Ravenshoe ('Ravens-hoe') is a town of about 900 people, 60 km west of Innisfail and 80 km south-west of Cairns. It is at the junction of the Kennedy and Palmerston Highways.
When first settled, the Ravenshoe district was taken up as the Evelyn and Woodleigh pastoral stations. In 1881 good stands of cedar were found at North and South Cedar Creeks, but it was not until 1897 that the Irvinebank mining entrepreneur, John Moffat, took steps to exploit it. Moffat acquired the Evelyn station and imported sawmill equipment from Tasmania, having it moved from Mareeba to Cedar Creek by bullock team.
By 1903 the Cairns railway had reached Atherton and extended to Herberton in 1910. Cedar Creek, 30 km southwards, was surveyed in 1907 and the surrounding area subdivided for dairy farms. Cedar Creek was named Ravenshoe, reputedly from a discarded copy of Henry Kingsley's Ravenshoe (1862) found by the survey party. A store was opened in 1907, and five years passed until a provisional school and the Club Hotel were opened. By then the railway had reached Tumoulin (10 km away), finally reaching Ravenshoe in 1916. Dairy produce was then railed straight to the Golden Grove factory at Atherton.
The timber industry continued, employing over 30 bullock teams, horse teams, steam tractors and solid-tyred trucks. In addition to being noted for cedar, Ravenshoe had maple, oak and black walnut. By the early postwar years the town had over 1000 people. The post office directory (1949) recorded three sawmills, two hotels, two cinemas, a QCWA guest house and hostel, the Evelyn Tableland dairy factory, bowling and golf clubs and two churches. The Evelyn Highway from Atherton (now part of the Kennedy) and the Palmerston Highway from Innisfail were built in 1935-36.
Ravenshoe lies between rainforest and savannah. The Hugh Nelson Range, five km east, has 90 inches of rain a year. Five km west of Ravenshoe the annual rainfall is 30 inches. Ravenshoe occupies a temperate-climate position, daily minimum temperatures rarely falling below 18 degrees and rainfall averaging 50 inches a year.
In 1988 the rainforest was put on the World heritage register, ending it as a source of timber. Plantation trees support a much smaller local timber industry. The world heritage decision coincided with the closure of the railway, but a section has been preserved with a historical steam train running from Ravenshoe (Queensland's highest town, 920m) to the site of the former Tumoulin station (Queensland's highest railway station, 980m). An annual attraction is the Torimba woodcraft festival.
Ravenshoe has golf course and bowls clubs, entertainment and community centres, a hospital, a State primary school (1912), a Catholic primary school (1950) and a State secondary campus. A visitors centre also has historical displays. West of Ravenshoe there are the Little Millstream Falls, the Big Millstream Falls (Australia's widest falls in full flow) and the Innot hot springs with spa and pool facilities.
Ravenshoe's census populations have been:
More than memories: stories told to a group of year 5 students by the senior residents of Ravenshoe district, Cairns, Department of Education, 1992
Schools of the scrub, Ravenshoe, Ravenshoe State School, 1987
L.W. Smith, The trees that fell, Ravenshoe, L.W. Smith, 1991
A. Smith, ed, Red gold to Ravenshoe, Atherton, Ravenshoe Historical Society, 2001