This brochure describes the flood
warning system operated by the Australian Government, Bureau of
Meteorology for the Leichhardt River. It includes reference information
which will be useful for understanding Flood Warnings and River Height
Bulletins issued by the Bureau's Flood Warning Centre during periods of
high rainfall and flooding.
The Leichhardt River catchment is located in north west Queensland and covers an area of approximately 33,000 square kilometres. The river rises in the Selwyn Ranges, 40 kilometres southeast of Mount Isa. It flows in a northerly direction, through the city of Mount Isa and Lake Moondarra, before passing through Julius Dam. It is joined by its major tributary, Gunpowder Creek, 15 kilometres downstream of Kamileroi. Another major tributary, Fiery Creek, joins the river 70 kilometres downstream of Lorraine. The Alexandra River enters the river from the east, just below Floraville, before the Leichhardt River finally passes through a vast coastal plain and enters the Gulf of Carpentaria 30 kilometres northeast of Burketown.
Floods normally develop in the headwaters of the Leichhardt River and its major tributaries, however, general heavy rainfall situations can develop from monsoonal and cyclonic influences which can result in widespread flooding, particularly in the lower reaches below Lorraine.
The record major flood of January 1974 and to a lesser extent, the flood of February 1991 and January and February 2009, caused widespread traffic disruption and inundation of properties throughout the lower reaches.
Previous flood information for the Leichhardt River is
rather limited. However, peak heights are available for Lorraine from
The Bureau of Meteorology operates a flood warning system for the Leichhardt River based on a rainfall and river height observations network shown on the map. The network consists of a number of volunteer rainfall and river height observers who forward observations by telephone when the initial flood height has been exceeded at their station, as well as automatic telephone telemetry stations at Doughboy Creek, Julius Dam, Miranda Creek, Gunpowder, The 16 Mile Waterhole (Fiery Creek) and Floraville, which are operated by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
The Bureau's Flood Warning Centre issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Gulf Rivers, including the Leichhardt River, during flood events. Generalised flood warnings may be issued when widespread minor flood levels are recorded.
The Mount Isa City Council in the upper reaches and Burke and Carpentaria Shire Council in the lower reaches of the Leichhardt River may be able to provide further information on flooding in your area of the Leichhardt River catchment.
Flood Warnings and Bulletins
The Bureau of Meteorology issues Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins for the Gulf River catchments, including the Leichhardt River basin, regularly during floods. They are sent to radio stations for broadcast, and to local Councils, emergency services and a large number of other agencies involved in managing flood response activities. Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins are available via :
Internet/World Wide Web
Interpreting Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins
Flood Warnings and River Height Bulletins contain observed river heights for a selection of the river height monitoring locations. The time at which the river reading has been taken is given together with its tendency (e.g. rising, falling, steady or at its peak). The Flood Warnings may also contain predictions in the form of minor, moderate or major flooding for a period in the future. River Height Bulletins also give the height above or below the road bridge or causeway for each river station located near a road crossing.
One of the simplest ways of understanding what the actual or predicted river height means is to compare the height given in the Warning or Bulletin with the height of previous floods at that location.
The table below summarises the flood history of the Leichhardt River basin - it contains the flood gauge heights of the more significant recent floods.
Historical flood heights for all river stations in the Leichhardt River Floodwarning network, as shown on the map, are available from the Bureau of Meteorology upon request.
At each flood warning river height station, the severity of flooding is described as minor, moderate or major according to the effects caused in the local area or in nearby downstream areas. Terms used in Flood Warnings are based on the following definitions.
Each river height station has a pre-determined flood classification which details heights on gauges at which minor, moderate and major flooding commences. Other flood heights may also be defined which indicate at what height the local road crossing or town becomes affected by floodwaters.
The table below shows the flood classifications for selected river height stations in the Leichhardt River catchment.
The above details are correct at the time of preparing this document. Up-to-date flood classifications and other details for all flood warning stations in the network are at:
Flood gauge information
For the latest rainfall and river height conditions please use the following link:
For the latest rainfall and river height network map please use the following link:Network maps
For further information, contact:
The Regional Hydrology Manager, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane Q 4001