The Dawson Catchment spans 5,068,741ha characterised by its unique blend of natural features, including diverse land types, boggomosses, ephemeral streams with some permanent and spring-fed waterholes, nationally significant wetlands, state and national parks and breathtaking Sandstone Gorge’s.

It flows as the Upper Dawson River from as far as Injune, west and north through Taroom, Theodore and Baralaba before joining the Mackenzie at Dauringa to form the Fitzroy. Making up over one third of the Fitzroy Basin land area, the Dawson plays a significant role in the health of the Great Barrier Reef by influencing water quality and sediment flow into the Coral Sea.

The predominant land use in the region is grazing in relatively natural environments (88%), with 6% managed for conservation or natural purposes, 4% dedicated to dryland farming, and 0.5% to irrigated farming.

Our catchment is home to an array of flora and fauna, supporting a wide range of land uses and providing essential ecosystem services. DCCA is deeply invested in preserving this unique environment, promoting practices that enhance its natural beauty and ecological function.

From source to confluence, the river is joined by sixty-four tributaries, including the Don River, and descends 587 metres over its 735-kilometre course. Several weirs have been constructed along the lower Dawson river to provide water for cotton and dairy farming in the region.

Defining Features of the Dawson Catchment

Climate

The climate of the Dawson has strong affinities to that of south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales and is characterised by a warm wet summer and a warm dry winter. Some important features are:

  • Winter rainfall, although low, is not negligible and has an important influence on land use;
  • Frosts occur on winter nights particularly in inland localities;
  • In all seasons the risk of rainfall being well below average is high

The mean annual rainfall varies from 584mm in the south-west to about 1,016mm in the extreme north-east. On the average, about 75% of the total rain falls in the six months from November through April, with February being the wettest month. Throughout the area mean maximum temperatures vary from about 21°C in mid winter to 23°C in mid summer. Summer mean minimum temperatures are also fairly uniformly 18-21°C throughout the area but winter mean minimum temperatures range from about 4°C at inland localities to 15°F closer to the coast.

Soils

Soils of the Dawson have been described in seven main groups, only four of which cover more than 5% of the area. The most common (36% of total area) being sands or loams over clays. Cracking clay soils, some of which are strongly gilgaied, occupy 20% of our area, shallow soils and rock outcrops 19%, and dark brown and grey-brown soils 11%. The remaining areas have alluvial soils, red and yellow earths, or uniform coarse-textured soils. (CSIRO Lands of the Dawson Fitzroy Area)

Vegetation

Sixty percent of our catchment is occupied by vegetation dominated by eucalypts, half in the form of grassy woodlands, the rest being either shrub woodland, sandstone forest, or high forest. The eucalypt country has a grass ground layer 3-5 ft high, dense in the grassy woodlands and sparse in the forests. Acacia forests (locally called scrubs) occupy 23% of the area, and brigalow, being by far the most prominent, occupies 21%. Various softwood scrubs of dense communities 15-40 ft high and characteristically containing many rain-forest species occupy 13% of the area. Both the acacia and softwood scrubs are characterised by a sparse, short, largely annual grass layer. The remainder of the area carries various minor communities, 2% of which are treeless.

Spring wetlands (Boggomosses of the Dawson catchment have sandy substrates with vegetative elements having origins in terrestrial and wetland coastal habitats and mound springs from western Queensland rather than floral elements more typical of the terrestrial and wetland habitats of the region. The resulting plant community is thought to be unique, as nothing similar has been described in the literature (Fensham and Wilson 1997).

Community and Culture

The Dawson Catchment is home to vibrant communities with deep connections to the land. These communities, including the Wuli Wuli, Iman, Wadjigu, Gungulu, and Gungabula First Nations people, with longstanding cultural ties, are integral to the catchment's identity and stewardship. DCCA collaborates closely with communities to foster sustainable land management practices and celebrate the region's rich cultural heritage.