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Ross Catchment Story

The catchment stories use real maps that can be interrogated, zoomed in and moved to explore the area in more detail. They take users through multiple maps, images and videos to provide engaging, in-depth information.

Quick facts

This catchment story
is part of a series of catchment stories prepared for Queensland.

Download catchment boundary KML

Transcript

Ross Catchment Story

This catchment story is part of a series prepared for the catchments of Queensland.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding how water flows in the catchment
  2. How to view this map journal
  3. Map journal for the Ross catchment—water movement
  4. Ross catchment story
  5. Values of the catchment—key features
  6. Values of the catchment—economic
  7. Values of the catchment—environmental and social
  8. Natural features—geology and topography
  9. Natural features—rainfall
  10. Natural features—vegetation
  11. Modified features—infrastructure, dams, weirs and bores
  12. Modified features—sediment
  13. Water quality
  14. Water flow
  15. The main areas
  16. Upper Ross River
  17. Toonpan Lagoon
  18. Six Mile Creek
  19. Antill Plains Creek
  20. Sachs Creek
  21. Mount Stuart
  22. Lower Ross River
  23. Stuart Creek including Sandfly Creek
  24. Alligator Creek
  25. Crocodile Creek
  26. Cocoa Creek
  27. Cape Cleveland
  28. Conclusion
  29. Acknowledgments
  30. Data source, links and extra information
Main image. Looking up the Ross River with Mount Stuart, defence land and the suburb of Douglas on the left, Thuringowa on the right and the Pinnacles and western escarpment in the background - provided by John Gunn.

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 and other data sources to provide that understanding.

The information was gathered using the walking the landscapeprocess, where experts 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.

How to view this Map Journal

This map journal is best viewed in Chrome or Firefox, not Explorer.

Main image. The lower Ross River near Kelso - provided by Tourism and Events Queensland.

Map Journal for the Ross Catchment - water movement

This map journal describes the location, extent and values of the Ross 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.

Blacks Weir overtopping - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Mangrove-lined Sandfly Creek and the eastern slopes of Mount Elliot with metal refinery far right - provided by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

*The use of the terms 'catchment', 'sub-catchment', 'basin' and 'sub-basin' are sometimes used interchangeably. In this map journal the term 'catchment' has been used.

Ross Catchment Story

The Ross catchment is located in north Queensland and is part of the North Queensland Dry Tropics NRM Region. The catchment falls within the Townsville City Council area. The catchment includes large rural; and urban residential areas and part of the City of Townsville.

The catchment covers approximately 1,218 square kilometres (click for animation).

The main waterway is the Ross River, together with many smaller waterways including Central, Six Mile, Landsdowne, Antill Plains, Sachs, Stuart, Alligator and Crocodile creeks. All waterways (click for animation) flow to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), via Cleveland Bay. The GBR is World Heritage-listed and a marine park.

The Ross catchment is adjacent to the Bohle, Black, Upper Burdekin and Haughton catchments. There are hydrological connections between these catchments through surface flow, stormwater 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. Looking across upper Stuart Creek to Alligator Creek and Cape Cleveland, from Mount Stuart - provided by John Gunn.

Values of the catchment—key features

Key features of the Ross catchment include:

