Oxley Wild Rivers National
Park is in New South Wales (Australia), 445
kilometres north of Sydney and is named
in memory of the Australian explorer John
Oxley, who passed through the area in 1818.
covers 145,000 ha, being one of the largest national parks in NSW.
World Heritage listed as part of the
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (previously the Central Eastern
Rainforest Reserves of Australia) (CERRA).
The Oxley Wild Rivers National Park (OWRNP) was World Heritage
listed in recognition of the extensive dry rainforest
that occurs within the park, and the
associated rich biodiversity
includes several rare or threatened plants and animals. There are
at least 14 waterfalls in the park.
thousands of years, the tablelands and these valleys were the
tribal lands of the Dangaddi aboriginal people, whose descendants
are now concentrated in the lower Macleay River.
Some marked trees have been found and a
limestone cave shelter has been excavated near Kunderang
explorer John Oxley and his party tried
to descend the Apsley valley, but steep gorges blocked the way
until they proceeded around the head of the Apsley Falls. After Oxley passed through the cedar-getters
were the first white people to penetrate these remote gorges and
valleys in search of Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata) which was floated
down-river to Kempsey.
been cattle grazing through the Macleay River Gorges, called 'The Falls', since the 1840’s, with
mustering points (yards and huts)
occurring at Top Creek, (Sunderland’s) Middle Yards, Kunderang,
Left Hand, Oven Camp, Youdale’s Hut, Green Gully, Yarrowitch River and Front Tableland.
Green Gully Hut, Oxley Wild Rivers
restored Middle Yards Hut was once part of the 32,000-hectare East
Kunderang cattle station
The Bark Hut was constructed for
mustering trips more than 70 years ago by two Brennan brothers and
has been preserved
In the late 19th century several gold
mines were established around the
rim of the gorges, at places such as Halls Peak and Hillgrove
, as well as two ambitious hydro-electric
schemes to power them, the remains of which can be seen today along
the Styx River
In 1976 the Apsley Macleay Gorges were identified as being of true
quality. At that stage the
public protection offered to the area was limited to two small
reserves in the south, and a few local council run recreation areas
at popular sites such as Wollomombi Falls, Dangars and Apsley Falls.
With future land-use undecided, the NSW
Electricity Commission began surveying the Apsley Valley for a
hydro-electric scheme in the late 1970s. The Apsley Gorge National
Park of 6,718 hectares was gazetted followed by the 3,456 hectare
Yarrowitch Gorge National Park soon after.
late 1981 the track to the Apsley
River at Riverside was improved and Elcom installed a
river gauging station.
The project was shelved following a
land use study recommending a national
be established. In 1986 the park was gazetted to foster
nature conservation, cultural heritage and tourism on the Northern Tablelands
1989 East Kunderang Station of 30,400 hectares passed to the
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and was proclaimed the
Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
In 1994 Oxley Wild Rivers National Park was inscribed on the
Register of World Heritage sites, as part of the Central Eastern
Rainforest Reserves of Australia (CERRA). Later 1,850 ha of
Winterbourne State Forest was added to the wilderness. The
remaining 1,560 ha of Winterbourne and 1,075 ha of Enmore State
Forests are to be added to the National Park. Further inclusions
include Green Gully headwaters and 1,439 ha of leasehold land in
the lower Chandlers River gorge.
The Macleay Gorges Wilderness Area was declared in 1996 and
extended in 1997. It covers over 50,000 ha., mainly in the central
part of the Park.
The Oxley Wild Rivers National Park lies along the Great Escarpment
between the Northern Tablelands, New
and the east coast and has dramatic gorges and
waterfalls, extensive wilderness and dry rainforest. The main
rivers in the National Park are the: Apsley River, Macleay River,
Chandler River, Tia River, Styx River, Gara River, Yarrowitch
River, Oaky River and the Kunderang Brook. There are a number of
waterfalls situated throughout the park including: Wollomombi, Apsley Falls, Tia Falls and Dangars Falls as well as numerous
The waterfalls in the park are at their best after
rains and are accessible by car.
