Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Cocoparra National Park

Wattles, orchids and blue-tinged cypress pines contrast against rich red rocks in one of the Riverina's rare forest remnants. After very heavy rains the rivers swell, waterfalls leap into life and the land is bright with wildflowers.

Native plant communities

Woodlands are the predominant plant communities of Cocoparra National Park. Different forms are found across the park and these communities vary according to soil type and aspect.

The low woodland community consists of Dwyer's mallee gum, white cypress pine, currawang and a low, open shrub layer. You can see this community on the western slopes from Homestead Creek to Store Creek, and it's the major woodland association in the park.

You'll find bimble box and white cypress pine woodland on the low slopes, mostly on the western side of the park. This association includes Blakely's gum, common along creek lines, and yarran, found on alluvial soils of the Whitton Stock Route.

The woodlands of the sheltered gullies are dominated by eucalypts, usually:
  • bimble box or Dwyer's gum
  • ironbark
  • Blakely's gum
  • yellow box.
White cypress pine also usually occurs and Deane's wattle and currawang are common, but the shrub layer is usually sparse apart from hill tea-tree. You can find examples of this in the lower valleys and along creek lines.

Red stringybark woodlands are dominated by Dwyer's gum and black cypress pine. The shrub layer is frequently well developed with wattles, rusty spider-flower, guinea flower, pomaderris and daisies. This association occurs in sheltered gullies and gorges, particularly on the eastern side of Mt Bingar and in Shingled Hut Creek.


The shrubland plant community is dominated by broombush (Melaleuca uncinata). This scattered plant community occurs in the adjoining nature reserve between Washpool and Ironbark Creeks, and in two east facing side gullies of Cocoparra Creek.
The grassland areas of the park were formerly open woodlands of bimble box or yellow box which were disturbed by clearing for crops and grazing.

The herb layer is dominated by introduced weeds and pasture species such as Patterson's curse and saffron thistle. Some patchy recolonisation by Deane's wattle (Acacia deanei) is occurring. You can see examples of this plant community on the lower parts of wider valleys such as Woolshed Flat.

Native animals

The monotreme echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) occurs in Cocoparra National Park and several species of mammal have also been recorded, for example:
  • eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus)
  • western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus)
  • red kangaroos (Macropus rufus)
  • swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor)
  • brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula)
  • yellow-footed antechinuses (Antechinus flavipes)
  • eight species of bat including the white-striped mastiff bat (Tadarida australis).
You'll see western grey kangaroos throughout the park, grazing on the clear grasslands and open valley floors. The grey kangaroo is predominantly a grazier, able to eat coarse grasses, but will also browse on selected shrubs.

The yellow-footed antechinus is a small nocturnal marsupial, found in a broad range of habitats. Its diet consists mostly of insects but it may also feed on flowers, small birds and house mice. You can tell an antechinus by its distinct change in fur colour from its slate-grey head to warm rufous rump, feet, belly and sides. It also has prominent light eye-rings and a black tip to its tail (Strahan 1998).

Approximately 150 bird species have been recorded in the park and adjoining nature reserve. Some species visit the area seasonally, perhaps after rain or when the eucalypts and shrubs are flowering. Some are dependent on the woodland habitats of the range and are resident in the area, including:
  • red-rumped parrots
  • blue-faced honeyeaters
  • eastern robins
  • rufous whistlers
  • white-browed babbler
  • striated pardalote.
The eroded rock faces of the Cocoparra Range provide excellent nesting places for raptors such as the peregrine falcon. Emus are commonly seen in the cleared open grasslands.

A number of threatened birds are found in Cocoparra National Park, such as:
  • painted honeyeaters
  • superb parrots
  • turquoise parrots
  • glossy black cockatoos
  • chestnut quail-thrushes
  • Gilberts whistlers
  • shy hylacolas
  • Major Mitchell's cockatoos.
All but the superb parrot probably breed in the area.

You might see glossy black cockatoos feeding on the seeds of drooping she-oaks in the vicinity of Mt Brogden.

Reptiles and amphibians
More than 30 frog and reptile species have been seen in the park and adjoining nature reserve.

The park's rocky environment makes for perfect reptile habitats and during the spring months you'll see many geckos and skinks basking in the sun. Other common lizards found in the park include goannas, shinglebacks and bearded dragons.

The most commonly seen snakes are the red-bellied black snake, yellow-faced whip snake and western and eastern brown snakes. Steer clear of snakes if you see them because some are very dangerous.

The invertebrates of Cocoparra National Park are as diverse as their habitats. You're most likely to see butterflies, bush flies, moths and spiders. The wolf spider is often seen returning to its burrow after foraging for food at night.

Geology & landscape

How the park's landscape formed

The Cocoparra Range consists of conglomerates and sandstones which were formed around 400 million years ago. Local folding and weathering of the rock strata produced a hogsback range of cliffs and gorges.

The crest of the range lies on the eastern side of the national park and nature reserve and has a series of peaks - the highest is Mount Bingar at 455 m above sea level. The eastern edge of the range falls steeply to form a rocky escarpment. The western slopes are gently sloping and eroded into a series of deep east-west valleys, varying from steep gorges such as Jacks Creek to the relatively broad level valley formed by Woolshed Creek.

The valleys are fringed by steep rocky and eroded sides that contain overhangs and waterfalls. The streams, creeks and gullies only run for short periods after heavy rains, so the waterfalls are temporary by nature. There is permanent water in isolated springs and soaks.