  • Western escarpment of mostly granite with felsite outcrops, alluvium and colluvium over the Hervey Range plateau and lower lying land, and sand ridges with marine deposits (estuaries) along the coast
  • The Townsville urban area is built on the alluvial plain that extends across the Ross, Bohle and Black catchments
  • There are hydrological connections between the Ross and Bohle catchments including Ross Creek through surface flow, stormwater and groundwater
  • Historically Ross Creek was connected to the Ross River with Ross Island to the east, however this was disconnected by the placement of a landfill in the 1970s*
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 701 to 1,001 millimetres per year with up to 3,201 millimetres per year over higher elevations (Mount Elliot)
  • 80% of the area's rainfall is during the wet season (seasonally arid tropics)
  • Historically the Ross River was an intermittent system with an ephemeral flow pattern (pre-dam) but now holds permanent water, as do several other waterways in the catchment (e.g.Alligator and Stuart creeks)
  • Generally, upper parts have fast flow off the hard geologies and lower parts have more complicated hydrology related to tides and rainfall (locally and upstream)
  • Abundant groundwater, particularly in the lower system, with many paleochannels (old river channels) and aquatards, which are highly variable in their transmissivity (ability for water to pass through the sediment particles) both spatially and temporally
  • Paleochannels have sealed up and provide preferential path for groundwater in ribbon aquifers throughout the basin
  • Important groundwater recharge area in colluvium at break in slope (Whites Creek)
  • Land use is mostly grazing on native pastures and conservation and natural areas (including defence and protected areas) with farming, mining (quarries), industry and residential areas
  • Defence land protects high value systems of Mount Stuart, including wetlands
  • Protected areas include Bowling Green Bay National Park (Ramsar site), Townsville Town Common Conservation Park, Pinnacles National Park and Mingela State Forest, together with Cleveland Bay Fish Habitat Area, Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island Dugong Protection Area, Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area and adjacent to GBR Marine Park (general use, conservation park and coastal)
  • Large areas of 'contains wetlands', lacustrine (Lake Ross) and estuarine wetlands, together with riverine and palustrine wetlands and the DIWA-listed (Directory of Important Wetlands Australia) Ross River Reservoir and Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation
  • There are four major barriers: Ross River Dam and Black School, Gleeson and Alpins (tidal interface) weirs
  • Ross River Dam is a shallow (less than 3 metres deep when full) and leaky dam that sits on alluvium over the Hervey Range plateau; it was designed for flood mitigation and can receive ;water from the Burdekin Falls Dam (inter-basin transfer)
  • Water flow has been highly modified in the Annadale (pony club), Idalia and Oonoonba areas; remnant floodplain lagoons are now a series of constructed freshwater and estuarine lakes, however they still provide habitat for barramundi and a range of other fishes (high value feature)
  • The river provides an important recreational fishery, particularly for barramundi and mangrove jack
  • More than 20 exotic fish species have been recorded in the catchment, mostly aquarium fish
  • Sewage treatment plant at Cluden (Cleveland Bay Water Purification Plant)
  • Alligator and Stuart creeks are very valuable systems with fish passage from headwaters to the reef

*Aerial imagery sourced from QImagery.

Main image. Aplins Weir and weir pool, looking downstream - provided by John Gunn.

Values of the catchment—economic

The Ross catchment supports many different land uses*, including grazing on native pastures, residential and associated services, horticulture, industry and defence. There are small areas of mining and several Key Resource Areas.**

Mango farming on the alluvium near the Ross River dam wall - provided by John Gunn.

Horses of the Upper Ross River, with the Pinnacles in the background - provide by John Gunn.

Urban residential lake development in the Idalia area - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Cattle grazing on native pastures in the Alligator Creek subcatchment - provided by John Gunn.

*Australian Land Use Management Classification (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2010) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

**Hard rock, gravel and sand extraction shown is within KRAs (Key Resource Areas) only. KRAs are identified locations containing important extractive resources of state or regional significance worthy of protection for future use. Some KRAs include existing extractive operations (see link at the end of map journal for more information).

Values of the catchment—environmental and social

The Ross catchment provides important habitat for many marine, estuarine, freshwater and terrestrial species.

Estuarine crocodile shot on the lower Ross River in 1928 - provided by Jim Tait.

The catchment includes several protected areas and a nature refuge. Protected areas also provide for recreational activities such as ;bush walking, bird watching, swimming, camping, boating and fishing. These activities not only provide substantial social and health benefits but they are also very important for tourism.

Plumed whistling ducks on Stuart Creek - provided by John Gunn.

