North East NSW Parks and Reserves
Trip report by B. Everingham, July 1999
The July holidays have been a good excuse to visit some of the national parks in and around my old home town of Taree. Some are old, familiar places. Some have only recently been added to the national park estate, thanks to the Regional Forest Agreement. All are well worth visiting and below are some notes about those parks, access, some of the birds and some management issues. It is a mixed bag but this email has a variety of readers. ... birdos, walkers, those interested in park management and some of us who would dearly love a few additions to complete the core parks on offer.
Wallingat National Park South of Taree and on the shores of Wallis Lake, this park is 6 557ha in size and comprises most of the Wallingat State Forest 48 and part of the Bachelor State Forest 689. We accessed it from the Lakes Way via Coomba Road, 30 km South of Forster. This road runs along the Western shoreline of Wallis Lake and there are numerous B&B homesteads and other low-key tourist facilities. These would be key potential supporters for the park and should be contacted to ascertain their support.
From Coomba Road we took the Thomas Road into the park. All sign posts are still those of the previous Forestry regime but clear. New signs will need to be put in place. Off Thomas Road we turned right into Rocky Gap Road and this took us direct to the old Sugar Creek Flora Reserve. This was dedicated in 1970 and previous to that it had received light selective logging in the 1930s and suffered a wildfire in 1968. It had been the site for ongoing ecological research by the UNSW for many years too.
The main species in this rainforest and moist eucalypt forest include flooded gum (eucalyptus grandis), coachwood (ceratopetalum apetalum) and an understorey of cabbage tree palms (livistona australis).
The area was part of the Bulahdelah Management Area and managed through an Advisory Committee. This created "reference stands" of forest types but as the area was only 87ha in size these stands must have been rather small.
We walked the Cabbage Tree Palm walk, a distance of 1.7km in a circular path up to Back Road and along Hotel Creek. It was a wet track, covered in palm fronds and stunning in its wet beauty. High up above in the canopy we found Topknot pigeons and down in the Cabbage Tree palms there were Striated Thornbills and White Browed Scrub Wrens.
At Whoota Whoota Lookout the view was spectacular. To the north it looked directly over Wallis Lake and the length of Booti Booti National Park was below. Nestled under Cape Hawke was Forster, a short drive away. Beyond that we could see all the way to the three Brother Mountains. The southern views extended to Port Stephens.
The road to the lookout was steep but negotiable by two-wheel drive vehicles and while we were there several did indeed call in. There is an erosion channel down the centre of the road and I can imagine that this road requires considerable resources to maintain it to a standard suitable for tourist traffic. However the NPWS must maintain it and I wonder if it can access extra resources from the local tourist industry and related authorities. This site is a jewel and would be a regular place for Forster's tourists to visit at all times of the year.
Down by Wallingat River we walked a poorly maintained track along the river from the boat ramp to the camping area. As this area is an old launching place for timber barges I would like it to be interpreted for this heritage feature. Local residents at Bungwahl could be invaluable in this exercise and local historical societies may be willing to prepare pamphlets based on oral history.
The picnic area and the small car camping area seems more than pleasant, tucked in by the brackish waters of the Wallingat River. It was not at its best when we visited. The area had suffered heavy rains over the previous three weeks and the ground was quite boggy. Nevertheless there were several camps established and Forestry had provided good facilities. Day picnickers and campers were separated by a short distance and toilets were of good quality, both at the River park and at the old Flora Reserve. They were clean and well-maintained.
Away from these tourist sites the park is clearly heavily modified from its recent timber industry. There are large stands of trees of similar age; blackbutts, tallowwood and flooded gums. Most of these were effective plantations dating from 1968-74. This silvicultural practice must have been disastrous for biodiversity and the park will take many years to develop a complex ecosystem.
