23°S 151°E North Keppel – Queensland by Degrees



Confluence point location (Google Earth image)


Location: This confluence point is at sea about 12.4 km north-east of North Keppel Island off the Capricorn Coast. The point falls within the Rockhampton Regional Council area and Yeppoon is the nearest settlement, 30 km to the south-west of the point. The point has not yet been visited.

The Landscape: At sea.

Point information and photos: Ken Granger and Google Earth, 2009


The Country: Much of the land within the degree square is occupied by the broad coastal plain and lowlands that were probably formed over many years by the Fitzroy River. This plain is interrupted by several steep hills including Mt Archer (608 m ASL) just outside Rockhampton and Mt Parnassus (655 m ASL) at the northern end of the Coast Range in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. The coastal plains and lowlands are mostly composed of alluvial sediment of Quaternary age (less than 1.6 million years) while the hills are rhyolite and granite of Permian age (298 to 251 million year).



Lowlands from Mt Archer (KG, 2008)


  Landscape north from Mt Archer (KG, 2008)



Vegetation on Mt Archer (KG, 2008)

Off shore are the islands of the Keppel Group (North Keppel and Great Keppel). These are continental islands that represent the tops of hills that remain above water following the sea level rise that followed the last ice age between 35,00 and 6000 years ago. Mt Wickham on Great Keppel Island is 175 m ASL while the summit of North Keppel is 130 m ASL. These islands are made of sandstone and mudstone of Carboniferous age (354 to 298 million years). The same formation is found in the Peninsula Range that forms the western side of Shoalwater Bay and along the coast at Yeppoon and Emu Park.


Keppel Bay coastline and island (KG, 2008)


Emu Park coastline (KG, 2008)

Two coral cays are also located in the off-shore area: North West Island and Heron Island. The coral islands have been built up at the landward end of large reefs. Much of the natural vegetation has been removed from the lowlands to make way for pasture, crops and urban development. The remnant vegetation on the hills and in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area is mid-height eucalypt forest with an understory of low shrubs and grass trees. There are extensive areas of mangroves that fringe the coast in Shoalwater Bay and elsewhere along the coast.

Climate: The climate of the area is classified as sub tropical with a dry winter. The Bureau of meteorology climate station at Rockhampton Airport provides representative statistics.

Rockhampton Airport (039083) 1939 to 2009 (elevation 10 m ASL)















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The highest temperature ever recorded in Rockhampton was 45.3°C in November 1990 while the lowest temperature was -1.0°C in June 1949. Rainfalls also vary greatly. The highest total of 1631.0 mm was recorded in 1973 and the lowest total of 360.0 mm in 2002.

Extremes of Nature: The area is subject to the impact of tropical cyclones on a regular basis. The database maintained by the Bureau of Meteorology shows 43 cyclones have passed within 200 km of the point in the 101 years from 1906-7 to 2006-7. Of these nine passed within 50 km of the point. They were: an unnamed cyclone in January 1913; an unnamed cyclone in December 1917; an unnamed cyclone in May 1941; an unnamed cyclone in February 1943; an unnamed cyclone in February 1949; TC Fiona in February 1971; TC Paul in January 1980; TC Simon in February 1980; TC Pierre in February 1985. These cyclones would have produced very high seas that would have caused damage to the coastal areas and reefs within the square. They also bring destructive winds and intense rainfall that can produce wide-spread flooding.


Cyclone tracks within 200 km of the degree confluence, 1906 to 2006 (Bureau of Meteorology web site)

Numerous cyclones have had a destructive impact on the area. In February 1893 a cyclone passed over Yeppoon and cause significant damage to buildings and uprooted trees. In January 1918 the cyclone that did much damage in Mackay was so large that destructive winds extended down to Rockhampton with the worst damage occurring after the winds shifted from south-east to north-east. Several houses were unroofed in North Rockhampton and along Lakes Creek Road. Trees were uprooted including large jacaranda trees. Many houses had verandas blown off and lost portions of their roofs. Two men were drowned at Rockhampton. At Yeppoon, a man drowned, trees were uprooted, three buildings were badly damaged or unroofed and several houses were lifted off their blocks. At Emu Park many houses were badly damaged and the fishing fleet suffered severely.

The cyclone of March 1949 first stuck Gladstone and then passed over Rockhampton. One man died in Rockhampton as he was blown from the roof of his home while making repairs. Another man was killed in Rockhampton after being struck by a falling branch. The barometer in Rockhampton dropped to 960 hPa and the maximum wind gust on the airport anemometer was 87 knots. In Rockhampton 1000 houses were damaged, 500 were wrecked. Twelve homes were badly damaged in Yeppoon and 635 mm of rain was recorded there in 24 hours which flooded business premises. In Emu Park most of the 200 houses were damaged while the Yeppoon to Emu Park scenic road was devastated with trees littering the whole highway.