The wetlands and creeks of the catchment provide habitat for many important aquatic species, including plants, fish and birds. Estuarine areas also support important plants (mangrove, saltmarsh and seagrass), estuarine crocodiles, marine turtles, marine mammals and fisheries species.

Information about the different types of wetlands shown in this mapping is providedhere.

The catchment includes part of the Ramsar-listed Bowling Green Bay, several DIWA-listed wetlands (Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia), declared Fish Habitat Areas* and Dugong Protection Areas.

Many of the species in the catchment have lifecycles with connections to the GBR, which is World Heritage-listed and a marine park.

Crocodile Creek mangrove, saltmarsh and clay pan communities, part of the Ramsar-listed Bowling Green Bay - provided by Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; Queensland Government.

Main image. Water skiing on the lower Ross River - provided by Tourism and Events Queensland/Budd Photography.

*Declared Fish Habitat Area Plans (Queensland Government 2016) - 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 Ross catchment.

This map journal refers to mafite and felsite geologies, collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Conceptual models for several of the catchment's geology types are provided below.

Main image. Looking across the Upper Ross River alluvial flat that extends into the Bohle River, from the Ross River Dam wall - provided by John Gunn.

Natural features—rainfall

The Ross catchment receives high to very high rainfall, with 80 per cent during the wet season. Average annual rainfall* of mostly 701 to 1,001 millimetres per year with up to 3,201 millimetres per year over higher elevations of Mount Elliot.

Mean monthly rainfall for years 1940 to 2018**

Total annual rainfall from 1940 to 2017**

Water being released from the Ross River Dam spillway - provided by John Gunn.

*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.

**Bureau of Meterology (2018) - see links at the end of this map journal.

Natural features—vegetation

Vegetation affects how water flows through the catchment, and this process is affected by land use and management practices. 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.

Grass-lined swale with melaleuca trees, Oonoonba - provided by John Gunn.

Several different vegetation types combine to make up the original native (preclearing) vegetation of the Ross catchment.* Much of the catchment has been cleared or partially-cleared for a range of rural and urban land uses. Some of the cleared vegetation has regrown** since initial clearing.

Explore the swipe map showing preclearing vegetation on the right and remnant vegetation (including regrowth) on the left, 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.

Cats claw creeper (weed) growing on riparian vegetation of Stuart Creek, showing tress that have been pulled into the creek by the weed - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Eucalypt woodland on the slopes of the Upper Ross River subcatchment,looking towards the Hervey Range - provided by John Gunn.

*Broad Vegetation Groups derived from Regional Ecosystems. Regional Ecosystems are vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a 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

Buildings and important infrastructure such as roads, railways and creek crossings create barriers and impermeable surfaces that redirect water through single points or culverts, leading to channeling of water. This increases the rate of flow and the potential for erosion. Modifications to channels, such as straightening and diversions, can also increase flow rates.*

Dams and weirs also modify natural water flow patterns, by holding water that would otherwise flow straight into the stream network. The catchment has many rural water storages (farm dams), the relatively large Ross River Dam impounding Lake Ross, the major weirs of Black School (Blacks), Gleeson and Alpins (tidal interface) and several constructed lakes in the Idalia area.

Causeway on constructed lakes in the Idalia area - provided by John Gunn.

Ross River Dam is a shallow leaky dam that sits on alluvium over the Hervey Range plateau; it was designed for flood mitigation and can receive water from the Burdekin Falls Dam (inter-basin transfer).

Historically Ross Creek was connected to the Ross River with Ross Island to the east, however this was disconnected by the placement of a landfill in the 1970s.

This infrastructure can also affect fish passage. The Ross River Dam has an eel-way.

There are also many bores**, which extract water for livestock and domestic uses and can influence groundwater.

The road along the Ross River Dam wall - provided by John Gunn.

The Ross River Dam spillway - provided by John Gunn.

Water releasing through the Ross River Dam spillway - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Highway over Stuart Creek - provided by John Gunn.

