Mossman Gorge -an Ancient Landscape

 

Over millions of years, the Mossman River has carved a steep-sided valley from the upper reaches to the coastal lowlands, creating the Mossman Gorge.

 

Through the Mossman River valley, crystal clear water cascades amongst large granite boulders, many of which have been deposited during times of heavy flood. Nearer the coast (east of the day-use area), the Mossman River meanders through the coastal lowlands, entering the sea north of Mossman township.

 

One of the most notable features of the area is The Bluff (1330m), a large, sheer cliff on the southern side of the Mossman River valley. The Bluff is approximately 6km northwest of the day-use area. To the west and northwest of Mossman Gorge, the Carbine and Windsor Tablelands form part of a huge catchment area, feeding the Mossman and Daintree Rivers.

 

For over 200 million years successive climate changes have resulted in the contraction and expansion of rainforest throughout much of Australia. During the drier ice-ages, many plants and animals did not adapt to the new conditions and were driven to extinction.

 

Within Daintree National Park and the surrounding area, cloudy, wet mountaintops and deep, moist valleys provided refuges from these climatic fluctuations for many forms of life. Those that survived have evolved into the plants and animals in the park today, many of which have changed very little from their ice-age ancestors.

 

 

                       Plants

The tropical rainforests of Daintree National Park are part of the largest, continuous area of rainforest in Australia. They support a large diversity of plants, many of which grow nowhere else and some of which are threatened. They also feature a significant number of plant families whose ancestors were amongst the very first flowering plants on earth—providing important insights into the evolution of flowering plants.

 

The structure and variety of plants in the rainforest is influenced by competition for light. Trees grow skywards, their intermingling crowns shading the forest floor. In the dim conditions found on the forest floor only shade-tolerant plants such as ferns and palms are able to grow.

Epiphytic plants such as orchids and birds nest ferns Asplenium australasicum avoid the competition for light by starting life on the higher tree branches, their spores and seeds dispersed by wind and animals. Other plants simply hitchhike to the sunlight. Lawyer vine or wait-a-while Calamus muelleri uses hooks to climb tree trunks, while other climbing plants reach the tree tops using hundreds of small roots or tendrils.

 

The strangler fig Ficus triradiata starts life high on a tree branch where its seed is deposited by birds or flying foxes. It then sends its roots downwards, gradually joining them together around the trunk of the host tree. Eventually, the constricted and starved host tree dies, leaving a magnificent fig standing in its place.

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                        Wildlife
The range of habitats in the Mossman Gorge section of Daintree National Park supports a diverse assortment of wildlife. Butterflies are among the most commonly seen animals.
 
Look for the brilliant, metallic-blue Ulysses butterfly Papilio ulysses joesa and the striking black and green male Cairns birdwing butterflies Ornithoptera euphorion along the walking tracks and near the river. The female Cairns birdwing is Australia's largest butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 150 mm.
 

The magnificent, buff-breasted paradise-kingfisher Tanysiptera sylvia returns from New Guinea during the warmer months to breed in North Queensland. It is easily recognised by its beautiful blue back and wings, orange underside and very long white tail. Another bird that returns from New Guinea to breed each year is the pied imperial-pigeon Ducula bicolor.

 

These black and white pigeons arrive in large numbers around August to enjoy an abundance of fruits found in the lowland rainforest.

In the river, jungle perch Kuhlia rupestris can be easily identified by two conspicuous black spots on their tail. Saw-shelled turtles Wollumbinia latisternum and platypus ( http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/animals-az/platypus.html ) Ornithorhynchus anatinus can sometimes be spotted in the quieter pools.

 

Reptiles are often encountered along the walking tracks. Observant visitors may find a Boyd's forest dragon Hypsilurus boydii (photo) clinging quietly to a tree in the lower parts of the forest. Amethystine pythons Morelia kinghorni, which may grow over 5 m in length, are occasionally seen along the rainforest circuit track. Even though they are non-venomous and generally harmless, they should not be approached.

 

The spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus gracilis is an endangered species found within the park. This cat-sized marsupial is one of Australia's few purely carnivorous animals. Their range covers both upland and lowland rainforests and the tall eucalypt forests found on the western slopes of the Windsor and Carbine tablelands.

Of all Australia's rodents, the giant white-tailed rat Uromys caudimaculatus is one of the largest, with a body length of up to 380 mm. Often regarded as a mischievous pest, it will boldly raid homes and camp sites, chewing its way into tents, food containers and even electrical wiring. This nocturnal creature is an efficient tree climber.

Many mammals within the park are nocturnal and are difficult to observe.

 

The musky rat-kangaroo Hypsiprymnodon moschatus, however, is often active during the day and may be glimpsed foraging on the forest floor. This small creature looks similar to a bandicoot, but is usually smaller with dark, chocolate-brown fur. It is the most primitive member of the kangaroo family and is believed to have remained relatively unchanged over the last 20 million years.

 

 

Mossman Gorge - an Ancient Landscape

 

 

Over millions of years, the Mossman River has carved a steep-sided valley from the upper reaches to the coastal lowlands, creating the Mossman Gorge.

 

One of the most notable features of the area is The Bluff (1330m), a large, sheer cliff on the southern side of the Mossman River valley. The Bluff is approximately 6km northwest of the day-use area. To the west and northwest of Mossman Gorge, the Carbine and Windsor Tablelands form part of a huge catchment area, feeding the Mossman and Daintree Rivers.

 

Through the Mossman River valley, crystal clear water cascades amongst large granite boulders, many of which have been deposited during times of heavy flood. Nearer the coast (east of the day-use area), the Mossman River meanders through the coastal lowlands, entering the sea north of Mossman township.

 

Source: NPRSR Department Qld Gov. Online