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Water Park 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 map journal
is part of a series of catchment stories prepared for Queensland.

Download catchment boundary KML

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

We would like to respectfully acknowledge the Darumbal people, the Traditional Owners of the land and waters 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.

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Table of contents

  1. Understanding how water flows in the catchment
  2. How to view this map journal
  3. Map journal for the Water Park catchment—water movement
  4. Waterpark 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. Natural features—Ramsar-listed wetlands
  12. Modified features—infrastructure, dams, weirs and bores
  13. Modified features—sediment
  14. Water quality
  15. Water flow
  16. The main areas
  17. F9a* (north) northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment
  18. F9b* (north) Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments
  19. F15* (central)
  20. F26* (south)
  21. Conclusion
  22. Acknowledgments
  23. Data source, links and extra information

Main image. Pine Tree Point in the north of the catchment, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

*Neighbourhood catchment code defined by the Fitzroy Basin Association, where F indicated the broader Fitzroy River catchment and the numeral indicates the subcatchment:

  • F9 covers the northern part of the Water Park catchment and has been discussed in two parts due to its large size, i.e. F9a includes the northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment, and F9b includes the Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments
  • F15 covers the central part of the Water Park catchment, and
  • F26 covers the southern part of the Water Park catchment.

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 landscape’* process, 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.

*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

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

Main image. Water Park Creek, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

Map journal for Waterpark catchment—water movement

This map journal describes the location, extent and values of the Water Park 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. Eastern Curlew, Photo by Kevin Vins.

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

Water Park catchment story

The Water Park catchment is listed as a single catchment (or sub-basin*) but consists of several distinct areas referred to as subcatchments (or neighbourhood catchments**) which have similar characteristics. Water Park Creek is described within subcatchment F9b.

The Water Park catchment is located in central Queensland and includes the town of Yeppoon. It is part of the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) Natural Resource Management (NRM) region and falls within the Livingstone Shire Council area. The catchment has many important values to the Darumbal people.***

The catchment covers approximately 1,840 square kilometres. The main waterway is Water Park Creek and there are many small waterways including:

  • Georges, Head, Diamond and East Creeks flowing to Shoalwater Bay
  • Island Head Creek Inlet and several unnamed tributaries on the northern peninsula
  • Cowan and Solitude creeks flowing to South Arm of Port Clinton from Manifold Hills sand mass
  • Three Rivers, Switzerlands and Aviators creeks flowing from Manifold Hills
  • Tea Tree, Valentine, Sandy, Oaky, Polka, Stringybark, Stony, Black creeks and Station and Fishing creeks flowing to Corio Bay
  • Yeppoon and Ross creeks flowing through Yeppoon
  • Cooroman, Cawarral, Palm and Pumpkin creeks flowing into Keppel Bay
  • Barramundi and Back creeks flowing into the Fitzroy River.

All waterways flow to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon (click for animation), mostly via embayments such as:

  • Shoalwater Bay, Pearl Bay and Freshwater Bay in the north
  • Corio Bay centrally, and Shoal Bay
  • Keppel Bay in the south.

The GBR is World Heritage-listed and part of the Commonwealth Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) and State Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (GBR Coast MP).^

The catchment supports extensive and diverse wetlands, and includes parts of the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site.

Buff-breasted paradise kingfisher, Photo by Kevin Vins.

The Water Park catchment is adjacent to the Shoalwater and Fitzroy River catchments.^^ There can be hydrological connections between these catchments through surface flow and groundwater. For example, surface water flows across the low lying land on the Shoalwater and Water Park catchment boundary, and groundwater can be connected through aquifers that express in features such the window lakes of Manifold Hills.

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. Kemp Beach, Rosslyn, looking south, Photo by Kevin Vins.

See links at the end of this map journal for further information on the below references.

*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.

**Neighbourhood catchment code defined by the Fitzroy Basin Association, where F indicated the broader Fitzroy River catchment and the numeral indicates the subcatchment:

  • F9 covers the northern part of the Water Park catchment and has been discussed in two parts due to its large size, i.e. F9a includes the northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment, and F9b includes the Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments,
  • F15 covers the central part of the Water Park catchment, and
  • F26 covers the southern part of the Water Park catchment.

***Cultural Heritage Portal (Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Partnerships 2020).

^The GBRMP zoning '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:

  • General Use (Light Blue)
  • Habitat Protection (Dark Blue)
  • Conservation Park (Yellow)
  • Marine National Park (Green).

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 2018).

The Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park (GBR Coast MP) is a State marine park that runs the full length of the Commonwealth Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). It provides protection for Queensland tidal lands and tidal waters. The GBR Coast MP complements the GBRMP through adopting similar zone objectives, and entry and use provisions (Queensland Government 2018).

^^This mapping shows the DNRME sub-basin mapping to provide regional context. These boundaries approximate the Water Park catchment and subcatchment boundaries provided by the Fitzroy Basin Association and used in this catchment story, however there are some differences.

Values of the catchment—key features

Ross Creek, Photo by Kevin Vins.

Key features of the Water Park catchment include:

  • Extends from Shoalwater Bay in the north to the mouth of the Fitzroy River in south.
  • Relatively wet and tropical landscape in many parts with several near-permanently flowing waterways, permanent waterholes and extensive wetland and groundwater systems.
  • Land use* is dominated by conservation and natural environments (with large areas of Defence and national park) and grazing on native pastures, together with forestry, residential and associated services, other farming and mining.
  • The catchment is important to the Darumbal people.
  • Geology is dominated by hard geologies in the upper elevations including arenite-mudrock (meta-sedimentaries), granitoids, mafites and felsites.
  • There is fast runoff from steep headwaters made of hard geologies, with more water infiltration in lower parts.
  • There are large coastal sand dune systems, which allow for significant water infiltration.
  • There are more porous unconsolidated sediments in the lower parts of the landscape including colluvium, alluvium, marine sediments and several large sand masses associated with Manifold Hills, Port Clinton and the Fitzroy River mouth.
  • Manifold Hills include relatively old Pleistocene parabolic dunes up to 220 metres above sea level, dune swales, window lakes and perched wetlands.
  • Dismal Swamp is a large wetland complex that receives water from the western edge of Manifold Hills and is nearly always wet, and supports many vegetation types including patterned fens and peat swamps; similar wet heath species also grow in the depressions of the sand dunes of Manifold Hills.
  • Water flow from the broader Manifold Hills sand mass is mostly to the east between Freshwater Bay and Stockyard Point (i.e. away from Dismal Swamp) due to the underlying hard geology, and mostly to the west (i.e. to lower Water Park Creek) from the southern parts of the sand mass.
  • Many palustrine wetlands at the end of estuaries feed into Shoalwater Bay with runoff from surrounding hills.
  • Several large ponded pastures along Station and Pumpkin creeks, which are bunded to exclude tidal waters.
  • Water is extracted from the northern Sandy Creek by Defence (noting there are two waterways named Sandy Creek in this catchment).
  • Water is extracted from Water Park Creek for town water supply, which is piped from Water Park Creek along Byfield Road to Woodbury Water Treatment Plant (WTP).
  • Tanks and bores are used for water supply in some areas.
  • The Yeppoon Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) treats sewage from the urban area within area F15 (central) but discharges into the Fitzroy River catchment, and treated effluent can be used for irrigation of sporting fields, council parks and road medians.
  • The Emu Park STP also treats sewage from the urban area within area F15 (central) and discharges into an unnamed creek then into Cawarral Creek and then Coorooman Creek.
  • Most rural areas use septic tanks or small STPs (e.g. Fishing and Cawarral creeks).
  • Marine debris accumulates in several hot spots from Cape Clinton in the north to Farnborough Beach in the south.
  • Includes one of the wildest and largely un-impacted parts of Queensland with many values, including freshwater wetlands, mangroves, saltmarsh, saltpan, seagrass, marine turtles, dugongs, snubfin dolphins, water mice, estuarine crocodiles, shorebirds, frogs, acid fish, butterflies, littoral rainforest, montane heath, patterned fens and peat swamps.
  • High values of the system are recognised by the presence of Ramsar-listed wetland, Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DIWA-listed) wetlands, several declared fish habitat areas (FHAs), national and conservation parks, nature refuges and the adjacent GBR World Heritage Areas (WHA), GBRMP, GBR Coast MP and dugong protection areas.

Royal spoonbill, little egret, little black cormorant and ducks, Photo by Kevin Vins.

Main image. Corio Bay, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

*The land use types referred to in this map journal (e.g. conservation and natural environments, Defence, national park) refer to those used by the Australian Land Use Management Classification (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2010). Click on the relevant polygon to see the primary, secondary and tertiary land use types and see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

Values of the catchment—economic

The Water Park catchment supports several different land uses.

Land use* is dominated by conservation and natural environments (with large areas of Defence and national park) and grazing on native pastures, together with forestry, residential and associated services, other farming (e.g. horticulture and grazing on modified pastures) and minor land uses.