*Townsville City Council provides access to asset infrastructure, contours, planning scheme zoning, overlay maps including storm tide, etc. - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

**Taken from database storing registered water bore data from private water bores and Queensland Government groundwater investigation and monitoring bores.

Modified features—sediment

Increases in the volume and speed of runoff, and disturbed vegetation through activities such as construction or grazing, can increase erosion in the landscape and the stream channels. This can result in sediment being carried downstream and reduced water quality. The construction stage of a development typically generates more sediment in runoff than more mature stages of a development.

Freshwater wetland with melaleuca, Cape Cleveland - provided by Townsville City Council.

The suspended sediment of most risk to the GBR is the fine fraction. This is the component that contains most of the nitrogen and phosphorus content (and other potential contaminants such as metals), travels widely in flood plumes rather than all depositing near the river mouth, and is very effective at reducing light when in suspension.

Furthermore, the impacts of suspended sediment contributes to the cumulative impacts of other stressors (e.g. fresh-water flood plumes, elevated nutrients, impacts from cyclones, increasing sea surface temperatures) to increase the overall impact on organisms of the GBR.

Main image. Sediment plume in Cleveland Bay - provided by John Gunn.

Water Quality

Water quality is influenced by diffuse runoff and point source inputs. Runoff is from a variety of land uses, including rural, residential, industrial and commercial areas.

Urban residential development on constructed lakes in the Idalia area - provided by John Gunn.

Diffuse runoff includes on-site sewage facilities (e.g. septic tanks) and stormwater discharges, particularly from low permeability surfaces common in urban areas. The concentration of potential contaminants in the stormwater discharge depends on the land use of the area. Many rural areas and more densely populated rural-residential areas use on-site sewage facilities.

Point source inputs include sewage treatment plants (STPs).

Information regarding monitoring sites (gauging stations*) and catchment load monitoring** can be found in the reference section at the end of this map journal.

Main image. Coastal waters showing the Cleveland Bay Water Purification Plant (Sewage Treatment Plant) (left) and Stuart Creek (right) - provided by John Gunn.

*Water Monitoring Information Portal (Queensland Government 2017)see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

**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)see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

Water flow

Water flows across the landscape into the Ross River and other waterways (click for animation)*.

The remaining water either sinks into the ground where it supports a variety of terrestrial and groundwater dependent ecosystems or is 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 areas which store and release water, prolonging the time streams flow.

Stuart Creek after rainfall - provided by Conservation Volunteers Australia.

The Gleeson Weir overtopping provided by John Gunn.Main image. Water released through the Ross River Dam spillway - provided by John Gunn.

*Please note this application takes time to load.

*Please note this application takes time to load.

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 Ross catchment is listed as a single catchment but consists of several distinct areas that have similar characteristics:

  1. Upper (above the dam) Ross River (Lagoon, Round Mountain Central, Sleeper Log, Banana, Danishman, Bullock, Fern, Oaky, Deep, Bottle Camp, Spring, Sandy, Cattle and Leichardt creeks and the Ross River)
  2. Toonpan Lagoon (Landsdowne, One Mile, Spring, Glagstone, Four Mile and Five Head creeks and Sandy Gully)
  3. Six Mile Creek (Six Mile and Somerset creeks and Jimmys Lagoon)
  4. Antill Plains Creek (Antill Plains and Stonehouse creeks)
  5. Sachs Creek (Sachs Creek)
  6. Mount Stuart (Black Soil Gully)
  7. Lower (below the dam) Ross River (Hell Hole, University, Goondaloo, Wadda Mooli, Gordon, Goondi and Stuart creeks and the Ross River)
  8. Stuart Creek including Sandfly Creek (Stuart, Dick, Stony, Sandfly and Vantassel creeks)
  9. Alligator Creek (Alligator, Cockatoo, Slippery Rocks and Whites creeks)
  10. Crocodile Creek (Crocodile and Killymoon creeks)
  11. Cocoa Creek (Cocoa Creek)
  12. Cape Cleveland

Main image. Mount Stuart - provided by John Gunn.

