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About Rinyirru (Lakefield)

Getting there and getting around

Lakefield Road. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Lakefield Road. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Access track into Sweetwater Lake. Photo: Grant Ison, Queensland Government.

Access track into Sweetwater Lake. Photo: Grant Ison, Queensland Government.

The Normanby River at Kalpowar Crossing. Photo: Queensland Government.

The Normanby River at Kalpowar Crossing. Photo: Queensland Government.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) is closed throughout the wet season every year from 1 December to 31 May. All camping areas north of the Lakefield ranger base (see detailed camping information) remain closed up to and including 30 June. These dates may vary depending on weather and road conditions and camping areas and roads may also be closed after heavy rain. Check park alerts and with Department of Transport and Main Roads or Cook Shire Council for local road conditions. The Bureau of Meteorology provides updated weather reports.

Access to the park from Cairns is via the Peninsula Developmental Road through Laura to the Lakefield turn-off, about 2km north of Laura. Average travelling times from Cairns to Laura—5–6hrs; Laura to New Laura ranger base—45mins; New Laura ranger base to Lakefield ranger base—45mins.

From Cooktown, access to the park is via Battle Camp Road. Suitable for four-wheel-drive vehicles only, it takes about 3hrs from Cooktown to the New Laura ranger base.

The park can also be reached from Coen via the Peninsula Developmental Road to the Lakefield turn-off at the Musgrave Roadhouse. From the turn-off it takes 3hrs to the Lakefield ranger base via Hann Crossing, suitable for four-wheel-drive vehicles only.

Access into Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) is not suitable for caravans. Ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition—suitable suspension and cooling are vital. Observe road closures and restrictions, as penalties can apply.

Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake) is a restricted access area. Visitor access is limited to the car park and viewing area.

Surveillance cameras may be used to monitor visitor behaviour and movements throughout the park. On-the-spot fines may also apply.

Map: Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) map (PDF, 261K)

Wheelchair accessibility

The Red Lily Lagoon viewing platform and Kalpowar Crossing camping area toilets are wheelchair accessible.

Park features

An expansive river system. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

An expansive river system. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government.

Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake). Photo: Grant Ison, Queensland Government.

Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake). Photo: Grant Ison, Queensland Government.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) is renowned for its vast river systems and spectacular wetlands. In the wet season, the Normanby, Morehead and North Kennedy rivers and their tributaries join to flood vast areas, eventually draining north into Princess Charlotte Bay. During the dry season, rivers and creeks shrink, leaving large permanent waterholes, lakes and lagoons that attract an array of animals, particularly waterbirds.

To the north, the park features impenetrable mangroves along the estuaries and coastline of Princess Charlotte Bay. Behind the coast are extensive salt flats and marine plains that give way to inland tracts of eucalypt and paperbark woodlands. Fringing many of the river banks and streams are magnificent, tall paperbark trees and patches of gallery rainforest.

The landscape of Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) is of significant Aboriginal cultural significance. Sites associated with occupation, ceremonies and stories of ancestral spirits occur throughout the park. The area is also rich in European cultural heritage, associated with early explorers, geologists and surveyors, and tangible links to the establishment of the Palmer Goldfields and early cattle industry.

Camping and accommodation

Camp site one, Kalpowar Crossing camping area. Photo: Queensland Government.

Camp site one, Kalpowar Crossing camping area. Photo: Queensland Government.

Camping

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) offers numerous camping opportunities, ranging from secluded sites near scenic waterholes to large camping areas at major river crossings.

Campers must be self-sufficient in this remote area as fuel, supplies and first aid are not readily available.

Campers should book early to avoid disappointment—many camping areas are very popular. Bookings can be made up to six months in advance.

Camping permits are required and fees apply.

Other accommodation

There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Laura and along the Peninsula Development Road. For more information see the tourism information links.

Things to do

The Normanby River near Kalpowar Crossing. Photo: Queensland Government.

The Normanby River near Kalpowar Crossing. Photo: Queensland Government.

