Queensland's richest source of alluvial gold was discovered in the Palmer River region, by James Venture Mulligan, in 1873. The Palmer became well known for its Chinese population, which peaked at 17,000 in 1877. Prospectors from the Pearl River Delta region of Southern China traveled to the area via Cooktown (a port settlement on the Endeavour river that serviced the goldfields), while others came from goldfields in various parts of Australia, hoping to improve their fortune. Reefing commenced in the region in 1877 but the Palmer’s golden era ended with the Hodgkinson rush that commenced shortly afterwards.
The Palmer was an exceedingly rich field and yielded over £5.5 million sterling in ore. Nearly all of the gold was retrieved from alluvial workings.
The town contains Queensland’s largest surviving collection of steam-powered mining plant. This industrial legacy, protected under Queensland Heritage legislation, is an important reminder of the gold rush era.