Birds seen in the park include: kookaburra, noisy miner, topknot pigeon, eastern whipbird, grey shrike thrush, grey fantail, yellow robin, yellow faced honeyeater, little friarbird, striated thornbill, white browed scrub wren, welcome swallow, golden whistler, eastern spinebill, white throated treecreeper, eastern rosella and pied butcherbird. This list was collected between 11.00am and 4.00pm on a clear day. It was quite warm and a stunning day for seeing this new park.
Maps: Bulahdelah State Forests, Wootton 1:25000 and Coolongolook 1:25000
Tapin Tops National Park Located NW of Wingham, this park is 10976ha in size and contains merging brushwood and moist eucalypt forests. It is situated on Dingo Tops and can be accessed by road from Wingham on the Elands Road, then left onto Wherrol Flat road to Wherrol Flat and left again into Dingo Tops Road.
The area now known as Tapin Tops National Park comprises part of Dingo State Forest 779 and Bulga State Forest 285. None of Knorrit State Forest 767 is included.
The main features in this park are the Dingo Tops Forest Park and Rowleys Rock. The former is a large Forestry Commission picnic ground, complete with barbecues, pit toilets, tables and old forestry equipment. An avenue of Sequoia pines flanks the road and will certainly possess European heritage values. Perhaps the jacaranda in the eastern end of the picnic area does not do so. It is much less well-established.
This picnic area should be maintained and there are two small walking tracks on either side of the road for walkers to enjoy the forest. Both sections are rainforest habitats and are well marked so that walkers can identify the types of trees in the locality. The walk to the north plunges steeply to the creek below and needs to be re-established. There is a vine thicket over the path and many of the old steps have gone. The soil is rich red volcanic soil similar to that found on nearby Bulga and Comboyne plateaux.
Up a steep 4WD road visitors can reach Rowley Flora Reserve 79971 and the Rowley trig. At 1015m, this point is truly a spectacular view over the Ellenborough River, across to the Comboyne, the Coorabakh National park and on to the Middle and South Brother mountains. The road should be closed and a walking track built that takes a more gradual approach to the summit. At the base a parking area and picnic facility could be built if and when money is available.
A clear anomaly in the park boundary is the western incision of Little Murrays Creek. I am told by the Taree Sub-District that this area will be managed in conjunction with State Forests, especially as regards fire and weed strategies. However, the anomaly should be rectified at some stage.
We saw typical birds for the area ... Yellow Robins, Superb Lyrebird, Topknot pigeon, Grey Shrike Thrush, Striated thornbill, White Browed Scrub Wren, Eastern Rosella, Superb Fairy Wren, Satin Bowerbird ... and the bird list on the drive up from Wingham pleases the birdwatcher too.
Maps: Port Macquarie State Forests, Kokomerican 1:25000, Kerriki 1:25000 and Bobin 1:25000. Most of the new park is on the Kerriki mapsheet.
Coorabakh National Park This park `is based on the Landsdowne State Forest 292 and runs along the western rim. Access road includes the Coopernook road and a loop drive can be made through Hannam Vale and back down to either Coopernook or Moorland. Geological features include Big and Little Nellie, volcanic plugs with great views and their own unusual vegetation. There is a Newbys Caves walk near the current boundary. Boundary rationalisation would include taking in the eastern section of the State Forest. This would enable the upper catchment of Deep Creek to be protected. On the southern side an eastern extension would take in Landsdowne trig and the locally popular Vincents Lookout. However it would be better not to seek this site as there is a Telecom Repeater tower at this location and that would require special management.
Maps: Port Macquarie State Forests, Coopernook 1:25000
Yoorigan National Park The southern half of Middle Brother State Forest 284 makes the second of the Three Brothers now in a national park. An excision has been made for the trig to enable the TV tower to remain out of the park. However the famous "Bird Tree" and associated walking track is included in the park. The easiest route into the park is from the Pacific Highway just north of the village of Johns River.
Maps: Port Macquarie State Forests, Lorne 1:25000
Dooragan National Park North Brother Mountain, at the heart of the park, relates to Aboriginal legends of the death of three brothers (including Dooragan, the youngest). There is a variety of coastal forests and rainforest with habitat for gliders, bats and koalas. Enjoy the spectacular views along the coast from three lookouts on top of North Brother Mountain. The picnic area and lookouts have picnic tables, barbecues, wheelchair access, toilets and walking tracks.