In January1967 TC Dinah tracked over Heron Island and caused significant damage. The first impact was from the very high north-easterly swells and then by the destructive winds. A similar experience came with TC David in January 1976 when huge swells and a high tide wrought extensive damage to the island. The same cyclone unroofed 30 buildings in Yeppoon and tide reached one metre above the predicted level. Again in March 1992 TC Fran produced similar damage. Its low-lying nature and isolation from the coast makes it especially vulnerable to cyclone damage and loss of life unless evacuated well in advance.

The Fitzroy River is Australia's second largest catchment after the Murray-Darling and it has a long history of flooding. At Rockhampton the well documented history of flooding with flood records dates back to 1859. The highest recorded flood occurred in January 1918 and reached 10.11 metres on the Rockhampton gauge. The floods of January 1991 were very destructive and isolated Rockhampton by road, rail and air for several days. It reached 9.3 on the gauge. This flood was significant in that heavy rain fell across both rhe northern parts of the catchment and the southern parts of the catchment at the same time and the flood peaks from both directions coincided in the river just above Rockhampton. The most recent flood for the Fitzroy River was in 2008 and reached 7.50 metres on the Rockhampton gauge.

The area experiences around 20 to 25 thunder days each year. Such storms can bring intense rainfall leading to flash flooding. They can also bring strong winds and lightning strikes. Lightning can start bushfires if there is sufficient fuel to sustain a fire.

Bushfires in the rural areas and in the Shoalwater Bay area can be difficult to control but are unlikely to do significant damage. Stock and fencing losses are likely.

The area can experience extreme heat throughout some of the year, with Rockhampton having an average of 18 days annually with maximum temperatures equal to or over 35°C. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.

The National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia contains four earthquake epicentres within the degree square. The most significant was a ML 4.7 event on 2 November 1998 and was located 34 km off the coast opposite Byfield National Park. It was felt over a wide area but no damage was reported.

The Indigenous Story: The land within the degree square is the traditional country of the Darumbal people. The Darumbal people knew the area around where Rockhampton developed as 'Toonooba'.

There are well-preserved shill middens on Great Keppel Island which show that a long history of occupation and seasonal use of the islands and their resources exists.


European Exploration and Settlement: The first European navigator to sail along the coast in this square was James Cook in HMS Endeavour in 1770. Cooked named various features including Keppel Bay and Cape Capricorn. This voyage is commemorated at Emu Park today by the 'singing ship' monument. The next navigator along this coast was Matthew Flinders in HMS Investigator in 1802. Flinders also named features in the area including the Cape Clinton. In 1847 the naturalist James McGillivray became the first European to land on Great Keppel Island and the mainland beaches.


Emu Park 'singing ship' (KG, 2008)


Plaque commemorating Cook's voyage (KG, 2008)

The first Europeans to enter the area were part of a Government mineral exploration survey in early 1855 and they were followed a few months later, at the suggestion of Ludwig Leichhardt, by the Archer brothers Charles and William. They had sighted the Fitzroy River from the Dee Range to the south in 1853. They selected their station at Gracemere (just to the west of the square) in August 1855 and their brother Colin followed in the ketch Ellida landing at the site of present-day Rockhampton on 1 September 1855 with supplies for Gracemere.

The town site for Rockhampton was surveyed and gazetted in 1856. The name was devised by Lands Commissioner William Wiseman - 'rocky' referred to the rock bar at the head of navigation and 'hampton' followed the English tradition of naming towns near the water, thus 'town by the rocks in the river'.

In 1858 gold was discovered at Canoona to the north of this square and a minor gold rush followed. This rush led to the expansion of the village on the Fitzroy and a hospital, customs house and court house were established. Rockhampton was proclaimed as a town in the same year and the Municipality of Rockhampton was proclaimed in 1860. While the Canoona gold field petered out quite quickly, other finds in the district at Bouldercombe and Ridgelands helped to sustain the growth of the town. It was the discovery of gold at Mt Morgan, to the south, by the Morgan brothers in 1882 assured its ongoing growth as a major port and settlement. Many of the heritage buildings that remain in the town and its wonderful botanic gardens date from this time of prosperity.


