Nearest town: Location
Coordinates: 34°24′S 118°09′E
Park fee: $11
AKA: Stirling Ranges
Where is it?: Approximately 90km north-east of Albany via Chester Pass Road.
Travelling time: Just over one hour from Albany.
Total area: 115,920ha.
What to see and do: Bushwalking, mountain climbing, camping, picnicking, bird watching, wildflower viewing.
Camping: For more information, please visit DEC camping grounds
Facilities: Gas barbecues, toilets and picnic tables. There is a camping area at Moingup Springs.
About 80km north of Albany, the rugged peaks of the Stirling Range begin to rise abruptly from a surrounding landscape of lowlands. The range, which stretches east-west for more than 65km between Mt Barker and Cranbrook and eastward past Gnowangerup, is characterised by stark cliff faces, magnificent views and vibrantly coloured flora. The brooding beauty of the landscape, its stunning and unique wildflowers and the challenge of climbing Bluff Knoll have long drawn bushwalkers and climbers to the Stirling Range National Park.
At 1,095m above sea level, Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the south-west of Western Australia - its main face forms one of the most impressive cliffs on the Australian mainland and takes three to four hours to complete the 6km return climb.
The Stirling Range is approximately 337km from Perth and 90km from Albany and was formed from metamorphic rocks created from sediments deposited during the Ediacaran period – 640 to 543 million years ago, which is indicated by the presence of characteristic fossils.
The range is one of the world’s richest areas for flora with more than 1,500 plant species growing there. This represents more than a third of the known flora of the south west of WA and includes more species of wildflowers than in the entire British Isles. Eighty-seven species, including nine endemic mountain bells, are found nowhere else on Earth. Spring is commemorated in late August with the flowering of the queen of sheba orchid and lasts through to December, when many flowers bloom on the mountain tops. For thousands of years, the plains around the Stirling Range were the hunting grounds for small groups of Aboriginals. At least two tribes frequented the area - the Qaaniyan people in the west and the Koreng people in the east.
It is thought they wore kangaroo-skin cloaks during winter and built small, conical huts to protect themselves from the elements. They called Bluff Knoll Bular Mial (Many Eyes) or Bala Mial (His Eyes), because parts of it it were shaped like the eyes of the ancestral master spirit. Bluff Knoll's peak is often covered with mist which Aboriginals believed was the only visible form of the Noyt (Spirit).
The explorer Matthew Flinders was the first known European to sight the Stirling Range, recording them on January 5, 1802. In April 1831 Alexander Collie recorded the range's Aboriginal name Koi Kyennu-ruff, which was providedto him by his friend and guide, Mokare and gave European names to its main peaks. In 1832, Robert Dale led an expedition to the range, making the first recorded ascent of a peak on January 24, when he climbed Toolbrunup.
In October 1835, Western Australia’s first Governor James Stirling and Surveyor General John Septimus Roe led an expedition from Albany to Perth. They first saw the Stirling Range on November 3 and after travelling closer to the elevated peaks the following day Roe named them after the governor.
Early European exploitation of the range included sandalwood cutting and kangaroo hunting. It appears the range was never taken up for grazing, possibly because a number of poison bushes grow in the area. The area now known as the Stirling Range National Park was temporarily reserved in April 1908 and formally gazetted as WA’s third national park in June 1913 covering 1,159sq km.
As the only vertical obstacle in any direction, the range alters weather patterns around itself. Its upper slopes receive significantly more rainfall than surrounding areas. Much of the branch of the Kalgan River on the south-western border of the park is fed from precipitation falling in the western half of the range.
The range has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because it supports populations of endangered short-billed black cockatoos and western whipbirds and is visited by endangered long-billed black-cockatoos. Many other significant species are found in the area including red-capped and regent parrots, western rosellas, rufous treecreepers, red-winged and blue-breasted fairywrens, purple-gaped honeyeaters, western spinebills, western thornbills, western yellow and white-breasted robins and red-eared firetails.
Notable features of the range include Toolbrunup (1,052m) Ellen Peak (1,012m), Mt Trio (856m), Mt Magog (856m), Mt Hassell (847m) Talyuberlup Peak (783m) and Bluff Knoll (1,095m), which is the highest peak for more than 1,000km and the park’s most popular tourist attraction. Popular activities include bushwalking, abseiling and gliding. Camping is not permitted within the park boundaries.
Buried deep in the Earth's crust, the rocks forming the Stirling Range were gradually exposed over further millenia as the surrounding stone was worn away by weathering and erosion. It was during this natural process that the range's shape was created.
For further information and to download a PDF about the Stirling Range National Park go to: http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/component/option,com_hotproperty/task,view/id,63/Itemid,755/