northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina
Heathcote-Graytown National Park
including Mt. Ida, Mt. Black and Dargile Forest
Victoria's largest remaining box-ironbark forest covers about 30,000 hectares between Heathcote and Nagambie.
Proclaimed in 2002, Heathcote-Graytown National
Park covers 12,833ha of this area.
The Spring Creek Nature Conservation
Reserve, which is surrounded by the park, covers a further 401ha and the Whroo Nature Conservation
Reserve to the north of the park covers a further 2,298 hectares.
Some of the forest lies outside the park within the Puckapunyal Military Area.
Most of the remaining area of forest is multi-use State Forest.
The National Park does not include the forested area immediately south of the township of Rushworth There was much opposition from many townsfolk to the creation of a park which included forests near the town.
The park also excludes the Whroo area. However, Whroo is a separate conservation reserve and is covered on this page.
The forest is home to several threatened species including the crimson-spider orchid, tuan (squirrel glider) and, in Winter, swift parrot.
Box and, in places, Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa) dominate much of the forest. Understorey plants are many and varied, and include Golden Wattle (Acacia acinacia) and Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata). Many of the plants in the park are also found in the Greater Bendigo National Park. There is a separate page on plants of that park.
The area has experienced geological activity which has resulted in folding. The sandstone ridges contain fossilised sea-shells, indicating that the area was once under sea water.
Neither timber cutting nor grazing is permitted in Heathcote-Graytown National Park. Shooting is prohibited. Dogs are only permitted in the Mt Ida area and must be kept on a leash. Trail bikes must be registered and are only permitted on formed roads; drivers must be licensed and wear a helmet. Horse riding is permitted on formed roads.
Ida is located alongside the Northern Highway just north of Heathcote,
half an hour south of Echuca. From its summit all the way north to New
Guinea there is no higher hill. Mt Ida, which was a flora reserve for many years, is now
part of the new Heathcote-Graytown National Park.
Several decades ago, a resident
of the area is said to have discovered minerals in Queensland, naming
the area of his find after Mt. Ida, near which he had lived, but substituting
the d for a dollar sign, i.e. Mt. Isa. The story may be a furphy but
it's a good one.
Mt Ida has
its riches too. But the riches lie not in metals, (although gold mining
occurred around here and accounts for the establishment of the nearby
town of Heathcote), but in its diversity of flora. The north slopes
are not as densely vegetated as the south-facing slopes because the
southern slopes are cooler and wetter. On the western side, along the
Northern Highway (B75) there is a stand of Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon). Further east
is Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and Red Stringybark . Then, in Dargile Forest, the box forest gives way to Red
Ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa). River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis), Yellow Box (E. melliodora),
and Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) grow along some of the gullies and creeks. Some of
the other plants found here include Daphne Heath (Brachyloma daphnoides), Flame Heath (Astroloma conostephioides), Spider Flower (Grevillea alpina) and a wealth of wattles, including Gold-dust Wattle (Acacia acinacea).
Grass Trees are common further east, near Mt Black. The area is best
visited in Spring.
a vehicular track from the Northern Highway to the summit of Mt Ida
where it is relatively easy to find fossils in rocks. There is a basic
picnic ground near the Highway. Bushwalkers can walk from Mt. Ida into
Heathcote but the appropriate topographic maps and a compass should
be carried. An even better walk is to walk a circuit incorporating Plantation
Track and the Dargile Forest.
SEE BUSHWALKING SECTION BELOW.
an excellent camping and picnic ground, with toilets, off Plantation
Track, in the Dargile Forest. Plantation Road and the picnic area can be accessed via the Heathcote-Rochester (Colbinabbin)
Road and Hicks Track OR via the Heathcote-North Costerfield Road.
The wildflower display around the picnic ground is often good in Spring. A useful reference to the wildflowers found here is a guide book to the plants of Victoria's Box-Ironbark country published by the Victorian National Parks Association.
Many of the trees around the picnic ground have
Two marked walking circuits start and end at the picnic ground.
Further from the picnic ground is an ironbark forest which
also supports a magnificent display of wildflowers in spring, provided, however,
the winter has been reasonably wet.
Back in the 1980s, it was proposed that the Dargile Forest be used as a toxic waste dump. There was much opposition to this proposal, especially from one of the local newspapers. Eventually, the plan was dumped.
extends eastward toward, a locality known as Graytown, which once had
a population of several thousand. Today, the town is no more.
The former Mt Black Flora Reserve,
which offers superb views, is part of this new National Park and is
popular with bird watchers and bush walker.
Mt Black is the highest point in the area. It was the quarry source for the nearby Goulburn Weir. There is a walking track from Mt Black Quarry Road to the summit. Walkers are advised to note the ridge on which they approach the summit as there are several radiating ridges and it is very easy to take the wrong ridge and become disorientated.
To the east of Mt Black Quarry Road is an extensive area of Chinese Scrub (Cassinia arcuata). Also known as Drooping Cassinia, Chinese Scrub is a colonising plant which gives way to other plants as climax vegetation is approached. Unfortunately, it is quite flammable and so is sometimes targeted in fuel-reduction burns, especially if dwellings are located nearby.
Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea australis) are common in the Mt Black area. These grow very slowly and are most likely to flower following a fire. This plant is very sensitive to Cinnamon Fungus so visitors should try not to spread the disease (e.g. by washing boots before and after use and by keeping to marked tracks).