Heritage hotel Rockhampton (KG, 2008)

bot gr

 Rockhampton botanical gardens (KG, 2008)

The first settlers in the Yeppoon area were the Ross family who arrived in 1865. They were farmers and established pineapple and sugar growing. The area also supported timber getting and cattle grazing. The town of was surveyed in 1867 but the road from Rockhampton was not completed until the 1870s. The Yeppoon Sugar Company was established in 1883 and by 1910 the railway had arrived. The holiday homes in the area were built by Rockhampton people eager to escape the city or by people from the south who found the peace and quiet of the area refreshing.

Great Keppel Island was first leased for sheep grazing in 1908 and remained a working sheep station until the 1950s when the Silver Sands resort was built. A second resort was established on the island in 1967 and airstrip was built by TAA in 1975.

The beef industry for which the area is now well known was slow to get going - sheep and wool were the first grazing enterprises established. The opening of the Lakes Creek meatworks in 1871 saw the commencement of meat canning followed by the export of frozen beef in the 1880s and chilled beef in the 1930s. The introduction of Zebu cattle to the traditional British breeds just before WW II was resisted by many graziers but the benefits of their properties of tick resistance and drought tolerance were soon recognised. This led to the development of various crosses with the Zebu such as the Brangus, Bradford and Belmont Red. By the 1970s Rockhampton was recognised as the beef capital of Australia.

The Shoalwater Bay military training area was established in 1965 at the height of the Vietnam War and tensions between Australia and Indonesia for conducting large-scale combined arms exercises. Joint exercises with United States forces, under the name of Talisman Sabre, have become a regular and controversial feature of the area.



The total population of the degree square at the 2011 national Census was 74,918.






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The population in this square is overwhelmingly urban. The urban area of Rockhampton that lies within the degree square had a population of 46,063 at the 2011 census – the population of the whole city was 56,010. The Yeppoon to Emu Park coastal sprawl had a population of 14,345.

Rockhampton (Google Earth image)

Rockhampton is one of Queensland's premier regional centres. It has a very wide range of commercial services and a comprehensive range of public services including hospital, schools and the head campus of the Central Queensland University. It has a strong cultural and sporting ethos and has many parks and gardens as well as a heritage village.

The city is divided by the Fitzroy River with growth now extending well to the north away from the original CBD on the south side of the river.


Rockhampton from Mt Archer (KG, 2008)

Rockhampton from Mt Archer (KG, 2008)


Quay Street buildings Rockhampton (KG, 2008)


Fitzroy River in Rockhampton (KG, 2008)


Rockhampton War Memorial (KG, 2008)


Rockhampton Heritage Village (KG, 2008)

The Capricorn Coast area, which includes Yeppoon and the various suburbs stretching south to Emu Park, has become a significant growth area in their own right. They are shaking off the 'holiday shack' image and evolving into towns of substance. They rely on the tourist industry with the major resort to the north of Yeppoon and those on great Keppel Island. It is also the jumping-off point for people visiting the Byfield National Park area to the north and the fishing spots along the coast. Yeppoon has a marina and the visitor information centre is housed in the building owned by the Keppel Bay Shell Club which has a world-class collection of Australian and Pacific Island sea shells on display.


Yeppoon (Google Earth image)

The Shoalwater Bay military training area remains one of Australia's main areas for the conduct of large scale joint force and multi-national military exercises.

The area is well served by road, rail and air links. Within the square there are around 2130 km of public roads including the Bruce Highway. There are three bridges across the Fitzroy River in the town and a weir provides the water supply for the city. The main northern rail link from Brisbane to Cairns also passes through the square. The Rockhampton airport sits on the western boundary of the square. It has scheduled services to Brisbane and other ports. The river port facilities that gave the early impetus to the growth of the town are no longer significant though there are many yacht moorings in the town reach of the river.

Most of the square falls within the Rockhampton Regional Council area. The small section of Cape Keppel in the south is within the Gladstone Regional Council's area. There are 12 national and conservation parks within the degree square with a total area of around 210,000 ha. They are: Byfield National Park, Cape Capricorn Conservation Park, Capricorn Coast National Park, Capricorn Cays National Park, Causeway Lake Conservation Park, Curtis Island National Park, Keppel Bay Islands National Park, Keppel Sands Conservation Park, Limestone Creek Conservation Park, Mackenzie Island Conservation Park, Mount Archer National Park and Mount Jim Crow National Park.



12.4 km off the tip of North Keppel Island


The point has not yet been visited

Nearest town

Yeppoon is 30 km to the south-west


At sea



Geology & soils




Land use



Sub tropical with a dry winter

Population in degree square

74,656 at the 2006 census


Road network of 2130 km including the
Bruce Highway; rail link; major airport

National Parks

12 parks totalling around 210,000 ha

Compiler: Ken Granger, 2009

Edited by: Hayley Freemantle

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