Catfish Waterhole. Photo: Sarah Jess.

Catfish Waterhole. Photo: Sarah Jess.

Viewing platform at Red Lily Lagoon. Photo: Queensland Government.

Viewing platform at Red Lily Lagoon. Photo: Queensland Government.

Walking track to viewing area at Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake). Photo: Queensland Government.

Walking track to viewing area at Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake). Photo: Queensland Government.

Old Laura Homestead. Photo: Queensland Government.

Old Laura Homestead. Photo: Queensland Government.

The park offers many opportunities for the visitor to explore and enjoy the natural surrounds.

Walking

Kalpowar discovery walk (Grade: easy)

Distance: 4km return
Time: 1.5hrs
Details: This track follows the banks of the beautiful Normanby River from the Kalpowar Crossing camping area, through vine forest before looping back through open woodland. Magnificent weeping paperbark trees line the river banks and provide shade. The riverine environment and picturesque waterholes provide excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife. It is a great place to relax and unwind.

Four-wheel driving

Drive four-wheel-drives through Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) on the network of internal roads. Expect to share the roads with pedestrians, cyclists, trail-bikes and other vehicles.

Stay on formed roads—vehicles are not permitted off-road, including on walking tracks and boardwalks. Vehicles are also not permitted in Restricted Access Areas or on internal roads and tracks that are closed for management purposes.

Drivers must be licensed and vehicles must be road-registered. For more information, see four-wheel driving.

Trail-bike riding

Ride trail-bikes through Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) on the network of internal roads. Expect to share the roads with pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and other trail-bikes.

Stay on formed roads—trail-bikes are not permitted off-road, including on walking tracks and boardwalks. Trail-bikes are also not permitted in Restricted Access Areas or on internal roads and tracks that are closed for management purposes.

Riders must be licensed and trail-bikes must be road-registered. For more information, see trail-bike riding.

Quad bikes

Roads in national parks are the same as any other public road in Queensland. All vehicles, except those exempted by law, must be registered. The department does not give permission for conditionally registered vehicles (e.g. quad bikes) to be used recreationally by individuals. In many places it is not legally possible to issue a permit.

Surveillance cameras may be used to monitor visitor behaviour and movements throughout the park. On-the-spot fines may also apply.

Boating and fishing

Recreational fishing is permitted at all camping areas in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL). The use of private vessels is permitted—canoes are not recommended due to the presence of crocodiles. Please limit your boat speed to prevent bank erosion and water turbidity.

There is boat access to Princess Charlotte Bay but no vehicle access. The Bizant River boat ramp, in the north-east of the park, provides the best boat access to Princess Charlotte Bay.

Fisheries regulations apply—information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures is available from Fisheries Queensland.

Marine waters adjacent to Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) are internationally significant and are protected in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Zones in the two marine parks—the Great Barrier Reef Coast and Great Barrier Reef—provide a balanced approach to protecting the marine and intertidal environments while allowing recreational and commercial use. Check zoning information and maps before entering or conducting any activities in the marine parks.

The critically endangered speartooth shark has been found in the Bizant River in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL). This species occurs in freshwater and anglers are requested to treat all sharks with care and return them to the water unharmed.

Be aware that crocodiles occur in the creeks, rivers, swamps, waterholes and along beaches of this park. Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal Always be croc wise in croc country.

Bicycling

Cycle through Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) on the network of internal roads. Expect to share the roads with vehicles, trail-bikes, other cyclists and pedestrians.

Bicycles are not permitted on any of the walking tracks and boardwalks, in Restricted Access Areas or on internal roads and tracks that are closed for management purposes.  

For more information, see cycling.

Viewing wildlife

Catfish Waterhole, just off Lakefield Road between New Laura and Lakefield ranger bases, is one of many deep, permanent waterholes along the North Kennedy River. The waterhole offers visitors the chance to see waterbirds, turtles and crocodiles. During the dry season, as water becomes scarce elsewhere, large numbers of wildlife congregate here for food and shelter.

