National parks are wild places that can have hidden dangers for the unwary visitor. Following these tips will help make your bushwalking safe and enjoyable.
Before you go
Check weather forecasts and park alerts before you leave home to avoid disappointment. Photo: Queensland Government
- Make sure the park you want to visit has walks suitable for your bushwalking experience and level of fitness. Check the park’s web page for details.
- Check park alerts for information on current park conditions and track closures.
- Check the Bureau of Meteorology website for weather conditions, forecasts and warnings.
- If possible, get a park brochure or map and take it with you on your walk.
- Get a camping permit if you plan to stay overnight.
- Plan and prepare thoroughly for long and challenging hikes or walks in remote areas. Bushwalks of this nature require specialist bushwalking experience, skills and equipment.
- Give your bushwalking plan to a friend, relative or other reliable person in case you are injured or get lost. Ask them to contact the police if you don’t return as planned. Make sure you include:
- your destination
- the route you intend to take
- the day and time you intend to leave and expect to return
- your name, address, mobile phone number and/or UHF channel
- the name, age and medical conditions of everyone in your party
- your vehicle registration, make, model, colour and where you intend to park it.
What to wear and what to take
Wear sensible footwear as tracks can be rough or slippery. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government
Dress and pack for the conditions - a wide-brimmed hat, raincoat and something warm are a must. Photo: Adam Creed, Queensland Government
- Wear comfortable, protective footwear—never thongs, high heels, new shoes or dress shoes. Your walk won’t be much fun if you get blisters or sprain an ankle.
- Dress for the track conditions and weather. You get warm as you walk so wear layers you can take off easily and replace when you stop and cool down. Light weight, long sleeved shirts and trousers minimise scratches, stings, bites and sunburn. Wear loose clothes—walking in tight clothes is uncomfortable and can cause rashes. Don't wear clothes you don’t want to get dirty.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen to avoid painful sunburn.
- Always carry plenty of drinking water. Bushwalking is thirsty work.
- Wear insect repellent to discourage biting and sucking insects.
- Carry a well stocked first-aid kit and know how to use it.
- Pack a raincoat and warm jumper in case the weather changes suddenly. Walking in the rain can be fun provided you're not cold and dripping wet.
- Carry a backpack with extra clothes, a bag for rubbish, a groundsheet to sit on, and a few nibbles to keep you going.
- Carry a detailed map and compass on longer walks.
- Pack a tent and sleeping bag appropriate for the season, food, water, compass and map if you plan an overnight hike.
- A mobile phone or satellite phone (with spare battery) and a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) are recommended for remote bushwalking.
During your walk
Stay on the track and never bushwalk alone. Photo: Queensland Government
Pay attention to warning signs - they are there for your safety.
Be wary of wild animals. Photos: Queensland Government
- Walk with a partner or in a group, never bushwalk alone.
- Supervise the children in your party carefully.
- Always stay on the track and read track signs carefully.
- Pay attention to any warning signs—they are there for your safety.
- Stay well back from cliff edges and waterfalls to avoid accidents. Stay behind safety fences.
- Avoid drinking creek water. Even apparently pure water can be contaminated. Take your own water supply. If you must use water from creeks, lakes or tanks boil it for at least five minutes or treat it chemically before you drink it.
- Avoid walking on slippery rocks when there is a drier route.
- Think before you swim. Never dive or jump into any waterhole.
Close encounters with wildlife
Getting close to nature is one of the best rewards of your bushwalking efforts. While seeing native animals is a bonus, close encounters with wildlife can be risky.
Enjoy wildlife encounters
- Look but don't touch! Unlike pets and other domestic animals, wild animals are not used to human handling and you could get hurt if you try to pat one.
- Be sure your children know to respect wild animals. Don't chase or scare them.
- Keep wildlife wild—for your sake and theirs, don't feed native animals. Human foods can harm native animals. Wild animals used to being fed have been known to attack people.
- Store food securely out of reach of hungry animals. Wild animals make a mess trying to access food, may damage your equipment and leave you without enough supplies to complete your walk.
- Take a detour around snakes. Never provoke them. There are 12 potentially dangerous snakes in Queensland. Know what to do in the event of a snake bite and seek medical attention immediately.
- Be croc wise, be dingo-safe and be Cass-o-wary!
Fires and floods
Bushfires can occur without warning. Be aware of, and prepared for, the dangers. If there is a bushfire, follow the track or trail to the nearest road, firebreak or waterway for refuge. Burnt ground, large logs or a ditch can also provide some protection. Avoid areas of long grass and stay low to the ground where the air is coolest and contains the least smoke.
Rangers carry out planned hazard-reduction burning in the area, so check park alerts for updates on fire danger and scheduled burns before you go.
Water levels in creeks and rivers can rise rapidly without warning during and after rain. Never attempt to cross or swim in a flooded creek. Swift currents and underwater hazards can be treacherous. People have been seriously injured and died swimming in flooded creeks. If stranded by a flash flood, stay on high ground and wait until the waters recede. Continue your walk only when you can safely cross the creek.
In an emergency
Emergencies do happen—be prepared. What happens when things go wrong can depend to a large extent on the planning and preparation you have made at home.
- Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency.
- Never rely on your mobile or cell phone.
- Consider taking a satellite phone and Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to areas that do not have mobile phone coverage. If you have a PLB, activate it only in a serious emergency situation, when there is no alternative way to get help.
After your walk
- Look for and remove ticks and leeches that may have found you.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you have an adverse reaction to any bite.
- Let family and friends know you arrived home safely.