. From Cairns, drive 15km along the Brinsmead–Kamerunga Road to the Stoney Creek Road turn-off and continue through the Rainforest Estate to Stoney Creek. Alternatively, continue along Kamerunga Road for another kilometre and turn off to Lake Placid, then drive along the scenic Barron Gorge Road to the Barron Gorge Hydro-Power Station.
Wheelchair accessibility - The upper section of Barron Gorge National Park has wheelchair-accessible facilities. Barron Falls lookout and boardwalk pedestrian link are suitable for wheelchair access with assistance. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway has wheelchair-accessible facilities.
Park features - Barron Gorge National Park extends from the coastal lowlands to the elevated regions of the Atherton Tableland and features rugged mountain scenery, tropical rainforests, diverse wildlife and a fascinating history. The park lies within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
The Barron River dominates the park. Rising from the rainforests of Mount Hypipamee National Park, the river winds 60km across the Atherton Tableland through one of Australian's highest rainforest belts, before entering the deeply-incised Barron Gorge, which forms a rugged, twisting trough between the Macalister and Lamb ranges. The river then falls 250m onto the narrow coastal lowlands and flows out the Coral Sea, just north of the Cairns Airport. During the wet season, floodwaters regularly create a spectacular sight at Barron Falls.
The park is part of the traditional lands of the Djabugandgi Bama (local Aboriginal people) who maintain a close spiritual connection with this country. Before Europeans arrived, Bama traversed this country, developing trails linking the coast to the uplands. These historic trails now form sections of a walking track network.
Camping - Camping is not permitted in Barron Gorge National Park but a campground is provided in the Speewah Conservation Park adjacent to the park's western boundary.
Other accommodation - Holiday accommodation is available nearby in and around Kuranda, Mareeba and Cairns.
Things to do - Walking
Short walks in the upper section Barron Falls lookout — 570m one way (20 minutes) Grade: Easy. Located 6km from Kuranda village via Barron Falls Road, an elevated wheelchair-accessible boardwalk meanders through the rainforest down to the lookout and railway platform. The lookout provides spectacular views of Barron Falls, particularly during floods. You may even be enveloped by a cloud of mist from the falls. Take care near the railway line. Interpretive signs and displays along the boardwalk and on the railway platform describe the park's natural and cultural heritage.
Wrights 1km lookout — one way (30 minutes) Grade: Easy From the carpark at Barron Falls, you can drive or walk 1km to Wrights lookout for fantastic views over the Barron Gorge towards the city of Cairns and the coast.
Short walks in the lower section Garndal Garndal Stoney Creek weir track — 1km one way (30 minutes) Grade: Easy
Stoney Creek is at the end of Stoney Creek Road, 20km from the centre of Cairns via Kamerunga Road. The easy walking track climbs beside Stoney Creek and crosses the causeway to the old Stoney Creek weir. Take care near the weir access.
Long walks A network of walking tracks provides longer day hikes between the three main trailheads (Cairns, Kuranda and Speewah). Many of the tracks follow historic tracks, called Djimburru, used by the Bama, linking them with seasonal foods and their trading partners. They also connected people with their heritage — the places and stories of their ancestors, their ceremonial sites and customary law. The Smith and Douglas tracks, following sections of the Djimburru, were established in 1876 when gold was discovered on the Atherton Tableland. These tracks have been further modified for forestry and present day management and recreational purposes.
(1) Douglas track — 7km one way (Allow 4–6hrs) Grade: Easy – Difficult
This track follows one of the first trails linking the Hodgkinson goldfields (west of Mareeba on the Atherton Tableland) with the port of Cairns. In 1876, Native Trooper Sub-inspector Douglas founded a track down through the Barron Gorge valley, mostly following one of the original Bama walking pads. Later named the Douglas track, it was upgraded for drays and used extensively until the railway line from Cairns to Myola was opened in 1887. Climbing above the northern side of Stoney Creek valley, the track crosses through both rainforest and open woodland. Landmarks including Red Bluff and Glacier Rock provide excellent panoramic views. A variety of animals can be seen along the track, including musky rat-kangaroos, skinks, butterflies and birds such as the catbird, black butcherbird, emerald dove, sulphur-crested cockatoo, spangled drongo and cassowary.
(2) Smiths track — 9km one way (Allow 6–7 hrs) Grade: Easy–Very difficult
The other major historical route linking the inland Hodgkinson and Palmer goldfields with the coast is the Smiths track. In 1876, miner and mule team packer, William Smith, founder of the Cairns suburb of Smithfield, marked this route up the southern side of Stoney Creek valley. Like Douglas, Smith mostly followed Bama walking pads. Both the Smiths and Douglas tracks were well used, carrying up to 300 pack-horses at one time. The track features magnificent stands of tall rainforest along with open woodlands and grasslands on the higher more exposed ridges. Tobys lookout provides extensive views of Barron Gorge and the coastal lowlands. Birds, including catbirds, orioles, sulphur-crested cockatoos, pheasant coucals and spangled drongos can be seen or heard as you walk the track.
Viewing wildlife The park is a natural corridor for wildlife, linking the northern and southern sections of the Wet Tropics. The diverse landscape and vegetation types support a rich variety of animals, including possums, tree-kangaroos, flying-foxes and spotted-tailed quolls. There is an abundance of brightly coloured birds and butterflies that contrast with the lush green rainforest, including the brilliant blue Ulysses butterfly. If you are lucky, you may even see the endangered cassowary; a large, flightless bird standing up to two metres tall. Reptiles, fish, and frogs are also plentiful.
Boating Commercial operators provide rafting experiences for visitors to the park. Rafting is a low impact, environmentally-friendly activity that allows you to experience the more remote and inaccessible areas of the gorge.
Private canoeing and kayaking is also allowed on the Barron River in the park.Fishing is not permitted in Barron Gorge National Park.
Further information - QPWS Cairns Information Centre, 5B Sheridan St, Cairns, PO Box 2066, Cairns QLD 4870, ph (07) 4046 6600 fax (07) 4046 6751
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service