Daintree River and its ferry provide a gateway to Nature’s Masterpiece, the unification of World Heritage wonders, including the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s richest mangrove community and the oldest surviving tropical rainforest in the world.
In 1873, having just established Cooktown to service the shipping requirements of the Palmer River goldfields, Queensland Commissioner of Gold, George Dalrymple steamed up a river of such outstanding surrounding beauty that he named the river after his good friend and colleague, Richard Daintree, a former government geologist who became Queensland’s Agent General in London.
Images of the beautiful river bordered by rainforest on both sides, changed as gold mines were opened up and Daintree River became the backdrop to gold dredging and washing. Then ‘red gold’ or Red Cedar (Toona australis), was discovered and the buoyant timber logs were floated down the river and towed along the coast to the timber mills in Mossman, as the forests around Daintree Village were diminished.
The township of Daintree was the main settlement on the southern bank of Daintree River. Rainforest was depleted of red cedar and hundreds of other beautiful rainforest species, contributing to a boost in the sale of timber and improvement in Queensland’s economy.
In the lead up to the Earth Summit in Rio, in the nineteen eighties, when conservation and biodiversity became key words, botanists began making a name for themselves through the discovery of ancient flowering plants that had never been named. Angiosperms with primitive features indicated that the forest had been growing continuously, without interruption for at least 110-million years.
It was in the heart of the oldest section of rainforest, at the base of the highest mountain, Thornton Peak, that ‘the green dinosaur’ was discovered. This was the clincher, the isolated population of ancient plants at this centre of significance was eventually named ‘Idiospermum australiense’. When DNA testing showed that the plant belonged in an ancient Calacanthaceae family, it was dated back 180-million years.
It is the area north of the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation that has been described as ‘Nature’s Masterpiece’, the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest connected through the world’s most diverse mangrove ecosystem, creates a wonderland of beauty and biodiversity. It is also described as the place where the rainforest meets the reef. While State timber reserves were enthusiastically logged over 115-years, some private lands were not offered permits and can now showcase pristine rainforest to visitors coming to the Daintree.
The Daintree Ferry has also been described as ‘the Gateway to the Daintree Rainforest’, however the name Daintree has been expanded to include areas both north and south of the Daintree River and the values that are unique to the world’s longest surviving rainforest have been attributed most generously to areas where they do not exist. Give yourself time to visit reef, river and rainforest.