Mount Sorrow ridge trail, Daintree National Park Tropical North Queensland

The Mount Sorrow Ridge trail is a difficult climb through dense rainforest, but the views are worth it! Photo credit: © Steven Nowakowski

Nature, culture and history

    Natural environment

    Daintree National Park is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450 kilometres between Cooktown and Townsville. Consisting of nearly 900,000 hectares, 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.

    Find out more about the Wet Tropics Management Authority.

    Plants

    Several different types of rainforest can be seen as you progress up the Mount Sorrow ridge trail. The foothills support tall, large-leafed lowland rainforest. As altitude increases the rainforest gradually changes—different plant species appear, leaves become smaller and the canopy becomes lower and more even. On the peaks the forest has a low canopy, sheared by the frequent high winds.

    Animals

    The different types of rainforest provide habitats for a variety of animals. Many animals that inhabit the forests of Mount Sorrow and the surrounding area are endemic (not found anywhere else) to Queensland. Some of these species include Boyd's forest dragon (Hypsilurus boydii), the amethystine python (Morelia kinghorni), the northern tree snake (Dendrelaphis calligastra) and the chowchilla (Orthonyx spaldingii).

    Bennett's tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus) is found nowhere else in the world except the lowland and upland rainforests north of the Daintree River, including Mount Sorrow. These animals live an arboreal existence, feeding and sleeping among the treetops, although they occasionally descend to the forest floor in search of fallen fruits or to move between trees.

    One of the most fascinating birds that you might encounter on Mount Sorrow is the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii). This large flightless bird can grow to two metres tall and is extremely important to the health of the rainforest. It is the only animal capable of eating the largest rainforest fruits and dispersing the seeds over great distances. In Australia, these magnificent creatures are only found in the rainforests of north-east Queensland. They are threatened by habitat loss, car strikes and dog attacks.

    Other Mount Sorrow fauna includes: the striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata), long-tailed pygmy-possum (Cercartetus caudatus), fawn-footed melomys (Melomys cervinipes), yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes), Cape York rat (Rattus leucopus), giant white-tailed rat (Uromys caudimaculatus), topknot pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus), wompoo fruit-dove (Ptilinopus magnificus), spangled drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus), black butcherbird (Cracticus quoyi), spotted catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis), eastern whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus), lace monitor (Varanus varius) and slaty-grey snake (Stegonotus cucullatus). Venomous snakes such as the red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) and rough-scaled snake (Tropidechis carinatus ) have also been found along the Mount Sorrow ridge trail. Detour around all snakes—never handle or provoke them.

    Culture and history

    Aboriginal history

    The Traditional Owners of Daintree National Park are the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people. Their traditional country extends from near Cooktown, south to Mossman and west to the Palmer River. A rich array of plants and animals provided reliable food sources for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji as they travelled seasonally throughout the area. Understanding the weather cycles and the combination of vegetation types allowed them to find a variety of food throughout the year. Many places in the area are known by Kuku Yalanji language names, e.g. Kaya-biji (Snapper Island).

    European History

    Lieutenant James Cook named Mount Sorrow during his 1770 exploration of Australia's east coast. Cook's exploration of the east coast ran fairly smoothly until one night, after passing the area now known as Cape Tribulation, his ship struck a reef. The Endeavour came very close to sinking but a large chunk of reef broke off and plugged the hole. The crew covered the hole with a sail, pumped water throughout the night and dumped all non-vital heavy items such as cannons. As a result of his misfortune Cook named features in this area with sombre names—Cape Tribulation and Mount Sorrow. The Endeavour limped north until finding refuge in a river mouth where the ship was beached for repairs. After about seven weeks of repairs Cook sailed further north, eventually reaching Possession Island where he officially took possession of Australia. The striking of the reef off the coast of Cape Tribulation is a significant moment in Australia’s history. Had the Endeavour sunk at that time, Cook may not have later laid claim to Australia's east coast.

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