Red Lily and White Lily lagoons are about 8km north of Lakefield ranger base. A spectacular display of red lotus lilies can be seen from a viewing platform at Red Lily Lagoon, while only white lilies are found at White Lily Lagoon. A variety of waterbirds, including magpie geese and comb-crested jacanas, can be seen at these lagoons. Birdwatching is best in the early hours of the morning or late afternoon.

In the north of the park are the vast grasslands of the Nifold Plain. This treeless, flat landscape, dotted with termite mounds, is home to a variety of animals including birds such as finches and bustards. Early morning and late evening birdwatching can be rewarding.

Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake) and Sweetwater Lake are located in the north-west of the park. These picturesque lakes feature colourful lilies and a range of wetland birds. Visit these lakes during the early hours of the morning or late afternoon, as this is the best time for viewing birds and other animals. Visitor access at Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake) is limited to the car park and viewing area—do not venture further around the lake's edge as it is a restricted access area. Camping is not permitted at Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake) but there is a camping area at Sweetwater Lake.

Equipment, such as binoculars, camera and torch will make the visit more enjoyable. Please remember that crocodiles occur in this park so visitors must take precautions. Always be croc wise in croc country.

  • Read more about these areas and the natural environment of Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL).

Other things to do

Old Laura Homestead

In the southern part of the park, a short distance off Battle Camp Road, is the historic Old Laura Homestead. Explore the buildings that were once the original homestead for Laura Station.

Breeza Homestead

Explore the delightful lagoon and 100-year-old mango trees that, along with remnant buildings and cattle yards, mark the site of Old Breeza Homestead. Camping is not permitted here.

Things to know before you go

Red lotus lily. Photo: Sarah Jess.

Red lotus lily. Photo: Sarah Jess.

The North Kennedy River near Hann Crossing. Photo: Sarah Jess.

The North Kennedy River near Hann Crossing. Photo: Sarah Jess.

A woodland in the dry season. Photo: Sarah Jess.

A woodland in the dry season. Photo: Sarah Jess.

Be prepared for your visit to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time.

Essentials to bring

Preparation is the key to a safe and enjoyable visit. Make sure you bring:

  • adequate food, water and equipment for treating water
  • first-aid kit
  • fuel, spare parts and basic vehicle repair equipment
  • fuel or gas stove for cooking
  • insect repellent and mosquito nets
  • rubbish bags as no bins are provided.

There are no services and minimal facilities in the park. Always prepare for a longer stay than anticipated in case of breakdown or stranding due to wet weather. Ensure that someone is notified of your itinerary. Most roads in the park are bush tracks and are not suitable for caravans, campervans or buses. Driving on rough roads in low gear uses more fuel than normal driving conditions. Ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.

Opening hours

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL), including all camping areas, is closed throughout the wet season every year from 1 December to 31 May. All camping areas north of Lakefield ranger base (see detailed camping information) remain closed up to and including 30 June. These dates may vary depending on weather and road conditions and camping areas and roads may also be closed after heavy rain. Check park alerts and with Department of Transport and Main Roads or Cook Shire Council for local road conditions. The Bureau of Meteorology provides updated weather reports.

Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake) is a restricted access area. Visitor access is limited to the car park and viewing area.

Permits and fees

Camping permit

Camping permits are required for all camping areas in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) and fees apply.

All camping must be booked prior to arriving in the area—bookings can be made up to six months in advance. For information on how to obtain an e-permit see camping information.

Other permits

Various activities conducted in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) may require a permit. These activities include commercial tours, social events such as weddings, organised group visits, school excursions, scientific research, and sale of photographs or vision of Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL). See park permits and policies web pages for further information.

Pets

Domestic animals are not permitted in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL).

