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      girraween > history

This speech was given by Paul to park visitors during the early 1980s. Since that time, more species of plants and animals have been discovered in the park, so some of the numbers given in this speech are now out-dated.

A Welcome to Girraween

As a representative of the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, I welcome you to Girraween National Park and hope that your visit is a memorable one.

To prepare you for your experience, I will give you a brief outline on the background of the park before you start out on your walks.

At first glance many visitors assume that the huge boulders and rock outcrops that figure prominently at Girraween were created by a massive volcanic upheaval. This is not quite correct. The scientific explanation of Girraween's present landscape is quite complex and is occasionally being revised. However, to put it fairly simply, all the rock surface that you see is granitic. The current theory is that when it was in its molten state, millions of years ago, it lay buried beneath layers of sedimentary and volcanic rock. The granitic molten rock cooled very slowly. Cracks formed and molten residue was forced up through these cracks creating the dykes or jointing you will now see on areas such as Pyramid Rock. After the cooling process, the overlaying material was eroded away over millions of years, leaving the granite exposed. Weathering and erosion have helped to form the unusual shapes of the granite boulders and tors you see nowadays.

Girraween is situated approximately 160 kilometres due west (or inland) from Cape Byron and its eastern and southern boundary is formed by the Great Divide, which also forms the Queensland/New South Wales state border. Because Girraween is west of the Great Divide, all streams rising within the park's boundaries eventually run into the Darling River system, which, as you all probably know, runs into Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. I hope that doesn't give any of you ideas about launching messages in bottles to your southern relatives or friends to save on stamps!

Altitudes in the park range from 800 metres (or 2,620 feet) to 1,270 metres (or 4,170 feet), above sea level, which should give you all a clue why it is so much cooler here. The district that Girraween is a part of is known as the Granite Belt, which is the northernmost region of the New England Tableland. Because of its location and altitude, Girraween experiences a temperate climate with warm to mild summers and cool winters - when grass temperatures fall as low as minus 12 degrees Celsius.

The yearly average rainfall is approximately 880 mm (or 34 inches). Most of the rain falls in summer, though we can't always count on that, much to the occasional dismay of thwarted would-be swimmers!

Due to the low temperatures in winter and the scarcity of known aboriginal sites, it is thought that the aboriginal tribe who frequented this area would have visited here only in the warmer pants of the year. From historical records, the aboriginal tribe's name was Kam-bu-wal and they were nomadic with a territory ranging from here to Millmerran. Compare the effort required of one of their "trips" to the relative ease of your trip to here today.

The explorer, Allan Cunningham, traversed this area in 1828 and was followed by prospectors and settlers who arrived to take up selection in the 1840s. Large sheep properties such as Ballandean Station - diminished, but still existing nowadays - covered the major part of the existing park. Due to grazing and burning off, during those times the vegetation of the area would have been much sparser than it is now. In the 1920s and '30s, a Doctor Roberts, who had a practice in Stanthorpe and used to regularly visit this area by horse and buggy, realised the aesthetic and biological value of the area and applied pressure on the Queensland government to declare a national park in this region. In 1932 two areas of land were gazetted as national parks - Bald Rock Creek National Park and Castle Rock National Park. In 1965 these two parks were linked together by the acquisition of an orchard property, where the park facilities are now situated. The consolidated park was then re-named "Girraween", a widely-used aboriginal name meaning "the place of flowers". Since then, more land has been acquired to expand the park to its current size of 11,000 hectares. This expansion resulted from the necessity to include valuable ecological areas and the watershed of Bald Rock Creek within the park.

Some unique animals and plants are, in Queensland, found only in Girraween and in other undisturbed areas of the Granite Belt. The Superb Lyrebird famous for its mimicry, spectacular plumage and its animated courtship display, and usually associated with the Victorian tall forests, can sometimes be heard or seen while you're walking quietly through its Summer habitat - the sheltered gullies - or on the ridges, which are this bird's winter retreat. Don't be disappointed if you can't see one. They are very shy.

Another inhabitant of the park, the Common Wombat, is also very timid and, because it does most of its feeding at night, your chances of observing it are considerably reduced. The wombats' burrows, diggings, and droppings are seen quite often, which suggests that numbers may be plentiful even though wombats are seldom seen.

There are many animals and birds at Girraween that can be seen with ease. These include wallaroos, Red-necked and Swamp Wallabies, numerous lizards, some snakes, possums - at night - and some of the 140 species of birds that have been recorded in the park. A bird-key, which is available from this office, has been produced by Service staff. This key, in conjunction with the aid of a pair of binoculars, can help you to identify some of the commoner birds of Girraween. This exercise will help extend your ability to be more observant of, and more sensitive to, your surroundings.

The predominant vegetation type at Girraween is known as Open-forest. Within this Open-forest are approximately 20 species of eucalypts forming the canopy with 500 species of other smaller trees, shrubs, herbs, ferns, and mosses. These form an understory or grow in patches of open heath or on the forest floor. Because of the sub-alpine climate in the higher-altitude areas of the park, many of the plants growing there would not be found anywhere else in Qld. The only known natural stands of Wallangarra White Gum, Eucalyptus scoparia, are confined to the area around Mount Norman in Girraween National Park. Since eucalypts are predominantly an Australian genus, these stands could be rightly claimed as the only natural occurrence in the world of Wallangarra White Gum. Hence the importance of preserving the habitat of this and similarly-rare species within a National Park. For those of you with an interest in and an ability to recognise Australian trees and plants, a list of the majority of Girraween's flora is available, also from this office.

During your visit, be it short or long, you may be fortunate to chance upon some facet of nature you have never experienced before. But please remember, birds and animals will not rush out of the bush to greet you. Neither will the plants be flowering prolifically all the time. Seasons, habits, and habitats all rule the tempo of nature. It will take patient and diligent observation to see something extra-ordinary. The wonders of nature are all around you as you move through the park but you will need to use all your senses to begin to appreciate how marvelous and intricate nature is. Don't use only your eyes, but your senses of hearing, touch, and smell, then nature will start to unfold its wonders - not so secret after all. As an aid to you in this, the Service has published a walking track guide and a self guiding walk pamphlet. Please feel free to take and use these.

You will notice as you peruse our literature and read the signs around the park, there are regulations designed to help you care for your National Parks. People who are aware of the need for the conservation, not only of our wildlife, but also of our natural resources and those facilities provided, will not feel that such regulations are a restraint upon their enjoyment of the park. They will recognise that these regulations are a form of insurance that both they and future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty of such natural areas, whenever they visit them.

Please do not hesitate to return to this Centre later for clarification of any query you may have on any feature of the park.

© Vanessa and Chris Ryan, 2009 | Copyright Details and Disclaimer
Last updated: 23rd October 2015