*Definition sourced from the City of Gold Coast website - see links at the end of this map journal.

Upper Ross River

  • The Upper Ross River subcatchment has a western escarpment of mostly granite with felsite, with alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevations
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,101 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over higher elevations
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies with abundant groundwater in the lower system
  • Land use is mostly grazing on native pastures and conservation and natural areas (Pinnacles National Park and Mingela State Forest) with small areas of horticulture (mangoes and avocados), horse studs, quarries and rural residential
  • Sandy river section with some erosion (hungry river system) including gully erosion on the colluvium and alluvium
  • Large areas of contains wetlands, lacustrine (Lake Ross) and riverine wetlands, together with palustrine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Ross River Reservoir
  • Burrowing frogs and black throated finch associated with permanent waterholes

Looking along the Ross River Dam wall towards the Hervey Range - provided by John Gunn.

Signage at the Ross River Dam - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Looking across Lake Ross from the dam wall - provided by John Gunn.

Toonpan Lagoon

  • The Toonpan Lagoon subcatchment has rugged headwaters of granite, metamorphics and felsite, with alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevations
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 701 to 1,101 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over higher elevations
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies with abundant groundwater and braided floodplain in the lower system
  • Land use is mostly grazing on native pastures and conservation and natural areas (Bowling Green Bay National Park and Mingela State Forest) with small areas of cropping, rural residential, intensive animal production (saleyards/stockyards, horse studs, aquaculture)
  • Production native forest to be resumed as national park
  • Some gully erosion in the colluvium
  • Large areas of contains wetlands, together with lacustrine, riverine and palustrine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Ross River Reservoir
  • Black throated finch associated with permanent waterholes

Six Mile Creek

  • The Six Mile Creek subcatchment is flat to undulating landscape underlain by alluvium and colluvium
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,001 millimetres per year
  • Sandy, poorly-defined, ephemeral system
  • Abundant groundwater and important recharge area
  • Land use is mostly grazing on native pastures
  • Large areas of contains wetlands and lacustrine wetlands (Lake Ross) together with riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Ross River Reservoir

Antill Plains Creek

  • The Antill Plains Creek subcatchment has rugged headwaters of granite (Mount Elliot) with alluvium, colluvium and mafite/felsite* outcrops on the lower elevations
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 701 to 1,201 millimetres per year with up to 1,901 millimetres per year over Mount Elliot
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies with abundant groundwater in the lower system and important recharge area (Antill Plains)
  • Land use is grazing on native pastures, together with conservation and natural areas (Bowling Green Bay National Park), rural residential, irrigated perennial horticulture (irrigated tree fruits, mangoes), manufacturing and industrial (paint testing facility)
  • Large areas of lacustrine wetland (Lake Ross), together with contains wetlands, riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Ross River Reservoir
  • This subcatchment connects to the Haughton River via Majors Creek under some flow conditions
  • The pump station for the inter-basin transfer from the Burdekin Falls Dam via the Haughton Balancing Storage is located on the eastern bank of Lake Ross

Main image. Looking across Antill Plains towards Mount Elliot, from Mount Stuart - provided by John Gunn.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Sachs Creek

  • The Sachs Creek subcatchment has steep headwaters of granite and mafite/felsite* (Mount Stuart) with alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevations
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 701 to 1,001 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over Mount Stuart
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies with abundant groundwater in the lower system
  • Mixed land use including grazing on native pastures, conservation and natural areas (defence), rural residential, irrigated perennial horticulture, horses
  • Large areas of lacustrine wetland (Lake Ross), together with riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Ross River Reservoir
  • Hot spot for weeds such as bursaria, cabomba, parthenium and Siam weed together with tilapia
  • Black throated finch associated with the permanent waterholes in council nature refuges
  • Relatively large residential area with septic tanks and reticulated water supply