Climate and weather

The best time to visit is during the ‘cooler’ months of the dry season, from June to September, when average maximum temperatures range from 30–33ºC. In July and August, the average minimum temperature drops to 14ºC at night. From October to December it can be very hot and thunderstorms are common. During this ‘build up’ season, the average maximum temperatures are around 35ºC with very high humidity. The wet season, usually from December to May, prevents access to Lakefield and most of Cape York Peninsula. Average maximum temperatures at this time range from 32–35ºC. See tourism information links for more information.

Fuel and supplies

The nearest fuel, meals, supplies and mechanical repairs are available at Laura, 84km south-west of Lakefield ranger base. Fuel, meals, toilets, showers, limited supplies and some mechanical repairs are also available from the Musgrave Roadhouse, 109km north-west of Lakefield ranger base. For more information, see the tourism information links.

Staying safe

Crocodile warning sign. Photo: Queensland Government.

Crocodile warning sign. Photo: Queensland Government.

Estuarine crocodile and magpie geese at Twelve Mile Lagoon. Photo: Queensland Government.

Estuarine crocodile and magpie geese at Twelve Mile Lagoon. Photo: Queensland Government.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park CYPAL is remote and visitors must be well prepared.

  • When driving, riding or cycling, stay on designated roads
  • Let a responsible person know your itinerary.
  • Plan your itinerary to allow adequate time to drive carefully as park roads are unsealed, have tight curves and rough surfaces.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is in good mechanical condition and be prepared for delays caused by breakdowns and stranding due to wet weather.
  • When trail-bike riding, wear appropriate safety gear and be realistic about your riding abilities. Ride to the conditions.
  • When cycling, wear appropriate safety gear and be realistic about your cycling abilities. Slow down or stop when approaching other track users. Follow the give-way code—cyclists must give way to walkers and alert others when approaching.
  • There are various natural hazards in the park. Please take note of all on-site management and safety signs.
  • Use lights when walking around at night and keep tents closed at all times.
  • Be alert for snakes when exploring the area. Wear protective clothing such as long trousers and closed-in shoes.
  • Mosquito nets are recommended for overnight camping.
  • Dangerous stinging jellyfish (‘stingers’) may be present in tidal waters at any time, but occur more frequently in the warmer months. If you do enter the water, a full-body lycra suit or equivalent may provide a good measure of protection against stinging jellyfish and sunburn. See marine stingers for the latest safety and first-aid information.

For more information, please read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

Be croc wise in croc country!

Crocodiles can occur in the rivers, creeks, swamps, wetlands, waterholes and along beaches of Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL). Crocodiles are dangerous and attacks can be fatal. Never take unnecessary risks in crocodile habitat. Visitors are responsible for their own safety, so please follow these guidelines and always be croc wise in croc country.

  • Obey crocodile warning signs—they are there for your safety and protection.
  • Never swim in water where crocodiles may live, even if there is no warning sign present.
  • Swimming or standing in water above knee-height near a crocodile warning sign, or where estuarine crocodiles are frequently seen, is illegal in protected areas (water can still be entered if there is a reasonable excuse to do so, e.g. launching a boat).
  • When fishing, always stand a few metres back from the water's edge and never stand on logs or branches overhanging the water.
  • Never clean fish or discard fish scraps near the water's edge, around camp sites or at boat ramps.
  • Stay well back from any crocodile slide marks. Crocodiles may be close by and may approach people and boats.
  • Boats and vehicles must never be brought within 10m of an estuarine crocodile in the wild—it is illegal unless part of a commercial crocodile viewing tour, or there is a reasonable excuse, e.g. where a creek is less than 10m wide.
  • Never dangle arms or legs over the side of a boat. If a person falls out of a boat, they should get out of the water as quickly as possible.
  • Never provoke, harass or interfere with crocodiles, even small ones.
  • Never feed crocodiles—it is illegal and dangerous.
  • Camp at least 2m above the high water mark and at least 50m from the water's edge. Avoid places where native animals and domestic stock drink.
  • Never leave food scraps, fish frames or bait at a camp site. Always check that previous campers have not left these behind.
  • Never prepare food, wash dishes or pursue any other activities near the water's edge or adjacent sloping banks.
  • Be more aware of crocodiles at night and during the breeding season, September to April.