The formation of the area began with muddy sediments under ancient
oceans that were changed by heat and pressure into hard rocks, then
uplifted by movements of the continental plate and volcanic
eruptions. This resulted in the formation of the
Dividing Range, an undulating plateau that
sloped gently to the west and fell away steeply to the
Erosion by wind, rain, storms and ice over millions of years carved
out the plateaus of the Northern Tablelands
and rivers and streams gradually cut back the eastern edge of the
tableland creating deep gorges that eventually formed one
continuous escarpment. The jagged scarp is slowly retreating west
and this movement can be seen today in the erosion of steep cliffs
at places like Wollomombi, Dangars and Apsley Gorges.
The Apsley Macleay Gorges are a converging point for moister
eastern coastal and dry western floras, and some 950 native plant
species have been identified, of which 36 are rare or
The rare plants found include: Grevillea obtusiflora
, Acacia blakei
(Wollomombi or gorge wattle) and Acacia ingramii
grows at Dangars Gorge. Some Australian red cedar trees may also be
seen in the more remote locations. Some of the threatened flora of
the area is the Hibbertia
(Wedge-leaved Guinea Flower), Grevillea
and Hakea fraseri
(Gorge Hakea). Eucalyptus
(Hillgrove spotted gum) may be seen south of
Hillgrove and in the Big Lease, north east of Walcha. The beautiful
orchid has been spotted at Long
Dry rainforests in the OWRNP contain at least 187 plant species and
they are visible as dense, dark green patches of Lophostemon confertus
box), favouring hollows where there is shelter from wind and sun.
The adaptable Asplenium
) grows in a variety of sites as an epiphyte
on large trees, or independently growing
on the forest floor and attached to rocks. Other plants that could
be found in or around dry rainforests include: Hibiscus heterophyllus
Rosella), Notelaea microcarpa
(gorge mock-olive), Brachychiton
(Moreton Bay fig), Olea paniculata
(scentless rosewood) and Backhousia sciadophora
The open forest and woodlands are dominated by various trees. The
main species are: Angophora
(rough-barked apple), Eucalyptus retinens
(New England blackbutt), Eucalyptus caliginosa
(broadleaved New England stringybark), Eucalyptus
(silvertop stringybark), Eucalyptus melliodora
box) and wild cherry. Eucalyptus tereticornis
red gum) identified by the bark on its trunk which sheds to expose
white, grey or bluish patches may also be seen, too. Epiphytic
may be observed growing in some of
theses trees, as well.
The hazardous stinging tree (Dendrocnide moroides
) is found in
various locations throughout the park. This is a dangerous plant
and physical contact with it should be avoided. The stems and
leaves are coated with fine hairs which when imbedded in the skin
cause severe pain and irritation for prolonged periods.
vine or wait-a-while
) is another plant
to be avoided as it has prickly climbing stems that are up to 8
metres long and will catch in clothing or the skin.
The under storey is often sparse except for occasional Acacia
(wattles), Bursaria spinosa
(grass trees) and
The cassinia, geebung (Persoonia
spp.), Pomaderris lanigera
(dogwood) and Prostanthera
(mint bush) are the most common species in the area.
Because the conditions are extreme on the cliffs, quite a number of
rare and uncommon shrubs are found there. These include: broadleaf
hopbush (Dodonaea rhombifolia
, Grevillea beadleana
, Hakea fraseri
hakea), climbing fig, orchids and Westringia
sp. Bertya ingramii
(Narrow-leaved bertya) is an
endangered species of shrub that is found in two locations, growing
among rocks or in thin soils close to cliff-edges in dry woodland
with she-oaks, wattles and tea-trees.
The park is rich in fauna, with over 350 species recorded,
including 55 mammals. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is a major
Green Gully area, Yarrowitch, NSW
for the Brush-tailed
), with the largest
confirmed population in the Green Gully area of Yarrowitch
Other species found in the park include bandicoots
small ground mammals. Quolls
, common brushtail possums
, sugar gliders
, wedge-tailed eagles
, peregrine falcons
may also be seen.
Over 173 bird species have been recorded in Oxley Wild Rivers
There have been 38 reptile and 19 amphibian species recorded in
Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. Skinks
and fish occur in the park, particularly
on the river flats. A number of fish species have been recorded.
