Riversleigh World Heritage Area
Experience | fossils | history | North West | Queensland

Riversleigh World Heritage Area

One of the most significant fossil deposits in the world

by Susie Baber  |  30 July 2022

At the southern end of Boodjamulla National Park you will find the Riversleigh Fossil Fields. D Site was one of the first major fossil deposits found at Riversleigh and is the only publicly accessible part of this World Heritage Area. Riversleigh was inscribed in the World Heritage list in 1994 for its outstanding representation of the evolution of Australian mammals. It is one of the most significant fossil deposits in the world and the richest known fossil mammal deposit in Australia. Riversleigh has revealed records of life forms which existed prior to the break-up of Gondwanaland. The fossils found here date back 25 million years. Turtles, fish, snails, crocodiles, lizards, pythons, birds and many types of mammal fossils have all been recovered from D Site, including several hundred species completely new to science.

Sir David Attenborough describes this place as one of the four most important fossil deposits in the world. It is worth putting your palaeontologist hat on and heading out to explore this ancient world. Many of the most exciting finds from Riversleigh Fossil Fields can now be found at the Fossil Centre at Mount Isa. Combining a trip to this museum with walking around the site on which they were discovered is a great way to learn more about one of the most isolated and distinctive mammal evolutionary histories in the world.

A short walk from the car park you will find a shelter with interpretive signs and oodles of information about the geology and history of the site.  Nearby is a huge rock which, on closer examination, is filled with fossils – this gigantic mesa fell from the nearby cliff and landed upside down – revealing thousands of fossils encased in the limestone.

The interpretive shelter marks the starting point of an 800m self-guided walk which QLDNP suggests allowing an hour for (it didn’t take us that long). If you are up for the short climb to the top of the rocky outcrop you can see fossils of giant flightless birds, turtles and the largest know freshwater crocodile. Do allow some time for admiring the view from the top of the hill, it is absolutely stunning.

Riversleigh World Heritage Area is 285km north-west of Mount Isa. You can access the park from the south, via Mount Isa or Camooweal. This is definitely 4WD country, the road from Mount Isa is rough and unsealed with patches of bulldust and corrugations. The recommended route is via Gregory Downs, although we travelled this road too and I can’t say it was much better. Some roads in this area can also be impassable for extended periods after rain. Always check road conditions before travelling to the area especially during the wet season (October–April).

There are toilets available near the carpark and camping is offered nearby at Miyumba Bush Camp. For more information click here

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