Crocodiles fill an essential role as key predators in the aquatic and estuarine ecosystem. This park is one of only six key areas for estuarine crocodile conservation in Queensland, and is crucial to long-term conservation of the species on Queensland's east coast.

Freshwater crocodiles also occur here. This species can be distinguished from the estuarine crocodile by its long, narrow snout, straight jaw line and a row of four large scales on the neck. ‘Freshies’ are usually shy and placid when they are left alone.

For more information, see crocodiles—be croc wise.

Looking after the park

An aerial view of a wetland. Photo: Queensland Government.

An aerial view of a wetland. Photo: Queensland Government.

Please help Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers and Traditional Owners protect the park.

  • The use of firearms and chainsaws is prohibited in national parks.
  • Leave your pets at home. Domestic animals are not permitted in national parks.
  • When driving or trail-bike riding, stay on the formed roads—off-road trail-bike riding and four-wheel driving is not allowed.
  • Riders and drivers must be licensed and vehicles must be road registered.
  • Motocross is not permitted in this park.
  • Respect park neighbours and visitors—ensure the noise and dust from your riding and driving doesn’t upset others.
  • When cycling, stay on formed roads—mountain bikes are not permitted on walking tracks and boardwalks.
  • Limit the spread of weeds by ensuring clothes, shoes, gear, bikes and vehicles are clean and free of seeds before arriving at the park.
  • If toilets are not provided, bury human waste at least 15cm deep and 100m away from walking tracks and watercourses.
  • Take care not to pollute fresh water—do not use soap, shampoo or detergents in or near waterholes.
  • Light fires only in existing fireplaces and put the fire out with water when you leave your camp site. Fuel stoves are recommended. Do not collect firewood in the national park. Obey fire restrictions.
  • The use of generators is permitted in all camping areas in the park except Kalpowar Crossing. Generators must only be operated at less than 65dB(A), when measured 7m from the generator, and only between 8.00am and 7.00pm.
  • Do not feed wildlife or leave food or scraps around the camp site.
  • Do not remove plant material, living or dead.
  • Do not collect souvenirs or interfere with cultural sites.
  • Surveillance cameras may be used to monitor visitor behaviour and movements throughout the park. On-the-spot fines may also apply.

See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting our environment and heritage in parks.

Park management

Rangers conducting a protection burn near Old Laura Homestead. Photo: Sarah Jess, Queensland Government.

Rangers conducting a protection burn near Old Laura Homestead. Photo: Sarah Jess, Queensland Government.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) is jointly managed by the Rinyirru (Lakefield) Land Trust and the Queensland Government in accordance with an Indigenous Management Agreement and other land management arrangements. Read more about the joint management of Cape York Peninsula national parks.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) was formerly Lakefield National Park. This well-known national park was gazetted in 1979, with the area known as Marina Plains added to the park in 2005.

Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) covers an area of around 544,000ha. ‘Rinyirru’ is the name for the culturally-significant area of Jeanette Hill and a bora ground near Blue Lagoon in the north of the park. The dedication of Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park (CYPAL) represents the transfer to Aboriginal ownership of the largest and most iconic national park in the Cape York Peninsula region and the second largest park in Queensland.

Rarda-Ndolphin (Low Lake) is a restricted access area. Visitor access is limited to the
car park and viewing area.

Sections of the park may be closed periodically for management purposes. Please do not enter these areas.

Tourism information links

Cairns and Tropical North Visitor Information Centre
www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au 
The Esplanade, Cairns QLD 4870
ph (07) 4051 3588
email 

Nature's PowerHouse
www.naturespowerhouse.com.au
Cooktown Botanic Gardens, Cooktown QLD 4895
ph (07) 4069 6004
email

Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre
www.quinkancc.com.au
Lot 2 Peninsula Development Road, Laura QLD 4871
ph (07) 4060 3457
email

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.

Last updated
3 August 2016