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Nature, culture and history
Most visitors to Lake Barrine will see grey-headed robins Heteromyias cinereifrons hopping along forest tracks or perching sideways on tree trunks. Groups of chowchillas Orthonyx spaldingii are often be found scratching noisily through the leaf litter. Their territorial songs carry for long distances. In summer, male Victoria's riflebirds Ptiloris victoriae can sometimes be seen displaying on exposed perches, attempting to attract the brown, streaked females. Listen for the distinctive whip-crack call of male eastern whipbirds Psophodes olivaceus and the harsh, mewing call of spotted catbirds Ailuroedus melanotis.
The aquatic environment of Lake Barrine is more favourable for waterbirds than Lake Eacham. Shallow edges with reeds, water lilies and fallen trees that act as natural perches attract a large and diverse waterbird fauna. Look at the lakeside for Pacific black ducks Anas superciliosa, wandering whistling-ducks Dendrocygna arcuata and little black cormorants Phalacrocorax sulcirostris.
Amethystine pythons Morelia kinghorni, reputably Australia's largest snake, are often seen on the boat cruise. Averaging 3m in length, but occasionally reaching around five, these magnificent reptiles are patterned brown and yellow with an iridescent sheen. Non-venomous, they hunt mammals and birds at night using heat-detecting organs in their jaws.
Boyd's forest dragons Hypsilurus boydii have a habit of perching on small tree trunks, about 1–2m from the ground, to watch for passing prey. Although up to 45cm long and quite colourful, these lizards are surprisingly well camouflaged.
Saw-shelled turtles Wollumbinia latisternum and longfin eels Anguilla reinhardtii are commonly seen in Lake Barrine. They are very tame, swimming over to visitors when they appear. Please don't feed the turtles, eels or waterbirds.
Although the cool, wet rainforest of Lake Barrine is well suited to frogs, they are not abundant. Three species of treefrog, the dainty green treefrog Litoria gracilenta, eastern dwarf treefrog Litoria fallax and orange thighed treefrog Litoria xanthomera are occasionally seen and heard. Camouflaged in the leaf litter are mottled barred frogs Mixophyes coggeri and northern barred frogs Mixophyes schevilli. The male peeping whistlefrog Austrochaperina fryi, also calls from the forest floor, making a series of brief, whistle-like notes. Male ornate nurseryfrogs Cophixalus ornatus are also heard, ‘beeping’ from perches up to 2m from the ground.
Bandicoots, antechinuses, possums, kangaroos, rats and bats have been recorded at Lake Barrine. On the forest floor, it is not unusual to see the smallest member of the macropod family, the musky rat-kangaroo Hypsiprymnodon moschatus. Not much bigger than a large guinea pig, it forages for fruit by day. Visitors may also see another small wallaby, the red-legged pademelon Thylogale stigmatica, browsing on the forest floor during the day.
Twenty-two species of bats have been recorded in and over the Lake Barrine forest. The larger flying-foxes are social animals that usually live in large colonies or camps outside the park and can be seen flying over the lake near dusk and dawn. Microbats, or insectivorous bats, are smaller, with wingspans of around 25cm. They use echolocation, much more than eyesight, to find their way and locate insects.
Lake Barrine is entirely complex forest (type 1b) except for a small granite intrusion that has resulted in a patch of related notophyll forest. The complex forest type is found on fertile basaltic soils and has tree trunks of variable size, an uneven canopy, and epiphytic plants and vines at all heights.
A pair of towering bull kauri pine trees Agathis microstaychia is a feature of the park. At over 45m tall and more than 6m in girth, bull kauris are the largest of Australia’s 38 conifer (pine) species. Bull kauris are restricted to a small geographic range on the Atherton Tableland between 600 and 1000m altitude in areas of high rainfall and deep loam to clay soils.
During the Mesozoic era (250–65 million years ago) relatives of today’s kauris shared the earth with dinosaurs and other ancient plants. Alongside cycads, kauris dominated the forests of this warm and moist world. This ancient connection means that today’s kauris and other conifers are important in understanding the evolution of land plants.
Geology and landform
The volcanic features of the landscape on this part of the Atherton Tableland are between 10,000 (Pleistocene) and two million (Pliocene) years old. Lake Barrine is a maar—a volcanic crater formed by two massive explosions from super-heating of groundwater. This vent now forms the catchment of the lake and the water depth is 65m. Some of the original underlying sedimentary rocks occur today as metamorphics outcropping in parts of the crater wall. Toohey Creek drains Lake Barrine, which means the water level of the lake remains fairly constant throughout the year, except during periods of severe inundation. The water from Toohey Creek feeds into the headwaters of the Mulgrave River.
Crater Lakes National Park is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450km between Cooktown and Townsville. Consisting of nearly 900,000ha, vegetation includes tropical rainforest, 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.
In 1888 the natural and recreational significance of the lake was recognised and it, along with a narrow band of shoreline vegetation, was proclaimed a scenic reserve. It wasn't until 1934 that Lake Barrine was gazetted as national park. In 1988, Lake Barrine was included within the WTWHA and in 1994 it joined Lake Eacham under the one name—Crater Lakes National Park.
George and Margaret Curry pioneered tourist use of Lake Barrine in 1920, with George working as a ranger appointed by the Lakes Trust. The teahouse was built as a recreational hall in 1928 and converted to a guesthouse in 1935. During World War II it was used by the Australian Army as a convalescent home. The Curry family has been running the teahouse and boat trips around the lake for over 70 years.
Aboriginal stories of the eruption of Lake Barrine describe the forest at the time as ‘open scrub’. A subsequent study of pollen records from the lake’s sediments confirms this view, suggesting the rainforest formed on the tableland only around 7600 years ago.
- Walking track surveying: Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine, Crater Lakes National Park 13 January to 1 February 2021