Forestry, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

Main image. Cattle grazing, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

*The land use types referred to in this map journal (e.g. conservation and natural environments, Defence, national park) refer to those used by the Australian Land Use Management Classification (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2010). Click on the relevant polygon to see the primary, secondary and tertiary land use types and see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

Values of the catchment—environmental and social

The Water Park catchment provides important habitat for many marine, estuarine, freshwater and terrestrial species. The catchment is important to the Traditional Owners and provides a range of values.

Freshwater wetland, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

The high values of the catchment are recognised by the presence of:

  • the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area Ramsar site
  • wetlands listed on the DIWA
  • national and conservation parks
  • nature refuges
  • declared FHAs
  • the adjacent GBR WHA, State and Commonwealth marine parks, and dugong protection areas.

These areas can also provide for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, camping and four wheel driving, which provide substantial social and health benefits and are important for tourism. The Rosslyn Bay Boat Harbour is the gateway to the Keppel group of islands, which are popular for boating, fishing, camping, snorkelling, diving and day trips to the GBR.

Rosslyn Boat Harbour, Photo by Kevin Vins.

The wetlands and creeks of the catchment provide habitat for many important species, and many are listed on the DIWA.

Windmill Plain DIWA-listed Iwasaki (Farnborough) Wetlands, Photo by Allan Briggs.

Freshwater wetlands support a wide range of flora and fauna including aquatic plants (macrophytes), aquatic invertebrates, butterflies, frogs, acid fish (honey blue eyes), water birds, and ecosystems including littoral rainforest, peat swamps (e.g. Dismal Swamp, Clinton Lowlands, southern Freshwater Bay, Finleys Creek), patterned fens, and montane heath. Dismal Swamp is a large wetland complex that is listed on the DIWA.

The montane heaths* growing on the high country plateau between Mount Parnassus, Carroll and Ganter^ are rare ecosystems, as they are 'wet heaths' growing on mountain tops. They support wetland species such as Banksia spinulosa and occur in small rivulets in topographic depressions in hard geology (pavements). These rivulets hold water most of the year due to orographic rainfall^^ over high and steep elevations, and the associated cloud forests, and impeded drainage over the hard rock. Similar wet heath species grow on the sand dunes of Manifold Hills.

Estuarine wetlands support a wide range of flora and fauna including mangroves, saltmarsh, saltpan, seagrass, fisheries species (mud crabs, prawns, sea mullet, barramundi and other fishes), marine turtle, dolphins, dugongs, water mice, estuarine crocodiles and shorebirds. Six of the world's seven species of marine turtle have been recorded in the area (flatback, green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley), with four species recorded in the Ramsar site (flatback, green, hawksbill and loggerhead).

Corio Bay is very important for roosting, feeding and overwintering of shorebirds such as red-necked stints, godwits, whimbrels and little terns.

Many of the species in the catchment have lifecycles with connections to the GBR.

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

Main image. Great knots and bar-tailed godwits at Cattle Point, Photo by Allan Briggs.

*Heath can be defined as 'shrub usually less than two metres tall, commonly with ericoid leaves' (Nelder et al. 2019), which are small and tough (needle-like to waxy) leaves. Montane refers to mountains. Many montane heaths support dry, stunted vegetation growing in poor soil and harsh conditions, however they can also support wetland ecosystems.

Wetlands are defined as 'areas of permanent or periodic/intermittent inundation, with water that is static or flowing fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres. To be a wetland the area must have one or more of the following attributes:

  • at least periodically the land supports plants or animals that are adapted to and dependent on living in wet conditions for at least part of their life cycle, or
  • the substratum is predominantly undrained soils that are saturated, flooded or ponded long enough to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper layers, or
  • the substratum is not soil and is saturated with water, or covered by water at some time (Department of Environment and Science 2015).'

^Circled area indicates broad area of these wetland features. Montane heath wetlands are very small features, which are difficult to map. They are located in the high country plateau between Mount Parnassus, Carroll and Ganter, which provides the headwaters for Stony Creek in the Water Park Catchment and Werribee Creek in the adjacent Fitzroy River catchment.

^^As moist air moves over higher elevations, such as the granite high country and rugged felsite peninsula, it rises and cools, forming orographic clouds mostly upwind of the feature. On the lee side of the elevated area (i.e. the north-west), rainfall is lower and the area is in a rain shadow. Very heavy precipitation typically occurs upwind of a prominent elevated feature, such as a mountain range, that is oriented across a prevailing wind from a warm ocean. Conceptual model by courtesy of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., copyright 2012; used with permission.

See links at the end of this map journal for further information on the above references.

Natural features—geology and topography

Several different rock types combine to make up the geology of the Water Park catchment.