Notable, is the speckled longfin
), which breeds in the ocean
with the juveniles eventually returning to the Apsley–Macleay River
Twelve species are listed as threatened under the Threatened
Species Conservation Act 1995 are found in the wilderness area
consisting of: five mammals (Brush-tailed Phascogale, Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby
), koala, Squirrel Glider
and Tiger Quoll
); four birds Glossy Black Cockatoo
), Greater Sooty Owl
and Turquoise Parrot; one reptile Morelia spilota variegata
Python); and two frogs (Litoria piperata
). The National Park is home to the Macleay River
tortoise, a recently discovered species, and the rare mammal, the
Hastings River Mouse
), considered to be in imminent danger of
access to the park is mainly via the Waterfall Way, east of Armidale and Oxley Highway,
east of Walcha.
All roads to visitor facilities are
suitable for conventional cars except the 4WD tracks to Riverside,
Youdales Hut and East Kunderang. A permit and key is required to
gain vehicle access to these three sites.
There are several visitor entry points where visitors may enter
with a 2WD car and camp overnight:
- Tia Falls – 38 kilometres east of Walcha, 6 km off the Oxley
Highway. The turnoff for this road is 19 kilometres
past the Apsley
Falls turnoff (travelling from Walcha). There are
spectacular falls, with two walking tracks taking in the Falls and
Gorge Walk (1.5 kilometres return) and the Tiara Walk (5 kilometres
return), picnic facilities and bush camp sites are available for
- Budds Mare campground is 44 kilometres east of
Walcha via the Moona Plains Road. The route includes 8km of unpaved
roads, suitable for standard 2WD cars, with care. Budds Mare is set
in bushland and a short walk takes you to the lookout which has
spectacular views over Gondwana dry rainforest in the Apsley River
Gorge. Across the first gorge is the obvious feature of Paradise
Rocks and to the north it is possible to see Round Mountain and
Point Lookout. Heading to the right from the shelter shed is a
track to a vantage point that overlooks Rusden Creek Gorge. There
is a good 8 kilometre walk from here down the ridge to the
Riverside Visitor Area on the Apsley River, but it is only for well
prepared bushwalkers with a sound knowledge of steep country.
Return up the same track or follow the road from Riverside up to
the top. The return routes are a demanding climb, suitable for fit,
experienced bushwalkers only, carrying ample provisions.
Alternatively, a 4WD vehicle pick-up may be arranged at Riverside.
Facilities here include: Campsites, toilets, picnic tables, wood
barbecues, a supply of firewood.
- Wollomombi Falls - a spectacular gorge which houses two
waterfalls, the Wollomombi Falls, one of Australia's highest and
the Chandler Falls. Located 40 kilometres east of Armidale along the Waterfall Way. See rugged scenery,
picnic, stroll along one of the gorge rim trails, or hike to the
gorge riverbed. Facilities include drinking water, toilets, shelter
shed & fireplace and bush camp sites are available for
- Halls Peak camping area is off Raspberry Road,
east of Armidale. The very steep 4WD trail, suitable only for
vehicles with a low range, continues on down to a good camping area
on the Chandler River. The new facility consists of thirteen
camping sites with pit fires, tables, barbecues and toilets. There
are several mines in this area and the Halls Peak Mine may be seen
from near the camping area.
- Dangars Gorge and Falls are 22 kilometres
south-east of Armidale along the Dangersleigh Road and are home to
the beautiful Dangars Falls, and the starting point for several
great walks. McDirtys Walk - 6.9 km, 3 hours, medium difficulty.
From the carpark at Dangars Gorge, cross the river and follow the
track to the lookout above the falls (1.4 kilometres return), and
Rock Wallaby Lookout (2.1 kilometres return). The track follows the
gorge rim along a ridge to McDirtys Lookout (6.9 kilometres
return). There are good places for picnics, camping and
bushwalking. Salisbury Waters Walk - 14 km, 8 hours, difficult.
This walk is an excellent introduction to gorge bushwalking, and
can be undertaken in one strenuous or two leisurely days. From
Dangars carpark cross the river (if the river is high do not
attempt to cross), and follow the track past the turn off to
McDirtys, heading out along the ridge as sign-posted to Sarum Hill
Lookout (10.7 kilometres return), descending 500 m to Salisbury
Waters (14 kilometres return).
- Long Point campground - Access is via the
historic gold mining town of Hillgrove.
the Waterfall Way 32 kilometres east of Armidale to the Hillgrove
turnoff. Head south from Hillgrove for 17 kilometres along
the gravel road. Located in a small forest clearing, this
campground gives ready access to the easy 1.5 km Cassinia Walk,
medium difficulty 6 km Chandler View Circuit Walk and the 33 km
difficult Long Point to Wollomombi overnight bushwalk. For the
latter walk a vehicle drop-off and pick-up and suitable equipment
are needed. Basic track notes are available from the NPWS Armidale
office. Long Point has two formal lookouts along the Chandler View
Circuit walk and Cassinia Walk offering views over the Chandler and
Macleay Gorges. Facilities include: carpark, shelter shed with
fireplace, picnic tables with small wood barbecues, tank water, pit
toilets, an information display and bush camping with firewood
4WD vehicles are permitted to access Riverside, Youdales Hut and
East Kunderang Homestead where a permit and key are required.
Riverside and Youdales Hut require a low range 4WD vehicle and
trailers are not permitted.
- Riverside Rest Area is on the banks of the
Apsley River, 50 kilometres east of Walcha and is reached by the
Moona Plains Road. The trail from Budds Mare Rest Area is a steep
gravel track and a 4WD with low range is necessary. Trailers are
not permitted. Fees apply, a locked gate key and permit are
essential to use this trail with a vehicle. The Riverside Trail was
opened in April 1997 to permit vehicle access to the Macleay Gorges
area. The road down to the river shows the diversity of flora as
you drop in elevation and visitors can experience groves of Native
heterophyllus) and get to see river bank terraces shaded
with large, Fuzzy Box (Eucalyptus conica). Bluff Rock (or
The Terrace) walk - 1.5 km, 1 hour, medium difficulty, is reached
by heading north-west from the visitor area, across a gully and up
the hill to the management trail which leads to the top of the
bluff rock, overlooking the river and across to Paradise Rocks.
Activities: Swimming, hiking, fishing and photography. Facilities:
13 camp sites, toilets, picnic tables, electric/gas barbecues, wood
barbecues, firewood supplied.
- Youdales Hut is a historic pioneering timber
slab walled hut that was built in the 1930s on a small pastoral run
established in the Kunderang Gorges. Alan Youdale is believed to
have been guided here by an Aboriginal man, and he then settled
here in circa 1939. This camping ground is approximately 96 km from
Walcha and can be accessed via Kangaroo Flat Road, which leaves the
Oxley Highway 55 kilometres from Walcha. The trail is narrow and
steep and a 4WD with low range is necessary. Trailers are not
permitted. Access is also possible via Carrai Road, Coachwood Road
and the Racecourse Trail from Kempsey, or the Hastings Forest Way
and Racecourse Trail from Port Macquarie. Visitor numbers are
limited so bookings are essential. A permit and key is necessary to
gain entry to this area and they may be obtained from Apsley Motors
or the Park office, Walcha. The area caters for both picnickers and
campers, with wood barbecues (wood provided), toilet and
interpretation display at the hut. It's ideal for picnics, swimming
and short walks.
East Kunderang homestead, OWRNP,
- East Kunderang Homestead is set on the banks
of the Macleay River 112 kilometres east of Armidale via Wollomombi
and the Kempsey Road. Access to the homestead is along steep gravel
roads and a 4WD is required along with a permit. This historic
homestead built in the 1890s, of solid cedar throughout, was once
the centre of a grazing empire. It has now been carefully restored
by the National
Parks and Wildlife Service to provide comfortable and modern
accommodation. Edward's Fitzgerald’s grave is uphill from the rear
of the homestead near a clump of gum trees along the fence line.
Edward was drowned in 1900 while returning on horseback from the
mail run. The homestead may be booked for up to ten people for a
minimum of two nights. Marys View, a lookout
situated on a bluff about 3 km south east of East Kunderang
homestead, has perhaps the best view of any lookout of the Macleay
Gorges. This lookout can be accessed as a day walk from East
Kunderang. From here you have a 300 degree view almost from Point
Lookout in New England National Park near Dorrigo back to Mummel
Gulf National Park near Walcha. On a clear day you can see Mount
Duval near Armidale, more than 70 km away. A 4WD vehicle is needed
to access Marys View, from outside OWRNP, and it is at least a 7
hour return trip from either Walcha or Armidale and onto the Carrai
tableland. There is no vehicle access from East Kunderang.
National Trail for walking and horse riding passes
from Cedar Creek on the edge of Werrikimbe National Park past Youdales Hut via East Kunderang to Georges
Junction on the Armidale to Kempsey road, which is a distance of
some 75 kilometres through the National Park. The track is
mostly unmarked but follows Kunderang Brook as it descends into the
Macleay past East Kunderang Homestead in Oxley Wild Rivers National
Park. The walk takes at least 5 days and all food and equipment has
to be carried and there are numerous creek and river crossings,
with some steep ascents and descents. This route generally takes at
least 4 days to ride, and can be impassable after rain – check with
Armidale or Walcha NPWS for details. Huts at Left Hand and Middle
Yards are managed for their cultural heritage value, but are
available for use while on the National Trail. The historic, remote
Middle Yards Hut, located on Kunderang Brook deep within Oxley Wild
Rivers National Park, has been restored to its original condition
by the NPWS. A holding yard for horse trekkers was constructed
here, along with a hitching rail, period furniture inside the hut,
an outdoor barbecue and new water tank. Horses are not permitted at
East Kunderang homestead.
- Gara Gorge is 18 kilometres south-east of
Armidale along the Castledoyle Road off the Waterfall Way just east
of Armidale. The remains of Australia's first public hydro-electric
scheme can be viewed here. Gara Gorge is popular picnic area with
tables, drinking water, toilets and gas barbecues. Well known for
scenic bush strolls and the Blue Hole which is popular for
swimming. The 5 km Threlfall Walk follows the route of the historic
1894 hydro-electric scheme, along old embankments and through
ancient cuttings, to a lookout platform high above the river.
Crombie's Cave, the longest granite cave in Australia at 832
metres, can be found in the next small creek, Powers Creek, an easy
walk to the south of the Blue Hole. As the creek flows under the
fence from the surrounding grazing country, within 20 metres it
begins its journey underground to come out 832 metres down stream.
The cave can be accessed from here and negotiated for at least half
its length. It contains very beautiful granite sculptures, gnammas
and potholes, some big caverns and a small sandy beach near the
lower exit. A climb down a small waterfall and a curving squeeze
can be difficult for some to negotiate. The exits downstream can be
difficult to find from the outside.
Weeds in the park
The most significant introduced species are Giant Parramatta grass
), blue heliotrope and
. Lantana was widely
distributed in warmer lower areas of the park and also invaded
rainforest thickets, where it has impacted on World Heritage
values. Burrs of the Xanthium
are found on river flats, banks and associated tributaries.
Blackberry, giant Parramatta grass, Lantana and sweet briar
controlled using herbicide
results have been encouraging but follow-up spraying is imperative
to ensure long-term effectiveness. The release of the cactus moth
within the park has facilitated the biological control of prickly
Feral cats and foxes occur in moderate numbers and can impact on
Wild dogs occur in the park and include dingoes, hybrids with
domestic dogs. The National Parks and Wildlife Service give
assistance to nearby landowners with respect to the control of
these canine species. Wild dogs are controlled using a combination
of methods, including baiting
shooting and cooperative fencing with neighbours.
Feral pigs have a large impact on the park and cause ground
disturbance that encourages soil erosion and weed invasion. Pigs
are trapped, poisoned and are also controlled with a combination of
ground and aerial shooting.
Feral goats are confined to the upper Chandler, Styx, Oaky, and
Apsley rivers. They compete with the threatened brush-tailed
rock-wallabies for food and shelter. The goats are controlled using
a combination of ground and aerial shooting in conjunction.
Over sixty head of feral horses (brumbies
have been passively trapped in the Apsley catchment and have been
re-homed. Plans have been instigated for further passive trapping
in the Macleay River area.
Adjoining national parks
Harrison, Rodney; “Shared Landscapes”, p. 86, UNSW Press, Sydney,
2004, ISBN 0 86840 559 0