National Wetlands Update 2012
Issue No. 20, February 2012
Yanga National Park (NSW) - a wetland wonderland
Katie Ritchie, Paul Childs and Jeff Hillan, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
A family enjoys a relaxing stay at the Mamanga Camping Ground, open to the public in Yanga National Park. The Murrumbidgee River in the background (Office of Environment and Heritage)
The renowned 1350 hectare Yanga Lake is full, wetlands are thriving, and waterbirds and wildlife are in abundance. Nestled along the 170 kilometres of Murrumbidgee River frontage are campgrounds, bushwalks and plenty of spots to wet a fishing line.
Since its opening in May 2009 visitors have been gradually drawn to Yanga National Park, taking advantage of the new camping grounds and visitor facilities and engaging in Yanga's cultural past where the natural world intertwines with significant European and Aboriginal heritage, including canoe and scar trees, middens and oven mounds. The surrounding rural community is keen for tourism to grow into a viable and sustainable economic enterprise.
Yanga National Park, near the township of Balranald in south-western (NSW), covers approximately 69 000 hectares and is largely located on the Lower Murrumbidgee (Lowbidgee) River floodplain, which is included on the Directory of important wetlands in Australia.
Establishing recreational facilities
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has been busy working to develop a range of facilities and experiences for visitors to Yanga. Recently the NPWS revamped the historic woolshed and homestead precincts to allow visitors to experience the history and be informed of the many values at Yanga, including how the wetlands function and how the former agricultural property was developed over 150 years. Daily tours of the historic drop log homestead are increasingly popular and seasonal tours into wetland areas provide a fully guided and interpretive experience.
Numerous camping and day use areas have been established focusing on the Murrumbidgee River and wetlands. Options exist if visitors have just a few hours and want to stay close to the bitumen, or want to venture further afield into remote areas with basic facilities. Yanga caters for the visitor, regardless of whether they come for adventure or relaxation.
Improving water infrastructure
Darters and little pied cormorants are two of the 210 bird species that call Yanga home. Bird watching is just one of the attractions for visitors to Yanga. (Jennifer Spencer)
The creation of tourism opportunities in Yanga has occurred at the same time as improvements to water infrastructure and an increasing knowledge of wetlands dynamics.
Since purchase of the property in 2005 more than 200 000 megalitres of environmental water has been delivered to Yanga wetlands by both the Australian and NSW governments. This has achieved outstanding broad scale benefits for the wetlands. The water has delivered benefits to wetland vegetation, black box woodland, river red gum forests and supported populations of the nationally threatened southern bell frog, and maintained nesting sites for many waterbird species.
A $1.6 million infrastructure program, funded through the Rivers Environmental Restoration Program (a joint initiative of the Australian and (NSW) governments) is helping to distribute critical environmental flows. The program included the installation of 10 regulating structures, 10 floodways and the breaching of 40 pre-existing embankments. These new regulators are complemented by a flow gauging system, digital elevation model and a hydrodynamic model to assess the flow of water across the landscape and its interaction with infrastructure.
All of this was instrumental in the 2010-11 environmental water deliveries, which inundated some areas that have not received water since the late 1980s, including Yanga Lake and significant areas of threatened black box woodland.
Yanga National Park in use
Perched high on a peninsula the historic homestead is surrounded on three sides by the spectacular Yanga Lake. Located near the entrance to Yanga National Park the lake is a key destination for visitors, with fishing, water sports, and bird watching being some of the main experiences. Recreation at the lake is managed by a newly developed boating plan separating areas for motor drive water activities away from waterbird refuge areas where bird watchers are able to have some peace and quiet to enjoy the tranquillity of their surrounds.
Scientists, students and media alike have also been attracted by the wetlands and the thousands of water birds nesting at the sites, across the floodplain. Staff from the Office of Environment and Heritage and National Parks and Wildlife Service have been generous in providing their time to guide these visitors to the wetlands.
With the scientists comes an increase in the understanding of the wetlands and inhabitants. An intensive monitoring program has been completed to demonstrate environmental outcomes and inform future management decisions.
Information provided by researchers on the habitat requirements of frogs, fish and waterbirds has helped to inform the delivery of environmental water flows. Monitoring is also assisted by an extensive RERP-funded flow gauging network installed throughout Yanga, which measures the volume of flow at all water delivery points into the park and the depth of water at critical southern bell frog and waterbird nesting sites.
We are now managing environmental watering events within Yanga with a level of sophistication not possible five years ago.
With infrastructure providing an efficient guiding funnel for water flows, the environmental benefits are clearly visible. This natural and cultural conservation wonderland is sure to be a draw card for many generations to come.
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