Skip links and keyboard navigation

Stanley Catchment Story

The catchment stories use real maps that can be interrogated, zoomed in and moved to explore the area in more detail. They take users through multiple maps, images and videos to provide engaging, in-depth information.

Quick facts

This map journal
is part of a series prepared for the catchments of South East Queensland.

Download catchment boundary KML


Understanding how water flows in the catchment

To effectively manage a catchment it is important to have a collective understanding by all stakeholders of how the catchment works. This Map Journal gathers together information from expert input and data sources to provide that understanding.

The information was gathered using the ‘walking the landscape’ process, where experts systematically worked through a catchment landscape in a facilitated workshop, to incorporate diverse knowledge on the landscape components and processes, both natural and human. It is focussed on water flows and the key factors that affect water movement.

The Map Journal was prepared by the Queensland Wetlands Program in the Queensland Department of Environment and Science in collaboration with local partners.

Main photo: Upper Stanley River - provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

How to view this map journal

Please note that the use of the terms 'Catchment' and 'Basin' are sometimes used interchangeably. In this map journal the term 'Catchment' has been used.

Map Journal for the Stanley catchment - water movement

This Map Journal describes the location, extent and values of the Stanley catchment. It demonstrates the key features which influence water flow, including geology, topography, rainfall and run-off, natural features and human modifications and land uses.

Knowing how water moves in the landscape is fundamental to sustainably manage the catchment and the values it provides.

Stanley Catchment Story

The Stanley Catchment is located north of Brisbane and sits just east of the Upper Brisbane Catchment.

The Stanley River catchment has an area of approximately 1500km2. (Click to play animation)

Most of its tributaries drain into Lake Somerset, which then joins the Brisbane River above Lake Wivenhoe.

Water from Lake Wivenhoe then flows through the Mid Brisbane catchment, and is also joined by Lockyer Catchment, the Bremer Catchment and Lower Brisbane and Oxley catchments, before draining into Moreton Bay.

This catchment is one of the northern, inland catchments in South East Queensland, being bounded by the Blackall, Conondale and Jimna Ranges to the north and the D’Aguilar Range to the east.

The catchment primarily falls within three Local Government Areas, Somerset Regional Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

Values of the catchment

The Stanley Catchment contains many environmental, economic and social values. The catchment has a population of less than 10,000 people, and includes the townships of Woodford, Somerset, Kilcoy, D’Aguilar, Mt Mee and Peachester. Protected areas in the catchment include D'Aguilar Range National Park and Conondale National Park.

There are also many areas for recreational activities such as camping, canoeing, fishing, bush walking, mountain biking and horse riding.

Please note there is a drop down legend for most maps and it can be accessed by clicking on 'LEGEND' at the top right of the map. On this map you can use the drop down legend for the protected areas.

Diana's Bath at Byron Creek - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Values of the catchment

The dominant industry in the area is grazing, with some agricultural industries such as cropping, pastures and horticulture. While not large in area, poultry farming is increasing in prevalence in this catchment. Plantation forestry is also a significant industry with large areas of plantations (exotic pine and some Hoop pine) as well as managed native forests.

These different land use types combine to make up the land use of the Stanley Catchment.***

*Please note the rural residential areas shown include rural residential as well as other residential area types.

**Please note sand and hard rock extraction shown are within KRA (Key Resource Areas) only. KRAs are identified locations containing important extractive resources of state or regional significance worthy of protection for future use. Some KRAs include existing extractive operations (see link at end of map journal for more information).

***See links at end of this map journal for further details regarding land use classification.

Main photos - top: Farming along Sandy Creek, Bottom left: Crop rotations, Stanley Creek, bottom right: Hoop Pine, Deer Forest Reserve - all photos provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Values of the catchment - Somerset Dam

Somerset Dam was completed in 1959 for the dual purposes of water supply for the region and for flood mitigation.

Somerset Dam is a very popular recreation destination, with a wide variety of activities and facilities available. There are three main recreation areas: The Spit, Kirkleagh and Somerset Park Day Use Area.

Somerset Dam flood release - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Natural landscape features - geology and topography

The majority of rock types in the catchment are hard rocks with limited groundwater recharge ability and high surface water run-off. This run-off is further exacerbated by the steep terrain within much of the catchment.

