Endeavour Catchment Story
The catchment stories present a story using real maps that can be interrogated, zoomed in and moved to explore the area in more detail. They are used to take users through multiple maps, images and videos to provide engaging, in-depth information.
This catchment story is part of a series prepared for the catchments of Queensland.
We would like to respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which this project takes place, and Elders both past and present. We also recognise those whose ongoing effort to protect and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures will leave a lasting legacy for future Elders and leaders.
Table of contents
Main image. The Endeavour River mouth from Grassy Hill - provided by the Andrew Meiklejohn.
Understanding how water flows in the catchment
To effectively manage a catchment it is important to have a collective understanding of how the catchment works. This map journal gathers information from experts, local land managers and other data sources to provide that understanding.
The information was gathered using the ‘walking the landscape’* process, where experts and local land managers systematically worked through a catchment in a facilitated workshop, to incorporate diverse knowledge on the landscape features and processes, both natural and human. It focused on water flow and the key factors that affect water movement.
The map journal was prepared by the Queensland Wetlands Program in the Queensland Department of Environment and Science in collaboration with local partners.
*Walking the Landscape—A Whole-of-system Framework for Understanding and Mapping Environmental Processes and Values (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection 2012) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.
How to view this map journal
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Main image. Keatings Lagoon, near Cooktown - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
Map journal for the Endeavour catchment—water movement
This map journal describes the location, extent and values of the Endeavour catchment. It demonstrates the key features which influence water flow, including geology, topography, rainfall and runoff, natural features, human modifications and land uses.
Knowing how water moves in the landscape is fundamental to sustainably managing the catchment and the services it provides.
Main image. Looking out over the Endeavour Catchment - provided by the Andrew Meiklejohn.
Endeavour catchment story
The Endeavour catchment is located in north Queensland and is part of the Cape York Natural Resource Management (NRM) region, with a small portion in the Wet Tropics NRM Region. The catchment falls mostly within the Cook Shire and Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire council areas.
The catchment includes large areas of Aboriginal freehold land.* Land use is dominated by conservation and natural environments (national park and traditional indigenous uses) and farming, together with other land uses. The tenure of Aboriginal freehold land is held by several different groups and it is important to approach the relevant group prior to access.
The catchment covers approximately 2,182 square kilometres (click for animation).
The main waterways are the Endeavour (Right Arm and North Branch and South Branch of the Left Arm) and Annan rivers, together with many other waterways including:
All waterways (click for animation) flow to the GBR lagoon, and the Coral Sea. The GBR is World Heritage-listed (GBR WHA) and a marine park** (GBRMP).
The Endeavour Catchment is adjacent to the Normamby, Jeannie and Daintree 'sub-basins' (or catchments)***. There are hydrological connections between these coastal catchments through surface flow and groundwater.
There is a drop-down legend for most maps and it can be accessed by clicking on 'LEGEND' at the top right of the map. On this map you can use the drop down legend for the land use.
There are also 'pop-ups' for most mapping features - simply click on the mapping of interest for more information.
Main image. The Endeavour River, Cooktown - provided by Andrew Meiklejohn.
*Land tenure map correct at time of publishing (version 35 dated 8 August 2018) - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
**'Zoning is an important component in managing marine areas. It defines the activities that can occur in which locations. The level of protection increases from the General Use (Light Blue) Zones up to the most restrictive, Preservation Zone. Each zone has different rules for the activities that are allowed, the activities that are prohibited and the activities that require a permit. Zones may also place restrictions on how some activities are conducted.
There are eight different types of zones that apply to the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The major zones are:
Other zones include Preservation (Pink), Scientific Research (Orange), Buffer (Olive Green) and Commonwealth Island Zones, which make up less than five per cent of the Marine Park.' (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 2020). See links at the end of this map journal for further information.
***This mapping shows the DNRME 'sub-basin' mapping. The use of the terms 'catchment', 'basin' and 'sub-basin' are sometimes used interchangeably. In this map journal the term 'catchment' has been used other than when referring to this DNRME mapping.
