Nature, culture and history
The river and surrounding forests provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. Sit, listen and let the animals of Auburn River reveal themselves to you.
The distinct, light pink, coarse-grained granite boulders that frame the picturesque Auburn River are links to an earlier time in the Earth's history. About 250 million years ago, molten magma was generated from pulses of heat in the Earth's crust. The molten rock remained at great depths and gradually cooled beneath the Earth's surface. Overlying sediments were gradually eroded by water in streams. This slowly reduced the weight of rock above the granodiorite, a type of granite, allowing the granodiorite to expand upwards and crack along fractures. Continual weathering by water along the fractures decomposed the granodiorite and formed the gorge of Auburn River.
The weathering action of fast-flowing water has created 'dinosaur eggs'. These large, round to egg-shaped chunks of granite weigh about one tonne each. They were formed after being trapped beneath the water and swirled by the force of the river in a confined space.
Even today erosion continues, slowly sculpting the river and the surrounding landscape. The area around Auburn River is prone to earth tremors. The earliest recorded tremor in Queensland was reported from Dykehead Station, not far from Auburn River, in 1878.
Flora and fauna
In Auburn River National Park, two main vegetation communities thrive—occurring on opposite sides of the river. On the southern bank of the Auburn River, dry eucalypt forest forms an open canopy of silvery leaves and rough, dark tree-trunks. Common tree species include silver-leaved iron bark Eucalyptus melanophloia and the forest red gum Eucalyptus tereticornis. The understorey is dominated by grasstrees and native grasses.
Softwood scrub, a type of dry rainforest, extends down the steep northern bank, flanking part of the shallow, boulder-strewn riverbed. It has a dark green canopy and a thick understorey of shrubs and vines. The silver elkhorn Platycerium veitchii is common in the softwood scrub. The fronds are covered in fine, silky hairs that help prevent moisture loss. The plant's centre has spongy leaf nests that form a type of moisture-retaining peat. Other common trees include axe-breaker Geijera paniculata, so named because of its particularly hard wood.
The swollen trunks of Queensland bottle trees Brachychiton rupestris and large leaved bottle trees Brachychiton australis stand out from the crowd. The Queensland bottle tree is distinguished by its grey-green fissured trunk. Large leaved bottle trees are deciduous and have large, maple-shaped leaves.
Leptospermums, callistemons and stunted figs cling to the rock crevices along the river's banks.
A burning issue
Different vegetation communities respond differently to fire—some plant communities are more resistant to fire than others. While unplanned, high intensity fires can be very destructive; fire is needed to maintain a healthy diversity of plants and animals.
Today, fire is managed in Auburn River National Park for the benefit of people, plants and animals. Rangers carry out prescribed burns in different areas of the park over a period of years. This creates a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas.
Plants and trees in the dry eucalypt forest are adapted to fire and recover quickly. Ironbarks sprout new growth from epicormic buds under the thick, protective bark. The dense, thick leaves of grass trees protect the centre of the plant from fire, which then quickly re-sprouts.
Softwood scrub is very fire-sensitive. Surrounding vegetation is purposely burnt to minimise the risk of this vegetation burning.
Peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus have nested at Auburn River in the same place for at least 26 years. The falcons are often soaring and gliding in the sky above the gorge, and have an unmistakable screech. Feeding on birds and insects, it often takes its prey spectacularly on deep swoops. To spot a falcon's nest on the cliff face, look for the telltale signs of 'whitewash' and a collection of sticks and debris.
The park is also home to the rare and endangered red goshawk. Keep a watch on the sky at dawn or dusk for a glimpse of this secretive bird hunting for prey. Look out for the yellow and black wings of the vulnerable painted honeyeater Grantiella picta in the open eucalypt woodland. At night the vulnerable powerful owl Ninox strenua includes this park in its hunting range.
The rufous bettong Aepyprymnus rufescens is also active at night. Found in the dry eucalypt forest, it builds a nest under a tussock of grass, carrying nest-building materials curled up in its tail.
Brush-tailed rock-wallabies Petrogale penicillata may be seen or heard bounding effortlessly across the rocks in the riverbed. These wallabies prefer sites with a northerly aspect, so they can sun themselves in the morning and evening.
Sun-loving rainbow skinks Carlia pectoralis are the most commonly seen reptile around Auburn River. They make scurrying sounds as they move through the leaf litter.
The nocturnally active golden-tailed gecko Strophurus taenicauda shelters under the bark of trees during the day. It is one of 15 threatened reptile species in this area.
Pond skaters Gerridae spp. float, walk or skip across the water surface in rock pools. A pile-like covering of hairs on the underside of their body keeps them on top of the water. They feed on other insects that have become trapped on the water's surface.
A fish out of water
Living in this waterway is a representative of an ancient group of fishes. The unusual Queensland lungfish Neoceratodus forsteri has a lung as well as gills. It rises to gulp air from the water surface in a swift rolling motion when feeding or breeding, or if the water becomes foul.
The Queensland lungfish's only natural habitat is the Mary and Burnett rivers and tributaries, but it has been introduced to many other streams and rivers in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. It is now totally protected by law in all waterways.
European settlement of the area is closely linked with copper and gold mining that began in 1884 and continued until around 1917. It is important to keep to the tracks as there are dangerous mining shafts left over from this time. Sheep and cattle grazing were also undertaken during the late nineteenth century, taking advantage of the area’s water supply.