Main image. Looking towards Oaky Valley, Sachs Creek and Lake Ross from Mount Stuart - provided by John Gunn.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Mount Stuart

  • The Mount Stuart subcatchment is largely intact with headwaters of mafite/felsite* with some granite (Mount Stuart) and limited alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevation
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,001 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over Mount Stuart
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies
  • Groundwater seeps with dense vegetation
  • Mostly conservation and natural areas (defence), together with grazing on native pastures and quarries
  • Large areas of lacustrine wetland (Lake Ross), together with contains wetlands and riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Ross River Reservoir
  • Dams provide permanent waterholes for black throated finch
  • Very good water quality (almost crystal clear unless major flood event)
  • Flow in Hell Hole Creek - provided by NQ Dry Tropics.

    Main image. Small tributary in the Mount Stuart subcatchment - provided by John Gunn

    *This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Lower Ross River

  • The lower (below the dam) Ross RIver subcatchment is underlain by mafite/felsite* and granite (Mount Stuart) along the right bank with alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevation and sand and estuarine deposits at the mouth
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 901 to 1,101 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over Mount Stuart
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies with abundant groundwater in the lower elevations
  • The Ross River Dam has changed flow paths however it is still connected to the Bohle River and Ross Creek through surface flow, stormwater and groundwater
  • Historically Ross Creek was connected to the Ross River with Ross Island to the east, however this was disconnected by the placement of a landfill in the 1970s
  • Mostly urban residential and conservation and natural areas (defence), together with grazing on native pastures, manufacturing and industrial and other minor land uses
  • Protected areas include the Cleveland Bay FHA, Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island DPA, GBR WHA and adjacent GBRMP
  • Lots of hardening-up of the catchment by urban development but wide, grass-lined drainage lines provide for recharge
  • Water flow has been highly modified in the Annadale (pony club), Idalia and Oonoonba areas; remnant floodplain lagoons are now a series of constructed freshwater and estuarine lakes with water pumped from the river through the freshwater lakes and the downstream lake is estuarine
  • These lakes provide habitat for barramundi and a range of other fishes (high value feature)
  • Large areas of estuarine wetland, together with lacustrine and riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation
  • Three weirs (Black School, Gleeson and Alpins) with large weir pools (no fishways) provide for important recreational fisheries, particularly barramundi
  • Alpins weir pool is the tidal limit and is stocked with barramundi, mangrove jack and sleepy cod
  • Abundant bores are used, mostly for lawns
  • Weeds are managed by council and include Singapore daisy, sagittaria, water hyacinth, pistia, cabomba, salvinia, paragrass and leucaena
  • Saltwater couch wetlands along right bank provide high value nursery habitat for tiger prawns and other species
  • Important migratory shorebird habitat (e.g. bush stone curlew) at the mouth with mangroves also colonising ongoing depositions of mud and sand

The Riverway development on the lower Ross River - provided by Tourism and Events Queensland/Budd Photography.

The mouth of the Ross River showing the urban centre (left), Stuart Creek (right) and Magnetic Island in the background - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Lake development at Edgewater Court, Idalia - provided by John Gunn.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsites geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Stuart Creek including Sandfly Creek