There are some sedimentary rocks that do have some water infiltration which percolates into the watertable and groundwater aquifers, around Peachester in the North East of the catchment. There are also large areas of alluvium in the catchment.

Basalt uplands, Bald Knob - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Natural features - rainfall

The Stanley catchment receives some of the highest rainfall in South East Queensland and is the highest yielding sub catchment of the Brisbane River system.

The highest rainfall falls to the North East of the catchment and some areas to the South East. The lowest falls are in the west of the catchment.

These different rainfall levels combine to make up the rainfall of the Stanley catchment.

Natural features - vegetation

Vegetation affects how water flows through the catchment, and this process is affected by land use and management practices.

Historically, the vegetation of the catchment comprised of wet eucalypt open forests and rainforests and scrubs in the upper sections.

In drier areas to the west, Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains were present. Throughout the rest of the catchment, eucalypt woodlands to open forests were present as well as eucalypt open forests to woodlands on floodplains.

These different vegetation types combine to make up the preclearing vegetation of the Stanley Catchment.

This vegetation slowed water, retaining it longer in the landscape and recharging groundwater aquifers, and reduced the erosion potential and the loss of soil from the catchment.

Tall open forest, Conondale National Park - photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

*Broad Vegetation Groups derived from Regional Ecosystems. Regional Ecosystems are vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil.

Modified features – vegetation and land use

Some of the catchment was historically cleared (see below) for settlement and agriculture such as grazing, crops and forestry, with increasing rural residential and rural living development in the last 20 years. Some areas of vegetation have regrown since initial clearing.

These developments and activities change the shape of the landscape and can modify water flow patterns.

Explore the Swipe Map using either of the options below.*

  • Interactive Swipe App where you can zoom into areas and use the swipe bar.
  • Interactive Swipe App where you can use the swipe bar. Use the white slide bar at the bottom of the map for a comparison (HTML version).

*Depending on your internet browser, you may experience issues. Please note this application takes time to load.

Farming along the Stanley River floodplain - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Main photo - Dry rainforest community at Somerset Dam - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

*Please note the residential areas shown include rural residential as well as other residential area types.

Modified features - channels and infrastructure

Though limited in comparison to many catchments in South East Queensland, the development of buildings and infrastructure such as roads, railways and creek crossings creates impermeable surfaces and barriers that redirect water through single points or culverts, leading to channelling of water. This increases the rate of flow and the potential for erosion. Modifications to channels such as straightening and diversions, can also increase flow rates.

Modified features - dams and weirs

Dams and weirs can also modify the natural water flow patterns, by holding water and controlling the timing and quantity of releases. Large water storages, such as Somerset Dam, small farm dams and weirs all modify water flow by holding water into a confined area.

Somerset Dam is a gated dam, allowing Seqwater to make controlled water releases during times of heavy rain.

Water from all the major creeks within the catchment flow into Somerset Dam. Water from Somerset Dam is released into Wivenhoe Dam, which in turn supplements the natural flow of the Brisbane River and maintains an adequate supply of water to the Mount Crosby water treatment plant located 132km downstream. The water coming from the Stanley catchment is generally of good quality – containing limited amounts of sediments, salinity or pathogens.

There are the occasional bank slumps - often related to high boat speeds, which increase water turbidity. In addition, significant riparian clearing and land uses (e.g. grazing, agriculture and residential) in the catchment can drive poor water quality in the reservoir, particularly during flow events, and contributes to algal blooms which all create a treatment challenge.

Water Quality

Water quality is influenced by run-off and point source inputs such as sewage treatment plants, septic tank seepage and stormwater discharge. There are sewage treatment plants at Kilcoy and Woodford.

During 2015, Healthy Waterways graded the overall Environmental Condition Grade of the Stanley Catchment as B. Low sediment and nutrient loads are being generated, and stream health is excellent.*

*Healthy Waterways Stanley Catchment Report Card (for current report see links at end of map journal).

Excerpt from Healthy Waterways report card (larger segment of pie chart indicated better score - see links at end of map journal for more information).

Water flow

Water flows across the landscape into streams and eventually into the Stanley River. (click to see animation)

The remaining water either sinks into the ground where it supports a variety of terrestrial and groundwater dependent ecosystems or is used for other purposes.

The upper reaches of the catchment have relatively steep slopes which create the potential for increased run-off which may lead to flooding in areas where the floodplain has restricted channels and gullies.

The restricted channels and gullies eventually flatten out to form waterways that meander across the floodplain. They pass through alluvial areas which store and release water, prolonging the time streams flow.

To effectively manage this catchment, it is important to understand how water moves within the catchment, and how the catchment’s natural and modified features affect water movement.

The sub-catchments

A catchment is an area with a natural boundary (for example ridges, hills or mountains) where all surface water drains to a common channel to form rivers or creeks.*

Larger catchments are made up of smaller areas, sometimes called sub-catchments.

The Stanley catchment consists of large and small sub-catchments. The Stanley catchment can be divided into five smaller sub catchments – Upper Stanley (Stanley River headwaters), Eastern Stanley (Neurum and Delaney’s creeks), Southern Stanley (Reedy and Byron creeks), Western Stanley (Sandy, Kilcoy and Sheepstation creeks) and Somerset (Somerset Dam and surrounds).

The characteristics of each sub-catchment are different, and therefore water will flow differently in each one.

*Definition sourced from the Gold Coast City Council website:

Upper Stanley

The Upper Stanley sub-catchment receives very high rainfall in the north east, and together with basalt and sandstone geologies in the upper section, also has very good groundwater recharge potential. Steep slopes, combined with good rainfall, results in fast creek flows. The remainder of the sub-catchment receives high rainfall.

With most of the upper section of the sub-catchment in protected areas, there is also good vegetation coverage and fairly continuous riverine vegetation. This ensures soil loss, or sedimentation within the creek channels is minimal.

The presence of floodplain wetlands also ensures that reduced sediment loads are entering Somerset Dam. However, in the upper part of the sub-catchment, where the more porous basalt lies over harder sandstone on steep terrain there has been numerous, large land slips, leading to large sediment loads entering creek channels and reducing water quality. These slips occur as a result of soil washing down the slopes in the form of colluvium. Water builds up between the rock and colluvium and when the water pressure gets too high, the colluvial material slides down the hill slope.

Woodford Weir modifies the natural creek flow by holding water in low-medium rainfall events. In high rainfall events water flows over the weir.

Floodplain wetland, Woodford - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Photos in links:

"Vegetation Coverage" - Gallery Rainforest upstream along Crohamhurst Creek - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

"Large land slips" - Bellthorpe Range Road - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

"Woodford Weir" - Woodford Weir - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Eastern Stanley

The Eastern Stanley sub-catchment (Neurum and Delaney’s creeks) also receives very high rainfall, has very steep slopes, however, the rock types in this area promote surface water run-off with low recharge potential. This results in fast flowing creeks.

The main land uses in this sub-catchment are grazing, forestry and protected area estate (D'Aguilar National Park).

Neurum Creek - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Southern Stanley

In the Southern Stanley (Reedy and Byron creeks) sub-catchment the rainfall is moderate to high. Though the creeks have fast flow in high rainfall events, these creeks do not flow all year round.

It is a well vegetated and protected sub-catchment, with many of the creeks flowing through vegetated areas.

Diana's Bath - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Photos in links:

"well vegetated" - Reedy Creek, Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

Western Stanley

The Western Stanley sub-catchment is made up of three creek systems – Sandy, Kilcoy and Sheepstation Creeks.

Sandy Creek receives high rainfall and has very steep terrain in upper section, with rock types promoting surface water run-off. Very fast creek flows occur, and in high rainfall events it takes only 10 hours for water from the headwaters to reach Somerset Dam. The upper section lies within some protected areas and forest country with very good riparian vegetation. Riparian vegetation is reduced in the mid and lower sections, coinciding with higher pollutant levels.

Kilcoy Creek also has fast creek flows due to the very high rainfall in the headwaters in Conondale National Park with steep terrain and rock types that promote run-off. However, in the lower parts of the catchment riparian vegetation is fragmented, and there are a few small sand and gravel extraction areas, resulting in higher turbidity and sedimentation in channels. There is also a weir on Kilcoy Creek. Kilcoy Weir, although no longer used for water supply, modifies the natural creek flow by holding water in low-medium rainfall events. In high rainfall events water flows over the barrier.