These facilities were added to after the park was established. It cost the NPWS $280 000. A new non-smell biocycle system is now in place and there is disabled access. There are also nine tables with shelters, five uncovered tables, seven outdoor bench seats including two on every viewing platform. These viewing platforms have been upgraded too and an additional one is being constructed at the end of a walk through cycads so that a direct view is had over Diamond Head. The platforms were constructed in association with hang gliding groups and are also used for effortless flight.
My favourite feature is the walking trail up behind Laurieton to the saddle near the top, then sidling along the side to eventually emerge at the summit. It is various. The north and easterly aspect allow for a variety of plant associations, including fine displays of ferns, and there are some impressive, tall trees.
10 km east of Kew, access is along the Kew Road to Laurieton then take right-hand turnoff to the Captain Cook Bicentennial Road. Port Macquarie, 02 6584 2203.
Queens Lake Nature Reserve The northern shores of Queens Lake are the location for the first stage of the NPA proposed Queens Lake Nature Reserve. The current core includes the old Digger Hill Flora Reserve 80000 as a discreet section to the east and the southern portion of Queens Lake SF 475 west of Waterloo Creek. South of Boyds Road and Blythes Road the southern section of Burrawan State Forest 181 is also part of this park.
At the mouth of Waterloo Creek there is an old timber wharf, relic of days when this area supplied large amounts of timber that was transported by barge across the lake to Laurieton and beyond. To the west of that site are several picnic tables and a toilet block. They are not in good condition and will require considerable landscaping to make them pleasant and more in keeping with the high standards of other NPWS sites on the Mid Coast. The old trail along the shore of the lake should also be closed and be restricted to walkers only.
The nature reserve is an ideal location for summer swimming and the views across the lake to North Brother mountain are worth the effort of coming in from the highway along Bobs Creek Road.
Kattang Nature Reserve Kattang offers the spectacular scenery of sharp vertical cliff faces, with Perpendicular Point jutting out into the emerald sea. The NPWS and the Camden Haven Protection Society have been at work in this area removing bitou bush and laying down a well constructed track. Money has been provided through Coastcare and it has been worth the effort. I only hope that the money will continue beyond the next year or two as the infestations of bitou will require secondary treatment after the primary work is completed. Large amounts still exist on the Fishermans Bluff and Pebbly Beach tracks and the steep cliffs are covered. They will require special attention at some stage.
The track work is necessary. There were many informal tracks and regulation will enable regeneration to occur. Erosion on Perpendicular Point will ease as well.
The Flower Bowl Circuit is a must for native flower lovers in the early spring. There are small rainforest pockets, with coastal heathland dominating. We enjoyed it. Even in winter there were flowers in abundance and the work of Friends of Kattang in removing so much lantana from Camden Haven Head is appreciated. Most of this circuit is in good condition.
While we were there we saw a pod of Bottle Nosed dolphins, an Australian gannet (this site would be great for sea birds after several days of stormy weather bringing on shore winds), a Spangled drongo, many Little Wattlebirds, many White Cheeked Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills and Yellow robins along with Noisy and Scaly Breasted Lorikeets. The Torresian Crows seemed content with life too.
3 km east of Laurieton on the mid-north coast.
Port Macquarie, 02 6584 2203.
Crowdy Bay National Park Many people have admired this coastline, including author Kylie Tennant. 'Kylies Hut' near Diamond Head, at the Indian Head camping area, is a well known feature. The walk from Diamond Head around to Indian Head and back is a short 4.5km trip. Views are good in all directions and the variety of plants is most encouraging. I well remember this headland when I was young. Access was uncontrolled, erosion channels abounded and the heath was reduced to short grasses. It has now revegetated and looks better than ever.
