Daintree River Cruise today
Ku Ku Yalanji
Are the traditional owners of this land which extends from near Cooktown South along the East Coast to include Cape Tribulation and its surrounds through to Mossman George. There are many features of cultural significance in this region including Thorton Peak, Queensland fourth highest mountain, The Bluff, Mount Demi, Mossman George and Cape Tribulation.
The Ku Ku Yalanji are a rainforest people that have lived as hunter gatherers in the Daintree Rainforest and the sea’s that border this coast right up until the present day. The Ku Ku Yalanji language is still in use in the region, with around 500 to 600 native speakers, the language is taught today in schools and is therefore increasing in use. The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people travelled seasonally throughout this area, there was a fairly large population on the coastal lowlands, because the area was particularly productive.
Food was widely available in the form of Bush Turkey’s, Flying Foxes in their thousands, Possums, Tree kangaroo’s, and scrubfowl along with a myriad of edible vegetation that thrives in the high humidity and tropical sunshine of Far north Queensland.
The arrival of White Settlement
Was preceded by the visitation of Lieutenant James Cook and his ship, the Endeavour. Cape Tribulation was named by Cook after the Endeavour grounded on the reef South of Cooktown in 1770. The ship was holed and after jettisoning cannon and equipment she was refloated, a sail was then pulled over the damaged hull and the ship was nursed into the then unnamed Endeavour River for repairs. The next few months were spent repairing the damaged timbers by the ships carpenters who sourced local timbers from the rainforest. Later these same forests were to form the early industry of the region as cedar cutters plied the coast seeking millable timbers to fell and ultimately export back to England.
These pioneers were to be followed by farmers and Gold Miners who opened up ports in Cairns, Port Douglas and Cooktown. The explorer George Dalrymple led the first exploration deep into the Daintree River Valley, naming the river after Richard Daintree, a prominent geologist of the time and friend.
Dalrymple wrote ‘The river valley is here surrounded by a panorama of great beauty, and the banks are clothed in rich luxuriant foliage’ he had found excellent grazing country bordered by jungle.
Dalrymple noted extensive areas of land suitable for agriculture; he also found huge stands of red cedar. This announcement was followed by hordes of timber-getters bent on harvesting the ‘red gold’. At the time, these much-prized trees had almost disappeared from most southern forests. It took only around 10 years to condemn the Daintree River valley to a similar fate. Many settlers left disheartened, but others stayed, determined to make a living by raising cattle or growing crops such as rice, vegetables, coffee, maize and sugar. Although crops grew well on the river flats, life was made very hard by flooding, pests, disease and the difficulty of getting goods to market.
The Daintree River in the early days was the only road to markets in Port Douglas and Cairns. In the 1880s, farming expanded along the coastal belt and extensive areas of lowland rainforest were cleared. Settlements were established roads were built and the resident population began to grow throughout the region. There were however many setbacks caused by flood and other natural disasters that stymied the growth of the region for years to come.
Life in the Daintree was not easy for European settlers and it remains a challenge to this day, with cyclones floods and the ever present heat and rain that can test the most determined spirits, particularly in the build up to the wet season.