Shaped by an ancient volcano that has eroded over millions of years, the distinctively rugged landscape and rich biodiversity of the Warrumbungle National Park has attracted bushwalkers and rock climbers to the area for over 70 years. A biodiversity hotspot, the park provides an important habitat for a range of native Australian flora and fauna.
Warrumbungle National Park was included in the National Heritage List on 15 December 2006.
The distinctive and unusual jagged skyline of the Warrumbungle National Park, with its domes and spires separated by forested ridges and deep gorges, rises from the surrounding plains and tablelands.
The dramatic Warrumbungles are often described as a place where east meets west. The moist, vibrantly green landscape gradually merges into the dry plains of the west.
The shield volcano that made the Warrumbungles was active about 13 to 17 million years ago and is one of the larger volcanoes that form a north-south line stretching from northern Queensland to southern Victoria.
Ninety percent of the volcanic cone has since been eroded away, leaving the uncommonly bold volcanic landforms, some reaching heights of more than 700 metres.
Some of the best-known landmarks are Belougery Spire, Belougery Split Rock, Crater Bluff, Bluff Mountain, the Breadknife and Mount Exmouth.
The Breadknife, a 90-metre high blade that stretches for half a kilometre, was formed when volcanic processes and subsequent erosion sculpted a spectacular 'knife' of rock. Bluff Mountain is the largest lava dome of the Warrumbungle volcano and has a near-vertical 250-metre high face.
Capturing the beauty of the landscape
Renowned Australian photographers Frank Hurley and Max Dupain are among the artists and photographers who have been inspired by the beauty and sculptural forms of the natural landscape.
Abundant flora and fauna
The combination of the arid western plains, moist eastern slopes and elevation above the surrounding plains, means the Warrumbungles provide a haven for a high number of species.
Wattles and small inland trees dominate the drier western slopes while the lush, cooler conditions of the sheltered southern and eastern areas are perfect for forests of taller trees with other moisture loving vegetation, such as ferns and orchids, found in the gullies.
The eastern grey kangaroo, emus, wallabies and koalas are seen regularly. Other animals spotted frequently in the area are the pobblebonk burrowing frog, wedge-tailed eagle, sulphur crested cockatoo and red-rumped parrot. Sometimes visitors are lucky enough to see rare animals like the brush tailed rock wallaby, superb parrot and regent honeyeater.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Indigenous people have occupied the Warrumbungles for at least the last 5000 years. The name 'Warrumbungle' comes from the Kamilaroi language, and is believed to mean 'crooked mountains'.
The first European record of the Warrumbungles was by Surveyor-General Oxley in 1818 on his second inland expedition:
'To the west the land was level, but to the east a most stupendous range of mountains, lifting their blue heads above the horizon, bounded the view in that direction, and were distant at least seventy miles, the country appearing a perfect plain between us and them.'
Explorers that came after Oxley were Mitchell and Sturt, who in turn were followed by bushrangers and settlers. The central valley and edges of the park hold historic relics and evidence of past uses of the area, which included grazing.
Due to the rugged landscape the Warrumbungles were left largely untouched, with the exception of selective logging by the early settlers, and much of the Warrumbungles continue to retain their original character.
Protecting the area
The first proposal for a Warrumbungle National Park of about 2500 hectares was made in 1936, and the park area has since grown to 21,534 hectares.
The Warrumbungle National Park is approximately 500 kilometres north-west of Sydney and can be reached from the east via Coonabarabran, from the west via Coonamble and from the south through Gilgandra and Tooraweenah. Today approximately 80,000 people from Australia and around the world visit the park annually.