Intertidal sand flats and rock groyne, Keppel Sands, Photo by Kevin Vins.

The upper catchment is dominated by hard geologies, such as arenite-mudrock, granite, mafites and felsites, ultramafic rock and mudrock. There is fast runoff from these areas, particularly in steep landscapes such as the granite high country (up to 650 metres above sea level, ASL) and rugged felsite peninsula (up to 550 metres ASL). The felsite headlands around Rosslyn Bay are remnants of several separate volcanic plugs (Mount Hedlow Trachyte), which are steep grey to purple-coloured formations with aggregations of white feldspar crystal and thick quartzite bands*. Some of the hard geologies are fractured and allow for some local groundwater infiltration.

There are large areas of unconsolidated sediments across the more coastal areas, such as sand, muds (marine sediments), colluvium, alluvium and gravel. The sand, colluvium, alluvium and gravel can allow for groundwater infiltration where not hardened-up by development (e.g urban areas).

There are several large sand masses associated with Manifold Hills, Port Clinton and the Fitzroy River mouth. The sand masses include relatively young Holocene beach ridges along the southern shoreline (up to 50 metres ASL), and relatively old and high Pleistocene dunes up to 220 metres ASL (Manifold Hills) along the northern shore. The parabolic Pleistocene dunes support dune swales, window lakes and perched wetlands. Groundwater comes to, or near, the surface in parts of Manifold Hills, resulting in depressions (sometimes called sink holes) with abundant water and sheltered landform from wind, sun and fire.

The majority of large sand systems in southern Queensland are built up by the abundance of sand moving northwards from New South Wales (NSW) over the past 120,000 years, however little of this mature sand passes K'gari (Fraser Island). Pleistocene dunes tend to be white-coloured and fine grained however the Pleistocene dunes in Byfield tend to include relatively coarse and yellow-coloured (traces of iron oxides) sediments with feldspar, quartz grains and rock fragments in parts. These relatively coarser sediments have been successively built-up by sediments from the Burnett, Boyne and Fitzroy rivers (which are less mature than those from NSW)*, and the feldspar and quartz could have been derived from the old volcanic plug headlands around Rosslyn Bay. More recently, Holocene sands have been accreting along the shoreline and blown over the Pleistocene dunes by the predominant south-easterly winds.*

Successive build-up of Byfield dunes, Provided by Willmott (2006)*.

Younger Holocene beach (or accretion) ridges are extensive from Cattle Point to Bangalee/Barwell Creek. These areas demonstrate a long-term pattern of accretion with some short term erosion cycles, and areas of fresh and saline are often entrapped or intrude in the swales. These swales are seasonally wet and dry and operate as important water lens powered by the tides and supporting a range of species and ecosystems such as littoral rainforest or melaleuca/livistona palm-dominated palustrine wetlands. These areas provide essential breeding habitats for a myriad of butterflies especially blue tigers which migrate north in autumn each year, and the Vallis Park section of the Capricorn Coast National Park was gazetted for its butterfly habitat.

Dismal Swamp is a large wetland complex that supports many vegetation types including patterned fens and peat swamps. The wetland is nearly always wet with water held in the system by hard bedrock close to the surface, little to no slope (i.e. relatively flat), relatively high rainfall, constant water input from the western edge of the Manifold Hills sand mass, and a geological constriction near the Water Park Creek mouth.

Water flow from the broader Manifold Hills sand mass is mostly to the east between Freshwater Bay and Stockyard Point (i.e. away from Dismal Swamp) due to the underlying hard geology, and mostly to the west (i.e. to lower Water Park Creek) from the southern parts of the sand mass.

Along the eastern shore, many of the creeks in the steep sand dunes are dry. There are several permanent creeks in the north including Freshwater (Whale Bone), Three Rivers, Switzerlands and Findlays creeks.

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

Exclusion zones conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government

Fractured rocks conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government

Alluvia—lower catchment conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government

Coastal sand masses (beach ridges) conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government

Main image. Rocky headland, One Mile Beach, showing the layered and tilted geologies, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

*Rocks and Landscape of the National Parks of Central Queensland (Willmont 2006) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

Natural features—rainfall

The Water Park catchment usually experiences annual wet and dry seasons, with most of the rainfall typically between December and March (i.e. wet season).

Mean rainfall (Yeppoon The Esplanade), Provided the Bureau of Meteology

Mean rainfall (Samuel Hill Aero), Provided the Bureau of Meteology

The hydrological seasonality, associated with these wet and dry season flow conditions, is important to the ecological character, function and associated values of aquatic ecosystems. The dry season is also an important part of the functioning of the system.