  • The Stuart Creek subcatchment (including Sandfly Creek) includes the escarpment of Hervey Range plateau with mafite / felsite* and granite, together with alluvium and colluvium on the lower elevations, and sand ridges and estuarine deposits along the shoreline
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,001 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over the higher elevations
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies and some downstream flooding
  • Fractures, seeps, springs and small local aquifers
  • Complicated hydrology related to tides and rainfall (locally and upstream)
  • Pools remain on Stuart Creek throughout most years
  • Mostly grazing on native pastures, together with conservation and natural areas (defence), rural and urban residential, mining and quarries (hard rock Key Resource Areas), manufacturing and industrial (major industrial complex), waste treatment and disposal (STP), farming and other minor land uses
  • Protected areas include Cleveland Bay FHA, and adjacent Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island DPA, GBR WHA and GBRMP
  • Large areas of estuarine wetland, together with contains wetlands , lacustrine and riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation
  • Diverse fish communities with full connection to the reef including migratory catadromous fish species that historically occupied the Ross River within its freshwater reaches such as jungle perch and barramundi (very high value system)
  • Good habitat values for native fish in the council / Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) revegetation area (more than 20 species including rainbowfish, empire gudgeons, spangled perch, snakehead gudgeons, barramundi and tarpon), and in small estuarine tributaries; however there are some impacts from exotic plants and animals and erosion consuming riparian vegetation
  • Freshwater lagoons / dams in sand swales
  • Important shorebird habitat with diverse invertebrate communities, including beach stone curlew breeding and forage on mud flats (limited access for predators)
  • Seagrass, turtles and dugongs

Recreational use of Stuart Creek, upstream of the highway - provided by NQ Dry Tropics.

Railway crossing and small pool on Stuart Creek - provided by John Gunn.

Grazing land in the Stuart Creek catchment - provided by John Gunn.

Main image. Stuart Creek following rain - provided by Conservation Volunteers Australia.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Alligator Creek

  • The Alligator Creek subcatchment has steep headwaters of granite and mafite/felsite* (Mount Elliot), together with alluvium, colluvium and outcrops (granite and mafite / felsite) on the lower elevations, and sand ridges and estuarine deposits along the shoreline
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,201 millimetres per year with up to 2,901 millimetres per year over Mount Elliot (wet tropics landscape)
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies with abundant water running into the colluvium and recharging the colluvium, particularly at break in slope
  • Mostly conservation and natural areas (national park) and grazing on native pastures, together with rural residential, farming, quarries (hard rock Key Resource Area) and other minor land uses
  • Relatively large residential areas using septic tanks in the mid and lower parts
  • Protected areas include Bowling Green Bay National Park and Ramsar site, Cleveland Bay FHA, and adjacent Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island DPA, GBR WHA and GBRMP
  • Large areas of estuarine wetland, together with contains wetlands, lacustrine, palustrine and riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation
  • Several waterfalls (Alligator Creek Falls) with freshwater crayfish in the headwaters and diverse fish communities below the falls, including jungle perch and barramundi with full connection to the reef (very high value system) but weeds and low dissolved oxygen levels can act as a fish barrier
  • High recreational values

The track to Alligator Creek Falls - provided by Tourism and Events Queensland/Budd Photography.

Alligator Creek with metal refinery in the background (right) - provided by Department of Agriculture and Fisheries ©Queensland Government.

Main image. Upper Alligator Creek - provided by Tourism and Events Queensland.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Crocodle Creek

  • The Crocodile Creek subcatchment has steep headwaters of granite and mafite/felsite* (Mount Elliot), together with alluvium, colluvium and outcrops (granite and mafite / felsite) on the lower elevations, and sand ridges and estuarine deposits along the shoreline
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,201 millimetres per year, with up to 2,001 millimetres per year over Mount Elliot
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies into sand and estuary with complex hydrology
  • Mostly conservation and natural areas (national park), together with grazing on native pastures, aquaculture and other minor land uses
  • Protected areas include Bowling Green Bay National Park and Ramsar site, Cleveland Bay FHA, and adjacent Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island DPA, GBR WHA and GBRMP
  • Large areas of estuarine wetland, together with contains wetlands , lacustrine, palustrine and riverine wetlands and the DIWA-listed Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation

Main image. Crocodile Creek with Mount Elliot in the background - provided by John Gunn.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Cocoa Creek

  • The Cocoa Creek subcatchment is mostly flat with granite ridge, alluvium, colluvium, sand ridges and estuarine deposits
  • Average annual rainfall of 801 to 1,001 millimetres per year
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies into sand and estuary with complex hydrology
  • Mostly protected, including Bowling Green Bay National Park and Ramsar site, Cleveland Bay FHA, and adjacent Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island DPA, GBR WHA and GBRMP (Coastal)
  • Large areas of estuarine wetland and contains wetlands , including the DIWA-listed Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation

Main image. Lower Crocodile Creek (front), Cocoa Creek (mid) and Cape Cleveland (back) - provided by John Gunn.

