Sturt National Park, Outback NSW
Sturt National Park, located just to the north of Tibooburra, holds a key to the geomorphology of outback Australia. Ancient eroded mountain ranges and vast plains, rolling red sand dunes. Surprising wetlands are surrounded by white sands, ephemeral catchment systems support an ever-changing ecosystem.
The largest of all NSW National Parks, covers 344,000 hectares of classic outback terrain, was formerly five pastoral properties, it is estimated that between 1880 and 1910 over 50 per cent of all the wildlife in the area was driven from the land by graziers who overstocked to a point where most of the edible saltbush and copper-burr was destroyed. Nonetheless, since the park's dedication in 1972 the vegetation is returning to what remains the best stretch of real outback desert to be seen in New South Wales. The reserve contains relics of both Aboriginal habitation (mostly middens and stone remnants) and European pastoral history.
The park's topography is startlingly different ranging from red sand hills rising up to 15 m above the clay pans, to dry creek beds and small rocky gorges, to gibber plains (stony desert) and 'jump-up' country - isolated mesas which rise forlornly above their flat surroundings to a height of 150 m. The flora is predominantly mulga bushland and arid shrub land, although a rich carpet of wildflowers can emerge after heavy rains. The park is inhabited by red kangaroos, euros and a large variety of lizards and birds including emus, dotterels, the Pratincole - also known as 'Roadrunner' - (which does an interesting broken-wing imitation to lead predators away from its nest), wedge-tailed eagles, kestrels and babblers (which characteristically follow each other through the trees and along the ground). A lake appears occasionally providing a temporary haven for waterbirds. At the western end of the reserve is Explorers Tree where Sturt once buried food.
Drives and walks are popular in this unique reserve and there are camping places at at Dead Horse Gully, Mount Wood, Olive Downs and Fort Grey. They all have toilets, gas barbecues and water. Camping fees apply, but bookings are not necessary, Ring (08) 8091 3308 for further information.
The park spans the dunes of the Strzelecki Desert across the ancient Mesas of the Grey Range and Mt King (The Jump-Ups) and to the Gibber plains, gorges and hills of Mount Wood. The Dingo Fence – at more than 5,000 km the world’s longest – forms the north and western boundary of the park.
The eastern section features adventurous drives including the Gorge Loop Road and the Jump-Ups Loop Road, exploring this eroded mountain range. Of course a trip to Cameron Corner is a must. Or take a trek along Middle Road for fantastic vistas at regular lookouts along the way. Fort Grey, Olive Downs and Dead Horse Gully or up to the summit of Mt Wood are also excellent options for moderate walks.
- The Gorge Loop Road: This trip around Mt Wood and the Mount Wood Hills covers the outdoor pastoral heritage museum, Mt Wood Homestead & shearers quarters, the Gibber and Mitchell Grass Plains, the Twelve Mile Creek Gorge, and the old pastoral remains at Torrens Bore and Horton Park Station. Wildlife such as Emu, Kangaroo, and Wedge-Tail eagles are commonly sighted.
- The Jump-Ups Loop Road: The ancient landforms that are known as the Jump-Ups are the remains of an ancient mountain range that have been eroded down over millions of years leaving the 150m plateau (Mesa) and the granite strewn plains which form the catchment of the Connia Creek (Ephemeral) which follows south-east into the Twelve Mile creek.
- Cameron Corner: The drive from Tibooburra to Cameron Corner takes the visitor through a diverse landscape including the Waka claypan, past Fort Grey which was provisions stockade built by explorer Charles Sturt for his inland expeditions, and on to the Corner and the world’s longest fence; the 5,000+ km Dog Fence which was constructed to keep roaming Dingos of the north and west out of the pastoral lands of NSW.
Sturt National Park Visitor Information:
- Park Office: Briscoe Street, Tibooburra NSW
- Website: Sturt NP
- Telephone 08 80913308