Average annual rainfall is slightly higher over the higher elevations of the northern peninsula. The northern peninsula is a wet tropics like environment that supports cloud forests and rare ecosystems such as endemic fish populations in isolated permanent waterholes (e.g. eastern rainbowfish colour morphs).

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.

Wetland vegetation including sedges and banksia, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

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 Water Park catchment.

Large parts of the catchment have been cleared or partially-cleared in the south, mostly for grazing on native pastures and residential areas. Some of the cleared vegetation has regrown* since initial clearing.

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. Kinka Wetlands, Photo by Allan Briggs.

*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.

Natural features—Ramsar-listed wetlands

Little tern, Corio Bay, Photo by Allan Briggs.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (more commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention) was adopted in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Convention aims to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve remaining wetlands through wise use and management. The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity.

Queensland has five Ramsar sites: Currawinya Lakes, Bowling Green Bay, Great Sandy Strait, Moreton Bay and Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area.

The international importance of the wetlands in the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area was recognised with the designation of a Ramsar site over the area in 1996. The site is one of the largest and most ecologically rich coastal wetland sites in Queensland. This near pristine area covers more than 200,000 hectares and stretches along 330 kilometres of coastline between Rockhampton and Mackay.

Many wetland types are found in the Shoalwater and Corio Bays Area, including:

  • fringing coral reefs
  • shallow open water with seagrass beds
  • rocky shores, beaches and sandbars
  • intertidal mudflats and sandflats
  • mangrove forests and melaleuca woodland
  • freshwater lagoons, swamps and streams on elevated sandplains
  • peatlands, sinkholes and springs.

The site represents a climatic overlap zone with an unusual mix of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate species. There are more than 900 native plant species and many native animal species including more than 440 fish, 10 frog, 60 reptiles, 260 bird and 40 mammal species.

It is home to an abundance of shorebirds and migratory waterbirds, with over 23,000 individuals recorded on several occasions. Protected shorebird species include the curlew sandpiper, great knot, bar-tailed godwit, eastern curlew and grey-tailed tattler.

The seagrass beds cover more than 13,000 hectares and are some of the most extensive on Australia’s east coast. They provide important feeding grounds for globally threatened dugongs and marine turtles, together with fish species of commercial and recreational importance.

Diverse and abundant mangrove communities support nursery areas for fish, and roosting and sheltering sites for shorebirds and flying foxes.

The extensive freshwater peat swamps are rare within the bioregion and in Australia.

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.

Sparse residential, Emu Park, Photo by Kevin Vins.

Culverts conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government

Low permeability conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government

Sealed roads are most extensive in the developed areas, and unsealed roads (tracks) are particularly extensive in the forestry areas, but also present in other areas. Erosion from the unsealed tracks can lead to increased sedimentation in adjacent waterways, which can reduce habitat quality and availability for aquatic life such as macrophytes, invertebrates and fishes.

Modifications to channels, such as straightening and diversions, can also increase flow rates.

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. There are several large ponded pastures on Station and Pumpkin creeks, which are bunded to exclude tidal waters.

Water is extracted by Defence from the northern Sandy Creek (noting there are two waterways named Sandy Creeks in this catchment).

Town water is extracted from Water Park Creek (upstream of a weir) and piped along Byfield Road to Woodbury Water Treatment Plant (WTP), from where it is pumped to the Yeppoon area. This water provides very good quality drinking water due to its naturally low conductivity, neutral pH and very low turbidity, which is due to the Water Park Creek headwaters being located in the Manifold Hills sand systems (i.e. freshwater lens) and the associated filtering together with the mostly natural land uses of the catchment.*

Weir on Water Park Creek, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

Tanks and bores are also used for water supply in some areas. There are many bores** in parts of the catchment, which can influence groundwater systems.

Infrastructure can also affect fish passage through the catchment.

Main image. Fishway on Amity Creek, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

*Based on a 2018 and 2019 a joint study between Central Queensland University (CQU) and the Livingstone Shire Council (LSC), which was undertaken in order to scientifically examine the water quality in Kelly’s Dam an offstream storage filled from Water Park Creek which feeds raw water to the LSC Woodbury Water Treatment Plant.

**Taken from database storing registered water bore data from private water bores and Queensland Government groundwater investigation and monitoring bores. There may be more bores, which are not on the register, that also impact groundwater.

Modified features—sediment

The northern parts of the catchment are largely undeveloped and protected by remnant (original) native vegetation.

Kemp Beach, Rosslyn, looking north, Photo by Kevin Vins.