Cape Clevland

  • The Cape Cleveland subcatchment includes a granite and mafite / felsite* headland with small areas of alluvium, colluvium and sand
  • Average annual rainfall of mostly 801 to 1,001 millimetres per year with up to 1,401 millimetres per year over the higher elevations
  • Fast flow off the hard geologies
  • Mostly protected, including Bowling Green Bay National Park and Ramsar site, Cleveland Bay FHA, and adjacent Cleveland Bay—Magnetic Island DPA, GBR WHA and GBRMP
  • Small areas of estuarine wetland, including the DIWA-listed Burdekin-Townsville Coastal Aggregation

Freshwater wetland, Cape Cleveland area - provided by Townsville City Council.

Main image. Brolgas on wetlands in the Cape Cleveland area - provided by Townsville City Council.

*This map journals refers to mafite and felsite geologies collectively given these rock types have a similar influence of hydrology.

Conclusion

The Ross catchment shows how natural and modified features within the landscape impact on how water flows. 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. Mount Stuart, Lavarack Barracks and suburban Townsville with Mount Elliot in the background - provided by John Gunn.

Acknowledgements

Developed by the Queensland Wetlands Programin the Department of Environment and Sciencein partnership with the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Watersand other local partners:

Conservation Volunteers Australia

NQ Dry Tropics

Townsville City Council

C & R Consulting

Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Incorporated

Department of Defence

Earth Environmental

Energy Queensland

Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

James Cook University

Landcare

Office of the Great Barrier Reef

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

This resource should be cited as: Walking the Landscape – Ross Catchment Map Journal v1.0 (2018), presentation, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland.

Images provided by Budd Photography, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Fisheries and Agriculture, John Gunn, NQ Dry Tropics, Jim Tait, Tourism and Events Queensland and Townsville Regional Council.

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.

Contact wetlands♲des.qld.gov.au or visit wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au

Disclaimer

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 education module is from a number of sources and, as such, does not necessarily represent government or departmental policy.

Data sources, links and information

Software Used

ArcGIS for Desktop | ArcGIS Online | Story Map Journal

Some of the information used to put together this Map Journal can be viewed on the QLD Globe.

The Queensland Globe is an interactive online tool that can be opened inside the Google Earth™ application. 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

Flooding Information

Townsville City Council

Other References

Bureau of Meterology (2018)Climate Data Online[webpage] Accessed 27 September 2018

City of Gold Coast (2018)Protecting Catchments[webpage] Accessed23 August 2018

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (2010)Australian Land Use Management Classification[webpage] Accessed

23 August 2018

Queensland Government (2016)Declared Fish Habitat Area Plans[webpage] Accessed 23 August 2018

Queensland Government (2017)Key Resource Areas in Queensland[webpage] Accessed 23 August 2018

Queensland Government (2018)Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Modelling Program [webpage] Accessed 23 August 2018

Queensland Government (2018)Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022,State of Queensland, Brisbane

Queensland Government (2018)Water QualityInformation Portal[webpage] Accessed 23 August 2018

Townsville City Council (2018) TownsvilleMAPS Premium [webpage] Accessed 17 September 2018


Last updated: 21 September 2018

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment and Science, Queensland (2018) Ross Catchment Story, WetlandInfo website, accessed 24 September 2020. Available at: https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/processes-systems/water/catchment-stories/transcript-ross.html

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science