Values of the catchment—key features
Key features of the Endeavour catchment include:
Main image. Water lilies in Keatings Lagoon - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
**Areas mapped as ’contains wetlands’ typically include many small wetlands, which are too small to map individually.
Values of the catchment—economic
The Endeavour catchment supports a variety of land uses*, mostly conservation and natural areas with traditional indigenous uses and grazing (mostly on native pastures).
There are smaller areas of forestry, other farming (cropping, irrigated cropping, horticulture) and residential (Urban area of Cooktown and rural settlements including farming infrastructure), together with other minor land uses.
Main image. Highway crossing of the Annan River - provided by Andrew Meiklejohn.
*Australian Land Use Management Classification (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2010) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.
Values of the catchment—environmental and social
The Endeavour catchment provides important habitat for many marine, estuarine, freshwater and terrestrial species. The catchment holds important values for Traditional Owners and there are large areas of Aboriginal freehold land.
The catchment includes large protected areas and indigenous lands, which also provide for recreational activities such as bush walking and bird watching. These activities not only provide substantial social and health benefits but they are also very important for tourism.
The wetlands and creeks of the catchment provide habitat for many important aquatic species, including plants, fish and birds. Pandanus swamps grow throughout the catchment and can indicate groundwater close to the surface.
Estuarine areas also support important plants (mangrove, saltmarsh and seagrass), estuarine crocodiles, marine turtles, marine mammals and fisheries species. These areas are also used for camping, fishing, crabbing and boating.
Information about the different types of wetlands shown in this mapping is provided here.
The catchment also includes part of both the Wet Tropics of Queensland WHA and a declared Fish Habitat Area (FHA)**. Many of the species in the catchment have lifecycles with connections to the GBR, which is a marine park and also World Heritage-listed.
Main image. Black Mountain - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
*Queensland Wetland Mapping version 5 (2017).
**Declared Fish Habitat Area Plans (Queensland Government 2019) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.
Natural features—geology and topography
Several different rock types combine to make up the geology of the Endeavour catchment.
The headwaters of the catchment are dominated by metamorphic geologies (mudrock/arenite, mostly the Hodgkinson Formation) and sandstones (Gilbert River Formation and Dalrymple Sandstone) on high elevations. There are some granites (Kennedy Province) in the upper areas of the Annan River basin. Water flow is fast off these hard geologies, particularly where slopes are steep.
There are areas of more porous geologies, which allow for groundwater infiltration, including small areas of basalt, large areas of sand in the north-east, and alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevations.
Conceptual models for several of the catchment's geology types are provided below.
Exclusion zones - conceptual diagram by Queensland Government.
Fractured rocks - conceptual diagram by Queensland Government.
Alluvia - conceptual diagram by Queensland Government.
Alluvia - lower catchment - conceptual diagram by Queensland Government.
Beach ridges - conceptual model provided by Queensland Government.
Beach ridges - conceptual model provided by Queensland Government.
Main Image. The Endeavour River - provided by the Department of Environment and Science.
The Endeavour catchment usually experiences annual wet and dry seasons, with most of the rainfall typically between January and March*.
The hydrological seasonality associated with these wet and dry season flow conditions are critical to the ecological character, function and associated values of aquatic ecosystems. The permanent and semi-permanent waterholes provide critical refugia during the dry season.
Average annual rainfall** is highest in the south-east and lowest in the north-west.
*Climate online data (Bureau of Meteorology 2019) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.
**This dataset depicts the 50-year mean annual rainfall isoheyts (contours) over Queensland for the period 1920 to 1969. The dataset was produced from the mean annual rainfall of as many locations as possible including private collections. Incomplete datasets were 'made whole' by calculating values for missing periods through correlation with adjacent rainfall stations.
Vegetation affects how water flows through the catchment, and this process is affected by land use and management practices. Native vegetation slows water, retaining it longer in the landscape and recharging groundwater aquifers, and reducing the erosion potential and the loss of soil from the catchment.
Vegetation impacts on water flow - conceptual diagram by Queensland Government.
