Barron Gorge National Park extends from the coastal lowlands to the elevated regions of the Atherton Tableland and is a spectacular geological feature of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and the centre of a fascinating network of historic trails. Rugged mountains, steep ravines, flowing streams and picturesque waterfalls make Barron Gorge one of Queensland’s most popular and picturesque national parks.
Rising from the rainforests of Mount Hypipamee National Park, the Barron River winds 60 km across the Atherton Tableland through one of Australia's highest rainforest belts. The river then enters the deeply-incised Barron Gorge, which forms a rugged, twisting trough between the Macalister and Lamb ranges. The river then falls 230 metres onto the narrow coastal lowlands and flows to the Coral Sea, just north of the Cairns Airport.
Barron Falls lookout is possibly the most well known waterfall lookout in Tropical North Queensland, and one of the most viewed sites in the World Heritage area. Best viewed during the rainy season in summer, the falls are a spectaular sight.You may be covered by a cloud of mist from the cascades when viewing during this time. Wrights Lookout offers one of the best views of the falls and it is located above the Barron Falls Railway Station which can be reached by foot or car. Other vantage points are from the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyway Cablecar.
To access Barron Falls lookout, from Kuranda, drive 3.5 km along Barron Falls Road, following the signposts to the Barron Falls car park. This is the access to the Barron Falls lookout, which is also a stop on the scenic railway line. Wrights lookout (and the start of the Surprise Creek walk) is a further 1.4 km along the road from the car park.
The park is part of the traditional lands of the Djabugandji 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 that includes the Smiths and Douglas Tracks, Stony Creek Weir track, Surprise Creek track and the Barron Falls Lookout track.
A small hydro-electric station, the first underground power station in Australia, was built in 1935 to harness the immense force of water surging over Barron Falls. It was later replaced by the Barron Gorge Hydro-Power Station further down the gorge in 1963. Barron Gorge Hydro sources water from the Barron River to produce electricity before releasing the water back into the river. Barron Gorge Hydro does not emit any greenhouse gasses and is one of only a few power generation facilities in Queensland able to supply green power. Only by a release of water or during flood events can tourists today have some idea of the former grandeur of the falls.
To access Lake Placid and the lower Barron Gorge, drive 2.5 km then turn right onto Lake Placid Road. Continue 1.5 km to Lake Placid or take the Barron Gorge Road turn-off and drive a further 3 km into the gorge. This scenic road ends at the bridge to the Barron Gorge Hydro-Power Station.
Half day white water rafting takes place on the Barron River providing a fantastic introduction to this adventure sport. Water levels are guaranteed all year round as the power station controls water levels of the river. Professional rafting guides will take you on an eco-adventure through the Barron Gorge National Park aboard an 8 person inflatable raft, tackling grade 2 and 3 rapids.
Barron Gorge National Park is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450 km between Cooktown and Townsville. Consisting of nearly 900,000 ha, vegetation is primarily tropical rainforest, but also includes 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.
The rugged forest landscape, with its waterfalls and gorges, has been a part of Rainforest Aboriginal life since time immemorial. Stories from the dreamtime include the plants and animals that are a part of their cultural heritage, and many areas are significant cultural sites where traditional ceremonies are still held. Although the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is not listed for its cultural values, we recognise the spiritual and cultural connection Rainforest Aboriginal people have with the land. Many Rainforest Aboriginal tribal groups use animals as their totem. The cultural significance of rainforest wildlife is shown through traditional dances and paintings that represent the many rainforest animals.