Riversleigh World Heritage Area

Useful Information

Location: Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, Lawn Hill, Queensland 4825
(-19.000867, 138.689876)
Open: Riversleigh World Heritage Area: no restrictions.
Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre: All year daily 8:30-16:30.
Guided tours at 10, 14.
Closed 25-DEC, 01-JAN, Good Friday and Boxing Day.
Fee: Riversleigh World Heritage Area: free.
Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre: Adults AUD 25, Concessions AUD 20, Children (9-18) AUD 12, Family (2+2) 60.
Guided tour: Adults AUD 38, Concessions AUD 30, Children (9-18) AUD 23, Family (2+2) 99.
Classification: KarstTufa Deposits
Light: n/a
Dimension: Ar=10,000 ha.
Guided tours: self guided, L=800 m, D=1 h.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Boodjamulla National Park, Tel: +61-1300-659-660. E-mail:
Outback at Isa, 19 Marian Street, Mount Isa, Qld 4825, Tel: +61-7-4749-1555. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1901 first fossils found in the area.
1984 designated as part of Lawn Hill National Park under the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Act 1975.
1994 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
21-MAY-2007 included in the National Heritage List.


Riversleigh World Heritage Area is one of the two most famous fossil locations of Australia. Both were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site together. While Riversleigh is not a cave, it is still very strongly karst related. The fossils are embedded in rather young sweetwater limestone or tufa which was deposited by limestone rich karst springs. Such water deposits limestone on top of animals and plants and encloses them in hard limestone. Sometimes the biologic matter decomposes and leaves only a negative in the rock, but bones are also made of limestone and are generally preserved. There are numerous palaeontological and archaeological sites formed by tufa deposition all over the world. The tufa at Riversleigh is between 25 and 15 million years old.

Fossil fauna from the Riversleigh site have massively extended our understanding about mid-Cainozoic vertebrate diversity in Australia. From more than 250 fossil-rich sites at Riversleigh thousands of well-preserved specimens were collected and examined, which resulted in hundreds of new species. This filled numerous gaps in the evolution in Australia during the Oligo-Miocene. Tertiary faunas include ancestors of the kangaroos, rat-kangaroos, bandicoots, wombats, marsupial moles, thylacines, dasyurids, koalas, possums, pygmy possums, cuscuses, bats, rodents and platypuses. Now extinct species like diprotodontids, thylacoleonids, ilariids and wynyardiids were discovered. And there were crocodiles, snakes, lizards, turtles, lungfish, frogs, birds, snails, insects and other invertebrates.

Some important discoveries were a 15 Ma old complete skull and nearly complete dentition of the Monotreme (Obdurodon dicksoni). Or the largest marsupial carnivore in Australia, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, the extinct Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus). The Thingodonta (Yalkaparidon) was named because it has a skull and teeth completely unlike any known marsupial, and thus has been assigned its own family Fangaroo was a small herbivorous kangaroo with huge canine teeth, which were probably needed for defence against predators. The Giant Rat-kangaroo (Ekaltadeta) was a carnivorous kangaroo. The Riversleigh platypus (Obdurodon dicksoni) had teeth like its Cretaceous ancestors.

This site is a sandy parking lot in the desert and a trail to the next hill. It is obviously pretty hard to realize the importance of the site, but if you have a close look at the rocks and see the overwhelming number and quality of fossils in the limestone it becomes obvious. The area which is open to the public was one of the first fossil deposits found. Beneath World Heritage fossils, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park features spectacular sandstone ranges with gorge country.

The site has no infrastructure, except a small campground nreaby. The museum with the findings is located 200 km southeast at Mount Isa and named Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre. The newly renovated and upgraded centre exhibits the most unique fossil finds and has innovative interactive displays. A movie theatre shows the palaeontological experts explaining the story of Riversleigh. There is also a diorama of the landscape and animals 25 million years ago. The museum is visited delf guide, but there are also two guided tours daily which include behind the scenes access to the Riversleigh fossil laboratory.