AUSTRALIA

DORRIGO NATIONAL PARK

The following Web site is a brief history of the Dorrigo region and the beautiful Dorrigo National Park located on the North Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

         

HISTORY

Dorrigo National Park forms part of the World Heritage listed, Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves of Australia. the 11 871ha park, proclaimed in October 1967, is situated in Northern New South Wales. Conserving one of the major areas of rainforest distribution in New South Wales, it encompasses the Dorrigo escarpment.

Gumbayngirr Aborigines from the coastal areas once travelled to the rainforest in search of food during summer months. the high rainfall and damp conditions possibly restricted their permanent habitation in the forest and it is unlikely that they spent much time there. thee are suggestions the name 'Dorrigo' is derived from the Koori words for the tallow wood tree, 'Dundurringbah' or 'Dundurrigo', place of the stringybark tree, or 'Dundurrabin', place where you can go no further, maybe meaning the Dorrigo Escarpment. However, the more commonly accepted derivation is that Major Parke, the original settler of Dorrigo township, named it after the Spanish General, Don Dorrigo. 'The first European to discover the Dorrigo-Guy Fawkes Plateau was Richard Craig. he had escaped from the Moreton Penal colony in Brisbane and learned the Aboriginal ways whilst hiding out in the rugged country. Using his skills as a horseman and his knowledge of the Clarence and Nymboida Rivers, he ultimately pushed a trail, Craig's Line, from Guy Fawkes to The Settlement at South Grafton. this indirectly opened the area to settlement and the subsequent cedar trade.

Timbergetters harvesting red cedar entered the forests in the 1830s. Farming lands were already established in the nearby New England region and were spreading towards the Dorrigo Plateau. Despite this, the steep escarpments still prevented easy access to the Coast where goods needed to be transported for shipment to Sydney. Dairy farms were established on the cleared section, leaving very little temperate rainforest covering the Plateau. The supply of accessible and cedar, beech and rosewood west of the coast began to dwindle and the timbergetters gradually pushed into the gullies and valleys along the Bellinger River.

The first bridle track from Dorrigo to Bellingen was surveyed in 1876 and road construction  began in 1882. Valuable supplies of hoop pine also known as Dorrigo pine, were discovered on the Plateau. W.J. Hammond acquired a lease on a corridor of land for a pine-shoot in 1910. Local businessmen then formed a Syndicate to build an inclined tramline to transport hoop pine from the Plateau to the timber mills in Bellingen. From there, it was shipped to Sydney. Hoop pine was used extensively for household joinery, furniture and butter boxes and the high demand for timber soon depleted the forest of pine. the tramline, known locally as 'The Pine Line', was constructed of locally cut timber. it was two miles long and climbed 2,600 feet in altitude. The rails were built of 6"x 4" brushbox and the sleepers were split hardwood placed at two-foot centres and notched to take the ails, at a gauge of four feet. Wooden trestle bridges were built over the gullies and hundreds of rough posts were sunk into the ground to anchor the track to the mountainside. Trolleys built of 6" x 9" beams, were approximately 14 feet long and five feet wide, with 18" cast iron wheels. The winching station, built halfway up the line on a rare flat piece of land, controlled the ascent and descent of the trucks. the station operator kept in touch with the drivers of the two trucks via a telephone line that ran parallel in the tramway. the logging tramway operated along the Syndicate Ridge from 1913, until its closure in 1928. The plant was auctioned in 1929. the syndicate ridge Walking Track, opened in 1988, now follows the remains of the tramline from the Valley to the Plateau.  

Coachwood trees were harvested on the Plateau for construction of Spitfires during World War II and later to make school desks for the Department of Education.

Two small areas were reserved for public recreation and to protect flora and fauna habitats from further logging in 1901. These formed the nucleus of what is now Dorrigo National Park. Managed by a local trust for the first 75 years, flora and fauna were diligently protected. By the 1950s logging had ceased in most areas, but in 1967 the trust strongly opposed, and were successful in halting a proposal to log a further section of the Park. NPWS have controlled these reserves and additional parcels of land since the Wildlife Act was declared in 1967.

The acclaimed Dorrigo Rainforest Centre was opened in 1991 and is manned by NPWS staff. It has won many tourism awards and provides 180,000 annual visitors with access to the outstanding rainforest, as well as interpretive educational displays relating to the evolution of rainforests and their diverse wildlife.

FEATURES

Rugged escarpments have been formed where the terrain drops sharply from the 900m edge of the Dorrigo Plateau to the valleys of 700m below. the Ebor volcano, active until 18 million yhears ago, was responsible for the basaltic lava flows and rich soils. In the valley, less fertile yellow clay soils remain where the basalt has eroded, leaving rocks laid down at an earlier time. Waterfalls are a notable feature of this escarpment park and include Sherrand and Never Falls on the Waterfall ay. Crystal shower and Tristania Falls along the Wonga walk and Cedar and Coachwood Falls on the rosewood Creek, Cedar Falls circuit.

Dorrigo National Park protects areas containing plant and animal communities typical of the eastern rim of the New England Tablelands. High rainfall and moist conditions nurture subtropical, warm and cool temperate rainforests. Subtropical rainforest grows in the richer soils and supports huge, buttressed yellow carabeens, black booyongs ahnd bungalow palms. Strangler figs germinate high in the canopy and vines loop from the branches. Elkhorns, staghorns, crows nest ferns, cunjevoi, ferns and mosses create a vivid green forest, splashed with deep red flowers of flame trees in earlyh summer. the unusual pothos vine with its candle-shaped leaf covers the trunks of many trees, but rarely climbs more than 6m from the ground. The 'candle' is the stem of the vine and the 'flame' is the leaf. both contain chlorophuyll, allowing it to survive in very low light. Beware of the huge dinner plate shaped leaves of the stinging tree, or gympie gympie, as you make your way along the tracks. These leaves are riddled with holes from insect attack and cause a painful sting when touched. 

Warm temperate rainforests form the remaining areas of Don Dorrigo Scrub. Plants are similar to those found in the northern areas of the State. Growing in the less fertile clay soils, coachwood, calicona, sassafras, corkwood and prickly ash often support twisted, woody vines. The bright red flower of the Dorrigo waratah and the large blackish-reddish fruits of the Dorrigo plum, both add splashes of colour to the warm temperate rainforests. Only small patches of cool temperate rainforest exist, with stands of Antarctic beech being the most significant trees. Examples of this are seen at Lanes Lookout and along the Escarpment Track to the Syndicate Track. Sydney blue gum, blackbutt and tallow wood are the most common trees in the moist eucalypt forests. Severe winter frosts may have been responsible for creating several heath and grassland areas along the Plateau. Killungoondie Plain, a naturally occurring grassland is similar to 'bolds' in Queensland's Bunya Mountains National Park.

Typical rainforest inhabitants include: Lewin's and scarlet honeyeaters, yellow robins, white-throated treecreepers, logrunners, noisy pittas, white-browed scrubwrens, Austarlian ground thrushes, spectacled monarchs and grey and rufous fantails. Brown cuckoo doves, rose-crowned fruit-doves, wonga pigeons and topknot pigeons feed on fruits and berries in the Park, along with rainbow lorikeets, king parrots and crimson rosellas. paradise riflebirds, boobook owls and marbled frogmouths are occasionally spotted, along with the vulnerable yellow-tailed black cockatoos. Brush-turkeys, pied currawongs, satin bowerbirds, catbirds and kookaburras are all common around picnic areas and the beautiful song of superb lyrebirds often wafts up from the valley floor.

Grey kangaroos, swamp-wallabies, red-necked and red-legged pademelons, ringtail and brushtail possums, sugar, pygmy and greater gliders, bandicoots, echidnas and koalas have all been recorded, along with carnivorous brush-tailed phascogales and spotted-tailed quolls. Platypus are occasionally spotted in the streams.

Dorrigo is the southern limit for the pouched frog.

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(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 19th November 2009)