Several different vegetation types combine to make up the original native (preclearing) vegetation of the Endeavour Catchment.* Small parts of the catchment, mostly in the lower parts, have been cleared or partially-cleared for a range of rural land uses.
Explore the swipe map showing vegetation clearing over time, using either of the options below.***
Interactive swipe app where you can zoom into areas and use the swipe bar (ESRI version)
Interactive swipe app where you can use the swipe bar. Use the white slide bar at the bottom of the map for a comparison (HTML version)
These developments and activities change the shape of the landscape and can modify water flow patterns.
Main image. Vegetation at Keatings Lagoon - provided by the Department of Environment and Science.
*Broad Vegetation Groups derived from Regional Ecosystems. Regional Ecosystems are vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil.
**Smaller areas of regrowth are not shown in this mapping. This dataset was prepared to support certain category C additions to the Regulated Vegetation Management Map under the Vegetation Management (Reinstatement) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. This dataset is described as: The 2013 areas of non-remnant native woody vegetation that have not been cleared between 1988 and 2014 that are homogenous for at least 0.5 hectare and occur in clumps of at least 2 hectares in coastal regions and 5 hectares elsewhere.
***This application takes time to load.
Modified features—infrastructure, dams, weirs and bores
There is limited infrastructure across the catchment. Land use has modified natural hydrology in some areas. Modifications to channels, such as straightening and diversions, can increase flow rates.
Important infrastructure such as roads, tracks and creek crossings can create barriers and impermeable surfaces that redirect water through single points or culverts, leading to channeling of water in some parts of the catchment.
Many of the roads in this catchment are unsealed, which can have various impacts. Erosion from these unsealed roads can lead to increased sedimentation in adjacent waterways. This can reduce habitat quality and availability for aquatic life such as macrophytes, invertebrates (e.g. mussels) and fish.
Unsealed roads can also become boggy and impassable during wet periods. This can lead users to drive off-track and/or create additional roads and tracks, further impacting vegetation and water quality.
Roads and levees - conceptual diagram by Queensland Government.
Dams and weirs also modify natural water flow patterns. They can hold water that would otherwise flow straight into the stream network, and influence tidal movement.
Dams, weirs and infrastructure can also affect fish passage through the catchment.
There are also many bores* across the catchment, which can influence groundwater systems. The bore fields around Cooktown are particularly important as they provide the back-up town water supply.
*Taken from database storing registered water bore data from private water bores and Queensland Government groundwater investigation and monitoring bores (active and inactive) - provided by online Queensland Spatial Catalogue, see metadata at the end of this map journal for further information.
Much of the catchment is undeveloped and protected by native vegetation.
Vegetation clearing and roads can result in increases in the volume and speed of runoff. Cattle, feral pigs and horses can disturb the soil, increasing erosion in the landscape and the stream channels. This can result in sediment being carried downstream impacting water quality.
Coastal erosion can also be associated with wave action, particularly cyclones.
The suspended sediment of most risk to the GBR is the fine fraction. Fine sediment:
The impacts of suspended sediment also contributes to the cumulative impacts of other stressors (e.g. freshwater flood plumes, elevated nutrients, impacts from cyclones, increasing sea surface temperatures) to increase the overall impact on organisms of the GBR.
While coarse sediment may not travel as far as fine sediment, posing a smaller risk to the GBR, it can still impact local values. Coarse sediment tends to settle out of the water column more rapidly and can smother local benthic communities (e.g. freshwater mussel beds).
Some waterways (e.g. Oaky Creek) are currently being infilled by coarse sediment due to the erosive nature of soils in the upper catchment. This can increase sediment in the channel and smother fauna such as freshwater mussels and other filter feeding infauna.
Main image. Finch Bay looking north - provided by Andrew Meiklejohn.
Water quality is influenced by diffuse runoff and point source inputs. Most of the catchment is protected by vegetation, however runoff can be generated by farming, residential and other land uses.
Diffuse runoff includes on-site sewage facilities (e.g. septic tanks) and stormwater discharges, particularly from low permeability surfaces. The concentration of potential contaminants in the stormwater discharge depends on the land use of the area.