Soils on the slopes and ridges are shallow clayey sands that are easily eroded. Deep sediments have built up on the valley floors from the erosion of the range, forming red and brown clayey sand and loam soils.

Weeds & pest animals

For more general information, go to the general pest management information on this website.

Weeds in the park

The main introduced weeds in the park are found in the cleared areas, and to a lesser extent in the woodlands that fringe the farmed areas outside the park. The majority of weed species would have been introduced when the land was used for sheep grazing and cropping.

Introduced plant species include boxthorn, Paterson's curse, horehound, saffron thistle, Bathurst burr and a number of pasture species. Most are not a major problem but horehound and Paterson's curse are widespread on the open valley floors, particularly at Woolshed Flat. These are likely to be reduced with the regeneration of native species.

Bridal creeper occurs in small patches in the Homestead Creek area, most likely introduced as an ornamental garden plant. This weed has the potential to spread and invade woodland areas.

Wherever you live, there are a few simple things you can do to stop the spread of weeds:
  • Don't dump weeds, prunings or grass clippings in the bush - they introduce new weeds and allow established weeds to spread further. Shred and compost garden weeds instead.
  • Keep weeds out of the waterways. Don't sweep or hose garden waste down the drain - it only ends up in our rivers, which can become clogged with exotic vegetation.
  • Grow natives, rather than introduced plants, in your garden. Popular flowers like nasturtium, lantana, honeysuckle, morning glory and black-eyed susan can all spread easily into native bushland. Other garden plants are equally dangerous.
  • Protect open spaces, both on your property and in public places. Keep these places weed free, and stop soil erosion by encouraging native plants to grow there.
  • Weed control programs

Control programs are regularly undertaken in the park. Programs of releasing biocontrol agents for the control of horehound and Patterson's curse have also involved the Department of Agriculture and CSIRO.

Annual spraying programs are in place to suppress and control the spread of weeds in the park. The spread of boxthorn has been substantially reduced so that there are now only minor infestations.

Pest animals

The main pest animals in the park are goats, foxes, rabbits and pigs. During the first hundred or so years after European settlement, various property owners grazed sheep in the ranges. They organised frequent shoots to lower the feral goat problem but during the war years this activity declined and so the population grew. Since the park's gazettal an aerial shooting program has reduced goat numbers significantly.

Foxes are a regional problem in the Riverina. There are surrounding properties that graze sheep, which provides the foxes with an endless food supply in the lambs, as well as native fauna.

Rabbit populations have been high in the past in and around the cleared flat areas, limiting their revegetation. The introduction of the rabbit calicivirus has led to a decline in the rabbit population.

A small number of pigs are known to inhabit the reserve and signs of their presence have been noted, especially next to the Whitton Stock Route. Currently they are not regarded as a serious threat but monitoring of their numbers will continue.

To reduce the impact of domestic animals on native environments, just follow these simple guidelines:
  • Keep your cat or dog indoors at dawn, dusk and night. Native animals are most vulnerable to attack at these times, when they do most of their feeding.
  • Attach loud bells to your pet's collar, to warn wildlife when they are around.
  • Make sure pet cats are desexed. Large numbers of feral cats already live in bushland areas, preying on native animals.
  • Please keep pets out of national parks and other conservation reserves.
  • Give lizards and small marsupials a refuge from cats and dogs, by placing terracotta pipes and piles of stones around your garden.
  • If you own a large property, fence off bush corridors for wildlife so they can safely move through cleared areas. Don't let livestock wander into national parks and other protected bushland areas.

Pest animal control programs

Goats and foxes pose a particular problem for native animals and control programs have concentrated on these two pest species. Programs are regularly undertaken with local landholders and the Rural Lands Protection Board.

The control program for foxes involves annual ground baiting in cooperation with neighbouring properties and the Rural Lands Protection Board, using the poison 1080.

Goat and pig numbers have been controlled through aerial shootings. It was estimated that some 2000 goats inhabited the ranges in 1990 and now the population is down to a manageable level of around 400.

Significant places & sites in the park

Steamboat Creek bridge

The park area since colonisation
The first Europeans to visit the area were John Oxley and the members of his 1817 expedition exploring the Lachlan Country. He described the area as '… abandoned … by every living creature that is capable of getting out'. Under Mt Brogden a member of the expedition planted oak, peach, apricot and quince seeds on the King's birthday to '… serve to commemorate the day and situation should those desolate plains be ever again visited by civilised man—of which however I think there is little probability.' Of course thousands of people now come each year to see the area's dramatic scenery.

A number of places of historical significance occur within Cocoparra National Park and the adjoining Cocoparra Nature Reserve. They relate to former pastoral activities or are associated with the old Cobb & Co route where the Whitton Stock Route is today. This route was used extensively by Cobb & Co stage coaches between Melbourne and Queensland in the late 19th century.

History of the park
On 9 July 1964 a meeting was held in Griffith with the idea of creating a national park in the Cocoparra Range. The meeting comprised representatives from the CSIRO, the Fauna Protection Panel, the National Parks Association of NSW, Wade Shire Council, Griffith Chamber of Commerce, various rural agencies and landholders with properties next to the Cocoparra Range.

It wasn't until November 1969, shortly after the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service was first formed, that an area of just under 8329 hectares was gazetted as Cocoparra National Park.

Sources & Further reading
Journey Back Through Time
Experience Australia
Aboriginal Australia
National Parks
Photo Galleries
Site Map
                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading