Normanby River

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Normanby River
Origin in Wet Tropics west of Cooktown
Mouth Princess Charlotte Bay
Basin countries Australia
Length 350 km (217 mi)
Source elevation 1000m (3100 ft) at source
Avg. discharge 390 m³/s (river extremely seasonal)
Basin area 24,408 km²

The Normanby River is a major river in northern Queensland, located on the edge of the Wet Tropics and flowing in a generally north-northwestward direction through seasonally flooded savanna grassland to Princess Charlotte Bay about 150 kilometres from Cooktown.

It is probably the largest river flowing into the east coast of Australia, and the third largest[1] river in all of Australia, though with less than half the flow of the Murray and Mitchell Rivers - though data regardings its flow are sparse with less than a third of the catchment ever gauged. It is the largest river flowing into the Great Barrier Reef and consequently almost all scientific research into the flow and hydrology of the Normanby basin has been done with the health of the reef rather than the river per se in mind. The fact that the Normanby is completely free of dams means that Australian government studies have used it as a model for the behaviour of rivers further south when they were in something closer to a virgin state.

The Normanby basin is almost entirely used for the grazing of beef cattle on large stations - mostly worked by Aborigines. The density of cattle is very low, as are rents. The soils, being mostly ancient lateritic Orthents, are totally unsuitable for the growing sugar cane, which is the principal crop in tropical Australia.

The most notable attraction within the basin of the Normanby is Lakefield National Park, which covers as much as a fifth of the river's basin and is completely impassable during the wet season between November and May. Lakefield consists of large wetlands which possess a high diversity of fish species. Near its mouth, the Normanby flows very slowly and forms a large delta, which is almost inaccessible even during the dry season as there are no roads - even unsealed ones. This land, though, is still dry enough during the dry season that tropical rainforests cannot grow.


  1. ^ Brown, John Alexander Henstridge; Australia’s Surface Water Resources; published 1983 by Australian Government Publication Service, Canberra

Coordinates: 14°25′S 144°08′E / 14.417°S 144.133°E / -14.417; 144.133