At 5,370 km2, Rinyirru (Lakefield) is the second largest park in Queensland, and a popular place for fishing and camping. It is bigger than Trinidad and Tobago and almost as big as Brunei. Gazetted as national park in 1979, Lakefield is one of the more isolated national parks on the Cape York Peninsula. The park is located within the Laura Basin which drains northwards into Princess Charlotte Bay. The landscape is rich and diverse with a coastal environment of estuaries, mangroves and mudflats to the north, vast grasslands and woodlands on the floodplains and sandstone hills and escarpments in the south.
Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park 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 which attract a diversity of animals, p
articularly 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 the 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 forest, a type of rainforest.
The landscape of Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park is of major Aboriginal cultural significance. Sites associated with occupation, ceremonies and stories of ancestral spirits occur throughout. The area is also rich in European cultural heritage, with associations with early explorers, geologists and surveyors, and tangible links to the establishment of the Palmer River Goldfields and early cattle industry.
Bush camping is permitted in Rinyirru (Lakefield) National Park. Several camping areas near rivers and waterholes are provided. Information about campsite locations is provided at the self-registration shelters throughout the park. Toilets and showers are provided at Kalpowar Crossing campground while Hann Crossing campground has toilets only.
Kalpowar Crossing: A 4km walking track offers opportunities for viewing wildlife at Kalpowar Crossing on the beautiful Normanby River. Magnificent weeping paperbark trees line the river banks and provide shade. It is a great place to relax and unwind.
Hann Crossing: Just upstream from the crossing, a walking track follows the eastern branch of the river for about 3km then crosses to the western branch and returns. Alllow 90 minutes for the 7km return trip.
Old Laura Homestead: In the southern part of the park, a short distance off Battle Camp Road, is the historic site of the Old Laura Homestead. Walk around and explore the old buildings, which served as the original homestead for Laura Station.
Breeza Homestead: Walk and explore a delightful lagoon and 100-year-old mango trees which mark the site of the Breeza Homestead. Sinclair Balser and family took up Breeza to breed horses for the Palmer River Goldfields.
The national park is one of only a few in Queensland that permit fishing. Fishing is allowed at all campsites and other places with the exception of areas where cultural restrictions apply. Species which may be caught in freshwater include barramundi, tarpon, catfish and tarpin. Saltwaters species found in the park include mangrove jack, fingermark, cod, trevally, queenfish and salmon.
There is one main, unsealed road through the park but it is impassable through much of the wet season, when the park closes. There is a ranger station within the park which can assist with information or give help in emergencies. Lakefield can be accessed by road either through Cooktown or Laura. The easiest route is via the Peninsula Development Road north of Lakefield on theMulligan Highway.
The Starcke Track provides another route more popular with four-wheel drive vehicles. A northern route exists from Coen via the Musgrave Roadhouse. The park is remote and visitors should stock up on food, petrol and other supplies before leaving Cooktown, Lakefield or Laura. Roads may be closed in the park very shortly after rain to stop the road surface suffering damage.