The owner of an adjoining 257ha property (with a Trust for Nature covenant) offers accommodation and birdwatching tours. If interested, contact Manfred Ruff on his mobile +61 (0) 408 548 840
It is possible to see marked changes in the vegetation as one travels
in a north-south direction through the park.
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Spring Creek Nature Conservation Reserve
Situated north of Graytown and west of Mt. Black, the 401 hectare Spring Creek Nature Conservation Reserve lies within the boundaries of the Heathcote-Graytown National Par. A management plan covers both the national park and the conservation reserve.
Over 100 years ago, thousands of people flocked to Whroo seeking their fortune. Much evidence of the gold rush remain to this day: whims, mine shafts and the Balaclava open cut mine..
There is a kiosk at Whroo.The kiosk, which is now also a residence, has recently had a change of owner. It is often open on weekends and public holidays.
Alongside the closed kiosk is a picnic ground with toilet facilities. From the picnic ground is a walking circuit which runs partly around the edge of the open-cut but which also descends into it and through a tunnel. Allow about two hours to complete the circuit.
Some distance from the picnic ground, another walking track goes through the old township of Whroo to Whroo Cemetery which contains about 340 graves. Beyond the cemetery is a water source, the Ngurai-illam-wurrung rock well. Apart from historical remains, the cemetery and the well, the walking track is good for bird-watching. This track can be competed in less than an hour, even allowing for stops.
NOTE: The kiosk has closed and is unlikely to re-open.
Other sections of the forest
also extends into the large Puckapunyal Military Training Area. The
military reserve is a retreat for emus and is where some of the oldest
ironbarks can be found.
Apart from the military area, the National Park, Spring Creek and the Whroo area, most of the remaining area of forest is multi-use State Forest.
is bordered on the west by a number of vineyards which produce shiraz
of outstanding quality.
often good in the forest, with a mix of northern and southern birds, especially
from Spring through to Autumn. Bird observers regard the Whroo area as one of
the best birding areas in the State, particularly when the ironbark
is in flower.
The small timber industry is based in Rushworth and mills mainly Ironbark.
Mt Ida-Dargile Forest Walk (15km; medium ~ steep sections and rocky ground ~ six hours, including lunch break).
This walk is not signposted.
Near Heathcote, an hour south of Echuca, is Mt Ida, now part of the
Heathcote-Graytown National Park. It is a good idea to obtain maps of
this area and to plan a circuit taking in the former Mt Ida Flora Reserve
and the Dargile Ironbark Forest to the east (both of which have been incorporated
into the new National Park). The picnic ground in the Killawarra Forest is worth incorporating into the walk. The vegetation around the picnic ground features Ironbarks and some plants introduced from outside the area. By contrast, the area to the west is Box Forest.
From Heathcote, drive north on the B75 (northern Highway) for about 4km, driving past a small electricity sub0-station. About half a kilometre north of the sub-station (opposite a vineyard), turn right (east) onto Mount Ida Tower Road. Follow this track for about 2km, at the back of some allotments. Where the track turns sharply right and uphill, park your vehicle in short side-track. In early spring, the wildflower display in this area is sometimes sensational (e.g. Gold-dust Wattle, Astroloma, Tea-tree, Guinea Flower, Grevillea alpina and Heath Myrtle).
Having parked your vehicle, walk uphill along the road until you see a track heading north signed Management Vehicles Only. Follow this track (Unnamed Track 82) until you come to a track heading off to the right (Unnamed Track 80). This track heads uphill and eventually joins the Mt Ida Tower Road just short of the summit. After enjoying the views from the summit, retrace your steps for about a kilometre until you reach a track heading downhill and east. The intersection is marked with a number of cairns. Proceed downhill until Rodney track is reached. Follow Rodney Track and turn north (left) onto Dargile Track. Follow this track to Dargile Picnic Ground. The last part of the track is a marked walking trail (Wattle Gully Walk).
* Map extract only. For more information, visit the ParkWeb site about Heathcote-Graytown National Park and refer to VicMap 1:25,000 Lady's Pass and 1:25,000 Mount Ida available from Information Victoria by mail order.
There are toilets in the picnic ground. From the picnic ground, follow the walking tracks to Plantation Track and follow it west to pick up Rodney Track again. Leave Rodney Track after about 3km and follow Unnamed Tracks 80 and 82 back to your vehicle.
Walking tracks from Dargile Picnic Ground (easy; half day).
Two walking circuits leave the Dargile Picnic Ground. These are clearly sign-posted. RT he Wattle Gully walk is particularly good and follows flattish ground.
The Whroo area is also popular with bird observers but much of the ground is uneven as a result of gold mining. The unevenness of the ground and old mine shafts detracts from the area as far as bushwalking is concerned. However, woth doing is the marked short half day walking trail which starts in the picnic ground (near a closed kiosk) and circles the Balaclava Open Cut. There is also a walking trail in the vicinity of the nearby cemetery.
It is possible to walk to the summit of Mount Black. There are several ridges radiating from the summit, so be careful to take the same ridge back. It is possible to do a good circuit walk in this area. Access Mount Black via Mt Black Quarry Road.
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Potential threats facing the park
- climate change, resulting in increased temperatures, reduced rainfall and increased incidence of storms and fires
- lack of policing and enforcement of park rules, resulting in tree removal, fires, rubbish deposition, vandalism
(which may result in a loss of bio-diversity and which may further threaten already endangered species)
- weed encroachment
animals (e.g. rabbits, goats, hares)
- the spread of Cinnamon fungus
- damage caused by vehicles driving off roads
Heathcote Graytown National Park
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