In more developed areas, increases in the volume and speed of runoff, and disturbed vegetation through activities such as construction, can increase erosion in the landscape and 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.

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:

  • 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
  • substantially reduces light when in suspension.

Furthermore, the impacts of suspended sediment 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.*

Pineapple farm, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

Main image. Mangroves, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

*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 quality

Water quality is influenced by diffuse runoff and point source inputs. Much of the catchment is protected by native vegetation, however runoff from some land uses can influence water quality (e.g. residential, farming, forestry, industrial and commercial areas).

Diffuse runoff includes on-site sewage facilities (e.g. septic tanks) and runoff from low permeable surfaces common in residential and other urban areas. The concentration of potential contaminants in the stormwater discharge depends on the land use of the area. Some residential (e.g. Byfield) and Defence areas use on-site sewage facilities such as septic tanks.

Point source inputs include sewage treatment plants (STPs). The Yeppoon STP treats sewage from the urban area within area F15 (central) but discharges into the Fitzroy River catchment. The Emu Park STP also treats sewage from the urban area within area F15 (central) and discharges into an unnamed creek then into Cawarral Creek and then Coorooman Creek.

Septic tank diagram, provided by SEQ Catchments, Ipswich City Council and West Moreton Landcare, using IAN Library products.

Water and sediment quality can also be impacted by litter. Marine debris accumulates at several hot spots between Cape Clinton in the north to Farnborough Beach in the south, including Cape Clinton, Five Rocks, Little Five Rocks Beach, Stockyard Point, Nine Mile Beach, Corio Bay behind Water Park Point and Corio Headland, Three Rivers, and One Mile Beach south of Freshwater Bay.

Catchment conceptual diagram, Provided by Queensland Government.*

Main image. Black-fronted dotterel, Kinka Beach, Photo by Kevin Vins.

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).

Water quality data is available at the Water Quality Information Portal (Queensland Government 2018).

Water flow

Water flows across the landscape into the small waterways of the catchment (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. Unconsolidated sediments, such as the extensive sand masses and colluvium, allow for surface water to move in and out of groundwater systems where not developed.

The small channels and gullies of the catchment combine to form more defined waterways that flow to the GBR. In some areas, they pass through unconsolidated sediments which can store and release water.

Main image. Intertidal banks and boat usage, Ross Creek, Photo by Kevin Vins.

*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 Water Park catchment is listed as a single catchment but consists of several distinct areas referred to as subcatchments (or neighbourhood catchments), which have similar characteristics:

  • F9a** (north) northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment (Georges, Diamond, East, Solitude and Cowan creeks)
  • F9b** (north) Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments (Water Park, Tea Tree, Valentine, Oaky, Polka, Stringybark, Stony, Sandy and Black creeks and coastal drainages to the eastern beach such as Freshwater, Three Rivers, Switzerland and Aviators creeks)
  • F15** (central) (Station, Fishing, Yeppoon, Ross, Cawarral, Coorooman and Palm creeks)
  • F26** (south) (Pumpkin, Barramundi and Back creeks)

Main image. Boglands, Iwasaki (Farnborough) Wetlands, Photo by Allan Briggs.

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

**Neighbourhood catchment code defined by the Fitzroy Basin Association, where F indicated the broader Fitzroy River catchment and the numeral indicates the subcatchment:

  • F9 covers the northern part of the Water Park catchment and has been discussed in two parts due to its large size, i.e. F9a includes the northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment, and F9b includes the Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments
  • F15 covers the central part of the Water Park catchment
  • F26 covers the southern part of the Water Park catchment.

F9a (north) northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment

Rocky headland of columnar basalt, Clinton Peninsula, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

  • The F9a (northern peninsula and adjacent coastal catchment) area has rugged upper parts with relatively flat lower landscape dominated by estuarine wetlands in the west (Shoalwater Bay) and freshwater wetlands in the east (Port Clinton).
  • Land use is conservation and natural environments (Defence).
  • Defence recognises that it is a custodian of the environment and is committed to sustainable environmental management. The environment is a critical enabler to Australian Defence Force capability and must be protected to ensure that Defence activities can be sustained into the future. The Defence Environmental Strategy*, released in October 2016, informs Defence environmental management.
  • Geology is dominated by hard geologies in the upper parts including felsites and arenite-mudrock, with more porous unconsolidated sediments in the lower parts including colluvium, alluvium, marine sediments and the large sand dune systems around Port Clinton.
  • Fast runoff from the steep headwaters underlain by hard geologies, into the more porous lower parts.
  • Large coastal sand dune systems provide for water infiltration.
  • Marine debris accumulates at several hot spots from Cape Clinton south.
  • One of the wildest and largely intact parts of Queensland with many values, including freshwater wetlands, mangroves, saltmarsh, saltpan, water mice, estuarine crocodiles, marine turtles and shorebirds.
  • The high values of the systems have been recognised through the presence of Ramsar and DIWA-listed wetlands, and the adjacent GBR WHA, GBRMP, GBR Coast MP, and Dugong Protection Area.

