Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Friday, August 15, 2008

History of New England's National Parks - the Warrumbungles

Note to readers: Much of the following material directly quotes the NSW Government source listed at the end of the post.

The Warrumbungle National Park lies 329km (4:43 hours driving time) south east of Armidale, 480km (6:4 hours driving time) north-east of Sydney. The Warrumbungles are the spectacular remnants of a large, heavily eroded shield volcano that was active from 18 to 15 million years ago.

The first European record of the Warrumbungle Mountains was by the explorer John Oxley in 1818, on his second inland expedition. While Oxley named the mountains Arbuthnots Range, the original Aboriginal name has survived. Warrumbungle comes from the Kamilaroi language and is believed to mean 'crooked mountains'.

Soon after Oxley's exploration, settlers arrived. Although some logging took place and valleys and lower slopes were cleared for grazing, large tracts of more rugged land were left largely alone. Some logging took place and valleys and lower slopes were cleared for grazing. Evidence of previous pastoral use survives in the park in old fences, some ruins and exotic garden species at sites where old homesteads and huts once stood.

Bushwalkers and rock climbers had discovered the Warrumbungles by the 193os. The first proposal for a national park was made in 1936. However it was not until January 1952 when, with the agreement of the owner, approval was given for 2428 hectares to be withdrawn from the Crown Lease held by Alfred Pincham and reserved for public recreation. On 30 October 1953 an area of 3360 hectares was notified as Warrumbungle National Park under the care, control and management of trustees appointed by the Minister for Lands.

The first ranger for the park, Carl Dow, oversaw the construction of a new network of walking tracks. These were all built by hand, a considerable physical feat in the rugged Warrumbungles terrain. The John Renshaw Parkway, providing vehicle access to Coonabarabran, was completed in 1966. In 1967 the management of the park was handed over to the newly created NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. A new camping area was opened in 1975 at Camp Blackman. In 1987 a new visitor centre was opened and a field studies centre opened in 1994. Visitor access roads and infrastructure have been gradually upgraded over the years.

Visitation to the park increased dramatically from a few hundred annually in the 1950s to over 85,000 people in the 1980s. While visitor numbers then declined, between 40,000 and 70,000 people are reported to visit the park every year. A recent study found that the park contributes to the viability of local economies by generating revenue and directly and indirectly providing employment.


The material in this post is drawn from NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, Warrumbungle National Park

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