This is a road trip visiting three of the more well-known national parks in
far western New South Wales: Mutawintji
(formerly Mootwingee), Kinchega and Mungo. The only large
town in the area is Broken Hill, and you can count the other settlements on the
fingers of one hand. Using both hands you can almost count their combined
populations too. Parts of the route follow the meandering Darling River, which
offers great camping opportunities - camping at Coach and Horses campground was
worth it for the dawn chorus of butcherbirds alone.
Mutawintji is probably the most scenic of the three parks. The sandy beds of
the two main watercourses in the park, Homestead Creek and Mutawintji Creek are
home to large red gum trees. The creeks are incised into the red rock of the
Byngnano Range, and the upper parts of Homestead Creek are dotted with small
rock pools and cascades if the creek is running. Cypress pines and Mulga trees
grow amongst the rocky outcrops at higher elevations. It's also renowned for
its Aboriginal rock art, and remains a culturally significant site.
Kinchega is bounded on the east by the Darling River, and contains several
large, shallow lakes.
Mungo is best known for its archaeological significance, with human remains
dating back 40,000 years being discovered there in the 1960s and 70s.
A fair bit of the route is on unsealed roads which become impassable, even
to 4WD vehicles, after just an hour or two of rain. These roads are made of
clay and silt, and provide about as much traction as an ice-skating rink when
wet. Check with the local police or other authorities about road closures.
Looking west from the ancient shoreline of Lake Mungo.
Tens of thousands of years ago the lake was full, and life thrived around
its shores. Just to the right of this spot is the area where human remains
dating back 40,000 years were discovered.
In the late 1800s, a woolshed and yards were built near the western edge of the
ancient Lake Mungo basin. The shed and these fences were built from the local
White Cypress Pine (Callitris columellaris). They've not succumbed to
termites, but the harsh climate has clearly taken its toll.
Until the introduction of sheep grazing in the 1880s, the dunes on the eastern
shore were stabilised by vegetation. Since then, erosion has taken its toll and
now the dunes near Vigars Wells are slowly moving eastwards, driven by the
On this trip I was accompanied by Judy, Steven and Stephen, seen here
clambering around the dunes near Vigars Wells. There's reliable water here via
a soak behind the dunes, and Cobb and Co coaches used to stop here in the
is a sparsely populated hamlet just outside Broken Hill. It started life as a
small mining town, but today its main claim to fame is the assortment of quirky
little art galleries.
More whimsy than you can poke a stick at
Starting from the main campground, the Byngnano Range loop walk in Mutawintji
National Park takes about five hours and provides great views of the park.
There had been a decent amount of rain in the previous week, so the creek was
merrily trickling its way from pool to pool.
A 180° view looking north from the highest point on the Byngnano Range
Just west of the main campground is a ridge, offering good views to the north
and west. A marked trail starting and ending at the campground takes a couple
Mutawintji, like many places in the outback with reliable creeks and
waterholes, is a magnet for birds.
Mutawintji Gorge is situated a few kilometres to the south of the main camping
area at Homestead Creek.
I saw this while walking to a cafe near the river.
The most popular campsites in Kinchega are probably those along the river
drive. A very windy road follows the meanders of the Darling River, and every
hundred metres or so there's a campsite like this.
To the west of the Darling are some of the Menindee Lakes. These ephemeral
lakes are now managed as water storages, and it's fairly common for them to be
very low or completely dry. Lake Cawndilla is the southern-most lake in
Kinchega, and had plenty of water in it.
At first I thought these purple flowers were Paterson's
Curse, but they're not. Any ideas?
Before it became a national park, Kinhega was a sheep station. Scattered around
the shearers' quarters and woolshed is a collection of 19th century farm
...And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars...
Just off the road north of Pooncarie is a prime example of one of the majestic
meanders of the Darling River.