Sheepstation Creek receives less rainfall than the other two creek systems and therefore the creek does not flow all year round. Like the other two creeks, vegetation is good in upper section and more fragmented in the mid and lower sections.

Main photo - Kilcoy Creek views - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

Photos in links:

"Sandy" - Sandy Creek, looking upstream at Cedarvale Road - photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

"Kilcoy" - Kilcoy Creek at Walsh's Crossing - photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

"Sheepstation" - Sheepstation Creek - photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

"Kilcoy Weir" - Kilcoy Creek Weir - photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

"vegetation" - Blue Gum woodland on alluvial flats, Sheepstaion Creek - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments


The Somerset sub-catchment has been heavily cleared of vegetation for settlement, agriculture and for Somerset Dam. There has also been significant loss and degradation of the riparian vegetation. This loss has placed greater pressure on the creek banks, and as a result there is increased bank erosion, channel widening, and meandering on floodplain particularly in lower Stanley and Neurum creeks.

Stanley River wetland, Neurum district - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

Photos in links:

"bank erosion" - Severe bank erosion on Neurum Creek - photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.

"lower Stanley and Neurum creeks" - Bank erosion along Stanley River at Neurum - Photo provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.


The Stanley catchment is considered to be one of the healthiest catchments in South East Queensland. This catchment shows how natural and modified features within the landscape impact on how water flows.

These issues need to be managed to ensure that the residents of South East Queensland receive a safe and secure drinking water supply, and that impacts on the multitude of values within the catchment and downstream in the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay, are minimised.

Knowing how the catchment functions is also important for future planning, including climate resilience. With this knowledge, we can make better decisions about how we manage this vital area.


Top: Looking north from Shields Lookout over Somerset Dam.

Middle left: Farming at Cedarton.

Middle right: Hoop Pine Plantation, Deer Reserve State Forest.

Bottom left: Kilcoy Creek views.

Bottom right: London Creek headwaters, Mount Mellum.

photos provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments.


Developed by the Queensland Wetlands Program in the Department of Environment and Science in partnership with:

Somerset Regional Council

Moreton Bay Regional Council

Sunshine Coast Regional Council

Council of Mayors South East Queensland


Healthy Waterways (Healthy Waterways and Catchments)

This resource should be cited as: Walking the Landscape – Stanley Map Journal v1.0 (2016), presentation, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland.

Photos provided by Healthy Waterways and Catchments

The Queensland Wetlands Program supports projects and activities that result in long-term benefits to the sustainable management, wise use and protection of wetlands in Queensland. The tools developed by the Program help wetlands landholders, managers and decision makers in government and industry.

Contact wetlands♲ or visit


This map journal has been prepared with all due diligence and care, based on the best available information at the time of publication. The department holds no responsibility for any errors or omissions within the document. Any decisions made by other parties based on this document are solely the responsibility of those parties. Information contained in this education module is from a number of sources and, as such, does not necessarily represent government or departmental policy.

Data sources, links and information

Software Used

ArcGIS for Desktop | ArcGIS Online | Story map journal

Some of the information used to put together this map journal can be viewed on the QLD Globe.

The Queensland Globe is an interactive online tool that can be opened inside the Google Earth™ application. Queensland Globe allows you to view and explore Queensland spatial data and imagery. You can also download a cadastral Smartmap or purchase and download a current titles search.

More information about the layers used can be found here:

Source Data Table

Flooding Information: Somerset Regional Council and Moreton Bay Regional Council

Other References
BOM (2016) Climate Data Online [webpage] Accessed 24 August 2016.
City of Gold Coast (2016) Protecting catchments [webpage] Accessed 19 October 2016 .
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (2010) Australian Land Use Management Classification [webpage] Accessed 19 October 2016 .
Healthy Waterways (2016) Stanley Catchment 2015 Report Card [webpage] Accessed 19 October 2016.
Queensland Government (2016) Key Resource Areas in Queensland [webpage] Accessed 19 October 2016.

Last updated: 21 December 2016

This page should be cited as:

Stanley Catchment Story, WetlandInfo 2016, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland, viewed 17 May 2018, <>.

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment and Science