STIRLING RANGE NATIONAL PARK
HEMA map reference 74/H6
GPS 34 22 10 S 118 14 25" E
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Park size: 115,920 Ha.
Ensign Robert Dale was the first European land based explorer to sight the range in 1832 - another source states that Dr. Alexander Collie was the first to describe the range in 1831. The confusion probably came about because Collie saw the range from a distance but Dale was probably the first European to actually set foot on the range.
It is thought that Mathew Flinders aboard the Investigator may have sighted the range from the sea as early as 1801 and called the formation Mount Rugged.
The range was named named three years after Dale's expedition by J.S. Roe after Captain Stirling who was the Governor of the Swan River Colony. (The Aboriginal name for the range was 'Koi Kyen-eu-ruff'.)
In Roe's journal the ranges are described as:
'The Stirling Range burst on our view in great magnificence as we rounded the crest...The whole extent of the conical summits were spread before us.'
The Stirling Range that we see today was, 1,500 million years ago, part of a large lake that gradually filled with sediments. After the sediments had been turned into rock, geological forces pushed them upward to form one of the few true mountain ranges in W.A.
The area was first opened up by sandalwood cutters and they were followed by farmers hoping to establish wheat farms. Chester Pass Road, that today is a main access road to the range, was one of the earliest tracks that connected the agricultural land to Albany. It wasn't until 1948 that significant clearing for farms took place. Prior to this the soils had been too impoverished to support intensive farming but after the introduction of essential trace elements, farming in the region expanded very quickly.
The explosion of agricultural development did not affect the range as it had been declared a national park in 1913.
The park is known for the variety of flowers and the number of bird species it contains. To date nearly 190 species of birds have been identified in the park. Estimates for the types of wildflowers range over 1500 including 128 species of orchid. There are 87 plant species that occur nowhere else and the area contains a greater variety of flora than the whole of Britain. 38% of all Western Australian orchid species can be found within the boundaries of the park.
The wildflowers in the elevated sections of the park are at their best in October whereas on the lowlands the wildflowers are already in retreat at that time of year.
Although the flora of the park has survived relatively intact, mammal species in the area have declined and in some instances have become extinct. Animals such as the boodie, that were once common, have vanished from the mainland and only remnant populations exist on offshore island. The mystery of mammal disappearance in this national park is perplexing as populations of the same animals manage to exist in far smaller and more developed areas in other parts of the state. It is thought that a combination of factors such as the introduction of foxes and cats, altered fire patterns and dieback disease have all contributed to the loss of mammal species.
This ancient range of hills lies to the north of Mount Barker in the state's south. It is a bushwalker's paradise, with many trails leading to splendid views from peaks like Bluff Knoll. (At 1095 metres high Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the south west.)
The range is roughly 80 (one source says 65) kilometres long and 16 kilometres wide. It is also one of the few places in the state where snow is a regular occurrence in winter.
There are 15 peaks which exceed 900 meters and 50 which exceed 600 meters. There are several major walk trails in the park and a brochure is available from CALM.
Walking is not advised during wet or windy conditions or during periods of extreme heat in summer.
One camp ground is available in the park at Moingup Springs.
Best time to visit: