14°S 143°E Tadpole Creek – Queensland by Degrees

14°S 143°E Tadpole Creek – Queensland by Degrees


Degree Confluence 14°S 143°E (Google Earth Image)

Looking north

Looking east

Looking south

Looking west


Location: This confluence point is 8.6 km from the Crystalvale Homestead, the first 6.6 km was covered by station track and the final 2 km covered on foot. The point was accurately located by GPS. The point is on Crystalvale Station which is in Cook Shire. The nearest town is Coen, about 22 km to the east-north-east in a direct line.

The Landscape: The point is on low gently undulating country and with moderate gully development at an elevation of 165 m ASL. The soil is shallow and sandy and is a derived from granite of Late Silurian age (425 to 410 million years). The local vegetation is a low open eucalypt-dominated savannah with a course grass ground cover and scattered groundcover Grevilleas. Fauna sighted in the vicinity of the point include cattle, feral pigs, brumbies, wallabies. The area also has numerous termite mounds, some of which are very large. Land use around the point is cattle grazing.

Termite mound near the point (John and Mary Nowill, 2008)

Point information and photos: Tony Hillier, Kev Teys, Bruce Urquhart, Dale Farnell and John and Mary Nowill, 2008.


The Country: The terrain within the degree square can be divided between the coastal plain of Princess Charlotte Bay to the east; the rugged hills of the McIlwraith Range; the undulating hills and plains that make up the bulk of the area; and the floodplains of the major rivers including the Archer, Coen, Holroyd and Lukin Rivers and their tributaries.


The coastal plain is low-lying (generally below 10 m ASL and composed of alluvium of Quaternary age (less than 2 million years). It is crossed by numerous creeks and contains extensive wetlands with sedges and herbs the dominant vegetation.

To their west is the dramatic escarpment of the McIlwraith Range that rises, to the north-east of Coen, to a maximum elevation of 823 m ASL. The bulk of the McIlwraith Range is composed of granite, mostly of Early Devonian age (410 to 384 million years), but in the southern end, to the north of Port Stewart Road, is gneiss of Mesoproterozoic age (1600 to 1000 million years), some of the oldest rocks in the State. Cloaking much of the mountain range is tall tropical rainforest, considered to be the largest undisturbed tropical rainforest area in Australia. It is also the most elevated and wettest rainforest on Cape York Peninsula. Tall riverine rainforest also lines many of the streams. More than half of Cape York Peninsula's tall riverine rainforest occurs in this region.

Other significant plant communities in the McIlwraith Range area include wet sclerophyll forest, which grows along the fringes of the rainforest, and a special mix of eucalyptus and Melaleuca viridiflora woodland that occurs on the plains and drier mountain ridges and slopes. Outstanding paperbark forests line the many rivers and creeks, but of particular significance are areas of Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), considered to be the largest remaining undisturbed stands in the world.

The McIlwraith Range is the southernmost extent of some tropical rainforest plants and animals from Papua New Guinea. This range and adjacent rainforests form a large refuge that is important for the continued survival of species of recent New Guinea origin as well as older Australian species. Some rainforest animals shared with Papua New Guinea include the Spotted Cuscus, the Magnificent Riflebird and the Trumpet Manucode.

The hills and plains have an elevation generally between 150 and 200 m ASL. Their geology is quite complex along their border with the McIlwraith Range with outliers of ancient Mesoproterozoic schist together with intrusions of granite of Late Silurian or Early Devonian age (425 to384 million years) and colluvium and sands of Quaternary age (less than 2 million years). Further west the geology becomes much less complex with mostly mudstone of Late Cretaceous age (98 to 65 million years) underlying much of the western half of the degree square. The vegetation cover on these hills is open eucalypt woodland.

The floodplains are mostly alluvial sediment of Quaternary age. The vegetation along these watercourses is mostly deciduous vine thickets and monsoon scrubs, especially along the Coen River; or open stands of paperbarks and dense rainforest along the Archer River. Along the lower floodplains of the Coen and Holroyd Rivers there are Melaleuca swamps and lagoons fed by the wet season overflow of rivers. Well into the dry season, these swamps are fringed with paperbarks and the red-flowering, Freshwater Mangrove (Barringtonia acutangula) and eye-catching displays of waterlilies.

Many species of birds are found in the area - the Rose-crowned Fruit-dove, Sacred Kingfisher and Sulphur-crested cockatoo may be seen in the vine thickets and riverine forests. The Palm Cockatoo may also be seen along watercourses, perched high in the canopy. The permanent lagoons, swamps, waterholes and rivers provide refuge and food for many species of waterbirds including Pelicans, Pacific Black Ducks, Radjah Shelducks, Pied (Magpie) Geese, Jabirus, Royal Spoonbills and Brolgas. Many species of fish, including the popular barramundi, as well as turtles, crocodiles and frogs also inhabit the waterholes and rivers. There are also large colonies of Flying Foxes in the area, including one colony resident in Coen.

Typical waterhole (Ken Granger, 08)


Coen flying fox colony (Ken Granger, 08)

The dominant land use across the square is cattle grazing.

The Climate: The climate of the area is classified as being tropical savannah with a winter dry season. The climatic averages from the Coen Post Office provide representative statistics.

Coen Post Office (site 027005) 1887-2008 (elevation 199 m ASL)















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The highest temperature ever recorded in Coen was 40.6°C in November 1965 while the lowest temperature was 0.6°C in July 1965. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 2035.1 mm was recorded in 1910 and the lowest total of 482.4 mm in 1937.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of cyclones. The cyclone database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 55 cyclones have tracked within 200 km of the confluence point between 1906-7 and 2006-7. Of these, eight tracked within 50 km of the point. They included: an unnamed cyclone in January 1907; an unnamed cyclone in December 1943; TC Otto in March 1977; TC Eddie in February 1981; TC Rebecca in February 1985; TC Ivor in March 1990; TC Nina in December 1992; and TC Warren in March 1995.

These storms bring potentially destructive winds and intense rainfall. Some have caused inundation and erosion to the low-lying coastal areas. Flooding in all steams is a certainty. The flood records of the Archer, Coen and Holroyd Rivers are most impressive. Major floods were produced by TC Nina in December 1992 and TC Monica in 2006, which passed to the north of the area, also produced severe flooding and isolated the area for several months.

Cyclone tracks within 200 km of point 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

The area averages between 50 and 60 thunder days each year. Severe thunderstorms can also bring destructive winds and produce high seas. They can come up very quickly posing a serious threat to people travelling through the area in small boats. During the winter dry season thunder storms may spark bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to promote spread. Dry season fires can spread over very large distances.

There are no earthquake epicentres within the degree square recorded in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia. The closest epicentre is for a ML 3.5 quake on 30 January 1998 with the epicentre about 86 km north-north-east of the confluence point. No damage was reported from this earthquake.

The Indigenous Story: The area contains the traditional lands of several Aboriginal groups. They include: Uutaalnganu along the coast in the north; Umpila, Kuuku-yani and Umbindhamu land along the coast to the east of the McIlwraith Range; Kaantju land inland of the McIlwraith Range; and Bakanh land along the Holroyd River. These boundaries are still recognised by the present generation.

The original inhabitants resented the intrusion into their lands. Inevitably, there was conflict with the new arrivals. This began with the early explorers, but was accentuated by the influx of prospectors and miners, and later by cattlemen and telegraph construction workers. The Aboriginal warriors were no match for well-armed settlers and police (often native police from other regions). In response to attacks on the new arrivals, or to "theft" of their livestock, many Aboriginal people were also killed in punitive attacks ('dispersal raids') on Aboriginal camps.

Displaced from their traditional lands, food was scarce, and many who came into closer contact with the white men died of introduced diseases. Most of the remaining local people were gathered into Missions or Reserves. In May 1944, 14 acres of land was gazetted as an Aboriginal Reserve in the Coen district. Some buildings were erected on the site but the reserve was not supervised by a Superintendent. Forced removals continued even into the 1960s. But in Central Cape York most adapted by moving onto the newly established cattle stations where they became stockmen and domestic labour. Some worked in the mines, and a few were employed in Coen.

In 2000, the KULLA Land Trust was established under the Aboriginal Land Act 1991. The Trust, comprised of Kaanju, Umpila, Lamalama and Ayapathu clans people (KULLA) as trustees, and holds the two parcels of land totalling around 1900 sq km of the former Silver Plains property 'for the benefit of Aboriginal people, their ancestors and descendants'. A further large area of KULLA land has been taken into the KULLA (McIlwraith Range) National Park under the joint management of the KULLA clans and the State Government under an Indigenous Management Agreement.


European Exploration and Settlement: The first Europeans to travel through the area were members of the ill-fated Edmund Kennedy Cape York expedition in 1848. In late 1864 - early 1865, the Jardine brothers drove cattle through the western side of the area, on their way to Somerset near the tip of Cape York.

Coen was founded as a log fort beside the Coen River by Robert Sefton in 1876. Sefton and William Lakeland had discovered the Batavia/Wenlock River goldfield in 1873. At the same time there had been a gold rush to Palmer River further South, and a track was cut from there to Coen in1878-80 and on to Port Stewart. At first the gold in the Coen field was alluvial, and of poor quality, but reef gold was found and the Coen field was 'proclaimed' in 1892. Additional finds nearby at Ebagoolah, 30 km south of Coen, extended the boom, but it was over by 1910.

The Overland Telegraph was built between 1883 and 1887 and European expansion and settlement were accelerated. Coen grew in the 1890s with the establishment of the Great Northern Mine, also as a supply point for surrounding mines and cattle stations. A Post Office was set up in 1893, and a school started in 1895. Chinese merchants and market gardeners who had followed the gold-seekers set up in and near the town. They also cut and exported sandalwood, assisted by Aboriginal people.

Until Weipa and Bamaga were developed in the 1960s, Coen was the most northerly town on Cape York Peninsula.



The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 416, with 311 of them living in Coen.






Total population





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65 years and over










Coen is the only service centre for a large rural area. Cattle grazing is the major activity with some residual mining activity, mostly undertaken by individuals in isolated camps. Coen is also a significant service point for tourists moving up or down the Cape. It has a pub, service station, stores, a museum and an all-weather airfield. Coen and its surrounding area are not without their eccentrics. The name of the pub, for example, has been modified by a local and a local miner of Maltese origin operates a camping area on his lease just out of town, complete with a unique amenities block.

Coen Main Street (Ken Granger, 2008)

Coen Machinery Collection (Ken Granger, 2008)

Coen Modified pub name (Ken Granger, 2008)

Coen camping ground amenities (Ken Granger, 2008)

The area falls entirely within Cook Shire. There are two national parks in the area, Mungkan Kandju and Kulla (McIrwraith Range) National Parks.

Site Summary:


On Crystalvale Station 8.6 km north of the homestead


By vehicle from Coen and on station roads with the last 2 km on foot.

Nearest town

Coen 22 km to the east-north-east


Low undulating hills


Coen River and the Gulf of Carpentaria

Geology & soils

Granite-derived sandy soil


Low open eucalypt savannah

Land use

Cattle grazing


Tropical savannah with a dry winter

Population in degree square

309 at the 2006 census, 254 of them in Coen


Main roads including Peninsula Development Road, station roads
and tracks, all-weather airfield at Coen

National Parks

Mungkan Kandju NP and Kulla (McIlwraith Range) NP

Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

Sources: various web sites including EPA, tourist operators, local governments, mining industry and Bureau of Meteorology.

EPA, 2001: Heritage trails of the tropical north, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.