*Defence Environmental Strategy 2016-2036 (Australian Government 2016) - see links at the end of this map journal for further information.

Main image. Five Rocks looking north from Stockyard Point to Manifold Island and the northern parts of F9, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

F9b (north) Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments

  • The F9b (Water Park Creek and adjacent coastal catchments) area is a very wet landscape in most parts with near-permanently flowing waterways fed by the sand dunes, permanent waterholes and extensive freshwater wetlands and groundwater systems.
  • Land use is conservation and natural environments (mostly national park with some Defence) and forestry, together with rural residential areas, grazing on native pastures and other farming.
  • Geology is dominated by hard geologies in the west including arenite-mudrock and granitoids (central tablelands), with more porous unconsolidated sediments in the eastern and lower parts including large areas of colluvium, alluvium, marine sediments and the large eastern sand masses.
  • Manifold Hills are relatively old Pleistocene parabolic dunes (up to 220 metres above sea level) with dune swales, window lakes and perched wetlands.
  • Dismal Swamp is a large wetland that receives water from the western edge of Manifold Hills and is nearly always wet and supports many vegetation types including patterned fens and peat swamps.
  • Large coastal sand dunes systems provide for water infiltration.
  • Water flows from the broader Manifold Hills sand mass which is mostly to the east between Freshwater Bay and Stockyard Point (i.e. away from Dismal Swamp) due to the underlying hard geology, and mostly to the west (i.e. to lower Water Park Creek) from the southern parts of the sand mass.
  • Water is extracted by Defence from the northern Sandy Creek.
  • Town water is extracted from Water Park Creek (upstream of a weir) and piped along Byfield Road to Woodbury WTP, from where it is pumped back into urban areas of the Water Park catchment.
  • Tanks and bores are also used in some areas.
  • Many values, including freshwater wetlands, mangroves, saltmarsh, saltpan, dugongs, estuarine crocodiles, shorebirds, acid fish (honey blue eye), littoral rainforest, montane heaths, patterned fens and peat swamps.
  • Corio Bay is very important for shorebird roosting, feeding and overwintering of red-necked stints, godwits and whimbrels.
  • The high values of the systems have been recognised through the presence of Ramsar and DIWA-listed wetlands, a declared FHA, nature refuges and national park, and the adjacent GBR WHA.

Main image. Water Park Creek, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

F15 (central)

Eastern Curlew, Kinka Beach, Photo by Kylie Jones.

  • The F15 (central) neighbourhood catchment is a relatively narrow catchment area that includes the urban areas of Yeppoon and surrounds.
  • Mixed land use including grazing on native pastures, rural and urban residential areas, conservation and natural areas, forestry and other farming.
  • Dominated by hard geologies in the upper parts including arenite-mudrock, granitoids, mafites and felsites, with more porous unconsolidated sediments in the lower parts including marine sediments, colluvium, alluvium, and sand.
  • Fast runoff from the steep headwaters underlain by hard geologies.
  • The lower parts are more porous in the north, but in the south they are mostly hard and prone to flooding.
  • The Emu Park STP treats sewage from parts of the urban area and discharges into an unnamed creek then into Cawarral Creek and then Coorooman Creek.
  • Rural areas using septic tanks or small STPs.
  • Several large ponded pastures along Station Creek (Iwasaki Wetlands), which are bunded to exclude tidal waters.
  • Iwasaki Wetlands provide important habitat for a wide range of water birds.
  • Fig Tree Creek holds permanent water and wetlands, and supports flying fox roosts.
  • Coorooman Creek provides a large recharge area in the upper parts, with sub-surface flow of shallow groundwater and ephemeral flow of surface water in the lower parts.
  • Kinka Wetlands are an important estuarine and freshwater system that provides habitat for a wide range of birds, including black-necked storks and brolgas.
  • Cawarral Creek is mostly estuarine with large areas of mangrove, saltmarsh and claypan, together with an important recharge area and freshwater wetlands in the north, and many waterholes along the creek.
  • The Cawarral Creek declared FHA, and adjacent land parcels, provides diverse and connected fish habitats that support important fisheries.
  • Marine turtles nest on beaches at Emu Park.
  • The beach ridges from Cattle Point to Bangalee/Barwell Creek support a range of species and ecosystems such as littoral rainforest or melaleuca/livistona palm-dominated palustrine wetlands, and provide essential breeding habitats for a myriad of butterflies.
  • Corio Bay is very important for shorebird roosting, feeding and overwintering of red-necked stints, godwits, whimbrel and little terns.
  • The high values of the systems have been recognised through the presence of Ramsar and DIWA-listed wetlands, two declared FHAs, national and conservation park, nature refuges and the adjacent GBR WHA.