At low tide, we have spent many hours exploring the rock formations and pools. Good fishing and birdwatching, and spectacular headland walks with abundant wildlife. While we walked it there were White Cheeked Honeyeaters, Yellow Faced Honeyeaters, Scaly Breasted and Rainbow Lorikeets, Wonga pigeons, Noisy Friarbirds, Spangled Drongo. Little Wattlebird, Pied Oystercatchers (10) ..and a Brahminy Kite at Laurieton.
On a second visit we used the Taylor Point fire trail to the northern entrance of Watson Taylor Lake. This area was rich in birds. There were large flocks of Noisy Friarbirds, Red and Little Wattlebirds, Yellow faced, White Cheeked and Scarlet honeyeaters, a pair of Crested Tern, a Whistling Kite, a White Bellied Sea Eagle, Bar Shouldered Dove, Crested Shrike Tit, Grey Fantail, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow robin, Striated thornbill and Scaly Breasted lorikeets. A wonderful cross section of heath, melaleuca swamp. Scribbly gum association, swamp mahogany and angophora. The trails to the west of the beach are well worth many a visit and are often ignored by tourists who are intent on seeing the beach and headlands.
Basic camping at Diamond Head, Indian Head or Kylies Beach camping areas. Bring your own drinking water and firewood, though firewood is sold on site. Park use and camping fees apply. 3 km south of Laurieton.
The park has had some of the Johns River State Forest 804 added to extend protection along the southern shoreline of Watson Taylors Lake.
Port Macquarie, 02 6584 2203.
Bago Bluff National Park The western part of Broken Bago State Forest 184 and the northern part of Lorne State Forest 58 is the core of this park. It has an unusual boundary. A large salient intrudes from the east and a case for boundary rationalisation can be made to take the park up to the Sandy Hollow Road. The current park does include the Lorne Flora Reserve 79936 and Black Creek Flora Reserve 80023. In the north the old Bago Bluff Flora Reserve 97531 and Six B Flora Reserve 98005 are within this park too.
Easiest access to this park is through Wauchope on the Oxley Highway. Several old forest roads then enter the park to the south. Forest roads from Kendall to Swans Crossing also allow access.
Swans Crossing is in Kerewong State Forest 54 and is an excellent camping and picnic facility. It is situated on Upsalls Creek road and the area comprises 150 hectares. It was revoked from the State Forest in 1932 to create the Swan family dairy and beef property. It was re-purchased in 1964 by the then Forestry Commission. They planted out the cleared flats with blackbutt but frosts on the creek flats killed the seedlings and in 1976 it was turned into a picnic and camping area.
At this site we took the Gorge Trail along Upsalls Creek through riparian rainforest of coachwood and related species. Between 9.00am and 10.30am there was no light at all in this gorge and it remained moist and quiet. No birds here. Only when we joined the logging track up the hill, into light and amidst moist eucalypt forests did we begin to see the flocks of Striated Thornbills. Golden Whistlers, Spotted Pardalotes, Grey Fantails, Green Winged Pigeon and Large Billed and White Browed Scrub Wrens. But back in Swans Crossing there were Pied Currawong, Kookaburra, Magpie (the accoutrements of a good picnic area) and four Guinea Fowl!
The forest roads enabled us to explore the edges of Lorne Flora Reserve, along the Dividing Ridge and up along Rollover. From here the main feature of the park is a steep and spectacular cliff line. The Rollover trail skirts this cliff and there are a number of places where people can stop and explore. Views over the Hastings are breathtaking and it is so good to know that to the north there is Kumbatine, Willi Willi and Werrikimbe, all within view.
Boorganna Nature Reserve One of the oldest nature reserves in NSW, set aside for protection since 1904. The reserve contains five different types of forest, including rainforest. It is a sanctuary for a variety of flora and fauna. A walking track with interpretive signs through the forest leads to the gorge created by Rawson Falls. 60 km south-west of Port Macquarie, 40 km north of Taree. Port Macquarie, 02 6584 2203.
Sea Acres Nature Reserve Enjoy the stillness and beauty of the rainforest on a meandering 1.3 km boardwalk, suitable for wheelchairs. Guided walks are available. The Rainforest Centre has displays, a shop and restaurant. Try the cakes. I can thoroughly recommend them. The Centre is open every day (except Christmas Day). Fee to enter the display and boardwalk.
Along this boardwalk we heard a Noisy Pitta (July) call once and saw Fantail Cuckoos, King Parrots, Green Catbirds, Yellow Throated Scrub Wrens, White Necked Pigeons and Yellow Robins.
This tiny reserve of coastal rainforest is right on the coast in the middle of Port Macquarie and is central in highlighting the importance of the World Heritage Wetlands. Its educational role can not be underestimated.
Pacific Drive, Port Macquarie. Port Macquarie, 02 6582 3355.
Kumbatine National Park Located NW of Telegraph Point. The easiest way in is to drive to Upper Rollands Plains and then take Littles Loop Road north. Kumbatine includes part of Yessabah State Forest 602 and Ballengarra State Forest 474. There is also an eastern extension, a discreet section comprising parts of Maria River State Forest 469.
The boundaries of this park are most unusual and boundary rationalisation is clearly a need. The local NPA Branch should consider this matter. If the upper catchment of Smiths Creek were secured the two sections of the park would be united and if the northern part of Maria River SF was included then the NPWS would be able to utilise the Maria River picnic facility on the Pacific Highway.
Heavy rains along the coast in July 1999 meant that this trip we decided not to visit this site. It was a well known area for Blackbutt and Flooded Gum harvesting over the period post-WW2.
Dorrigo National Parks One of the older National Parks in NSW, this park is famous for its birding and we went there specifically to find the elusive Noisy Pitta. It had been at least ten years since our last visit so we were thrilled to see the Rainforest Centre in operation. This centre is an excellent facility and the interpretative display, the shop, the skywalk and the café are all most pleasant places to spend some time.
We began the walk at 7.00am and just after the start of the Wonga Walk we succeeded in calling in the Noisy Pitta. It responded to a tape call and a second play of the tape had it fly directly in. It perched on a horizontal branch below the canopy about 15m above the ground and stayed there for a good 10 minutes. It was easily the best views I have ever had of the pitta and it is most certainly a bird to rave over.
The Wonga Walk was rich in bird life, despite steady drizzle: Kookaburra, Eastern Whipbird, Grey Shrike Thrush, Yellow Robin, Striated and Brown Thornbills, White Throated treecreeper, Superb Lyrebird, Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, White Headed Pigeon, Brown Pigeon, Wonga Pigeon, White Browed, Yellow Throated and Large Billed Scrub Wrens, Australian Brush Turkey, Green Catbird, Log Runner, Bassian Thrush, Pied Currawaongs (in the more traditional location!) ...
Junuy Juluum National Park The old Bielsdown SF 490 is now this park. It is a mixture of regrowth rainforest and moist eucalyptus forest and approximately 10 km North of Dorrigo township. It will be well worth visiting in detail and studies of regrowth over time should be undetaken.
Coffs Harbour Botanical Gardens On the wet days travelling north we skipped the inland forest parks and decided to visit these well-established gardens. Our purpose was birding and, as always here, we were not disappointed.
Bird list on this day (11/7/99) include: Scarlet Honeyeater, Yellow faced Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Little Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbird, Eastern Spinebill, Lewins Honeyeater, Blue faced Honeyeater, Eastern Whipbird, Yellow Robin, Pied and Grey Butcherbirds, Galah, Eastern Rosella, Crimson Rosella, Scaly Breasted Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet, Yellow tailed Black Cockatoo, Superb and Variegated Wrens, Rufous Whistler, Rose Robin, Mistletoebird, Darter, Nankeen Night Heron, Little Pied Cormorant, Royal Spoonbill, Mangrove Gerygone, Osprey. Not to mention the waterbirds on the artificial lake and the koala we found in the swamp mahogany near the entrance.
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