A wastewater treatment plant (WTP) near Cooktown discharges into the Endeavour estuary, and a WTP near Hope Vale discharges into the Endeavour River Right Arm.
A major consideration of this catchment is the proximity to sensitive receiving environments. Coral reefs, mussel beds and seagrass beds of high conservation significance occur adjacent to this catchment. There is very little opportunity for the landscape features to capture or treat potential contaminants before they are delivered to the fringing reefs and associated ecosystems.
Main image. Waterhole above Isabella Falls - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
See links at the end of this map journal for further information on the following references.
*Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (Queensland Government 2018)
Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Modelling Program (Queensland Government 2017)
Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022 (Queensland Government 2018)
Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan - Report cards (Queensland Government 2017)
Water flows across the landscape into the Endeavour River and other waterways (click for animation)*.
Rainfall results in runoff to lakes, streams and rivers and infiltration to groundwater. Groundwater may also contribute to stream flow depending on geology and time of year and/or support a variety of groundwater dependent ecosystems. Runoff may also support a variety of terrestrial ecosystems or be used for other purposes.
The smaller channels and gullies eventually flatten out to form larger waterways that flow through lower lying land. They pass through unconsolidated sediments that store and release water, prolonging the time streams flow.
Gauging stations operate in the Endeavour catchment and links to historic flow information** can be found at the end of this map journal.
*Please note this application takes time to load.
**Water Monitoring Information Portal (Queensland Government 2020) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.
The main areas
A 'catchment' is an area with a natural boundary (for example ridges, hills or mountains) where all surface water drains to a common channel to form rivers or creeks.*
The Endeavour catchment is listed as a single catchment but consists of several distinct areas which have similar characteristics:
Main image. Grassy Hill - provided by Andrew Meiklejohn.
*Definition sourced from the City of Gold Coast website - see links at the end of this map journal.
Main image. Isabella Falls - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
Scrubby and Trevethan creeks
Upper Annan River
Main image. The Annan River upstream of Muligan Highway - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
Lower Annan River
Main image. Keatings Lagoon - provided by Department of Environment and Science.
*Diadromous fish species move between fresh and salt water to complete their lifecycle (e.g. jungle perch, barramundi, Australian bass and sea mullet).
The Endeavour catchment shows how natural and modified features within the landscape impact water flow. These issues need to be managed to ensure that the significant natural (and social) values of the catchment are protected, and to minimise impacts on the multitude of values within the catchment and downstream in the GBR, while providing for residential, water supply, farming and other important land uses of the catchment.
Knowing how the catchment functions is also important for future planning, including climate resilience. With this knowledge, we can make better decisions about how we manage this vital area.
Main image. The Endeavour Catchment - provided by the Department of Environment and Science.
Thank you to those that have contributed:
This resource should be cited as: Walking the Landscape – Endeavour Catchment Story v1.0 (2020), presentation, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland.
Images provided by:
The Queensland Wetlands Program
The Queensland Wetlands Program supports projects and activities that result in long-term benefits to the sustainable management, wise use and protection of wetlands in Queensland. The tools developed by the Program help wetlands landholders, managers and decision makers in government and industry.
This map journal has been prepared with all due diligence and care, based on the best available information at the time of publication. The department holds no responsibility for any errors or omissions within the document. Any decisions made by other parties based on this document are solely the responsibility of those parties. Information contained in this document is from a number of sources and, as such, does not necessarily represent government or departmental policy.
Data source, links and extra information
Some of the information used to put together this Map Journal can be viewed on the QLD Globe.
Queensland Globe allows you to view and explore Queensland spatial data and imagery. You can also download a cadastral SmartMap or purchase and download a current titles search.
More information about the layers used can be found here:Source Data Table
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (2012) Walking the Landscape—A Whole-of-system Framework for Understanding and Mapping Environmental Processes and Values, Queensland Wetlands Program, Queensland Government, Brisbane
Last updated: 15 September 2020
This page should be cited as:
Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2020) Endeavour Catchment Story, WetlandInfo website, accessed 24 September 2020. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/processes-systems/water/catchment-stories/transcript-endeavour.html