Black-necked stork, Kinka Wetlands, Photo by Allan Briggs.

Main image. Yeppoon, Photo by Kevin Vins.

F26 (south)

  • The F26 (south) neighbourhood catchment is a relatively dry and flat landscape, however there are extensive freshwater wetlands and groundwater systems.
  • Land use is mostly grazing on native pastures, together with conservation and natural areas, rural and urban residential areas and other farming.
  • Dominated by hard geologies in the upper parts including arenite-mudrock, mafites and felsites, with more porous unconsolidated sediments in the lower parts including colluvium, alluvium, mud (marine sediments), and relatively young Holocene coastal sand dune systems.
  • Fast runoff from the steep headwaters underlain by hard geologies, into the more porous lower parts.
  • The sand dune systems provide for groundwater infiltration.
  • Several ponded pastures, which are bunded to exclude tidal waters.
  • Many values, including freshwater wetlands, mangroves, saltmarsh, saltpan, estuarine crocodiles, shorebirds and littoral rainforest.
  • Mangrove forests are well-developed along the Fitzroy River, and into Barramundi Creek, and support a range of fauna including crabs, prawns and other invertebrates, fishes, birds and estuarine crocodiles, with particularly abundant shorebirds along Barramundi Creek and in the sand dune swales.
  • The Fitzroy River mouth also provides habitat for dolphins, marine turtles, sharks and rays.
  • The high values are recognised by the presence of DIWA-listed wetlands, a declared FHA, conservation park, and the adjacent GBR WHA.

Conclusion

The Water Park 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, social and economic 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. Sand dune restoration, Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

Acknowledgments

Developed by the Queensland Wetlands Program in the Department of Environment and Science in partnership with the Fitzroy Basin Association and other local partners:

BirdLife Capricornia

Department of Defence

Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Greening Australia

Livingstone Shire Council

Queensland Herbarium

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service

This resource should be cited as: Walking the Landscape – Water Park Catchment Story v1.0 (2020), presentation, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland.

Images provided by: Allan Briggs, Fitzroy Basin Association, Kevin Vins, Kylie Jones.

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 https://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 source, links and extra information

ArcGIS for Desktop | ArcGIS Online | Story Map JournalStory Map Series |

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

Flooding Information

Livingstone Shire Council

Other References

Australian Government (2016) Defence Environmental Strategy 2016-2036 [webpage] Accessed 11 May 2020

City of Gold Coast (2018) Protecting Catchments [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Partnerships (2020) Cultural Heritage Portal [webpage] Accessed 13 May 2020

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (2010) Australian Land Use Management Classification, Commonwealth Government, Canberra  

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.

Department of Environment and Science (2015) Wetland Definition [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020) Orographic precipitation [webpage] Accessed 25 March 2020

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2018) What zoning is [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Neldner, V.J., Wilson, B.A., Dillewaard, H.A., Ryan, T.S., Butler, D.W., McDonald, W.J.F, Addicott, E.P. and Appelman, C.N. (2019) Methodology for survey and mapping of regional ecosystems and vegetation communities in Queensland. Version 5.0. Updated March 2019. Queensland Herbarium, Queensland Department of Environment and Science, Brisbane

Queensland Government (2016) Declared Fish Habitat Area Plans [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Queensland Government (2018) Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Modelling Program [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Queensland Government (2018) Great Barrier Reef Coast Marine Park [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

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

Queensland Government (2018) Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan - Report Cards [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Queensland Government (2018) Water Quality Information Portal [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Queensland Government (2016) Water Regulation 2016, Current as at 1 July 2018 [webpage] Accessed 19 March 2020

Willmott, W. (2006) Rocks and Landscapes of the National Parks of Central Queensland. Geological Society of Australia, Brisbane


Last updated: 23 July 2020

This page should be cited as:

Water Park Catchment Story, WetlandInfo 2020, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland, viewed 4 August 2020, <https://wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/processes-systems/water/catchment-stories/transcript-water-park.html>.

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