Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Australian Alps National Parks

Stretching from Canberra through the Brindabella Range to the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and along the Great Divide through eastern Victoria, Australia's alpine and subalpine environments are unique and special."

As a well-watered, snow-clad and mountainous area in a mostly dry and flat continent, the Australian Alps with 1.6 million hectares of protected areas are of great significance.
The parks contain plants and animals found nowhere else, a rich and diverse Aboriginal and European cultural heritage, magnificent outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities and the headwaters of some of Australia's most important rivers.

Victoria's Alpine National Park at 646,000 hectares is the State's largest and protects our highest mountains and varied alpine environments. Extensive snowfields are the primary winter attraction; the warmer months bring stunning wildflower displays and opportunities for bushwalks and four wheel driving. Enjoy varied and beautiful summer wildflowers, and discover a whole range of other plants and animals, all adapted to cope with climatic extremes. The Alpine National Park has the greatest range of flora and fauna of any national park in Victoria
With adjoining national parks in NSW and the ACT, The Alpine National Park forms a protected area that covers almost all of Australia's high country. It's one of eight Australian Alps national parks that are managed co-operatively to ensure that Australia's mainland alpine and sub-alpine environments are protected consistently and that policies and guidelines across State and territory borders are compatible. Australia's Alps are vitally important as a source of water in our dry continent. Most of the major rivers of south-eastern Australia have their sources there.

Things to Do
Skiing and other snow sports entice many thrill seekers to the park in the winter months. Downhill skiing is based at resorts such as Falls Creek and Mount Hotham, alternatively try cross-country skiing, perhaps with snow camping. Walking. From short strolls to the the 655 km Australian Alps Walking Track which traverses the Alps from Walhalla to Canberra.

WARNING: Ensure you are prepared for sudden weather changes on any walk, short or long. For information on walking tracks visit the Australian Alps National Parks website. Cycling. There are many great trails including the challenging Great Alpine Road which runs from Bright to Omeo. Fantastic opportunities for Four-Wheel Driving. NOTE: A number of tracks are closed seasonally to protect the environment. Hunting is permitted in accordance with regulations Fishing. Superb opportunities for river fishing in stunning alpine landscapes. Esp Brown Trout in King and Rose Rivers and at Lake William Hovell. Commercial tour operators offer a variety of activities such as horse riding, canoeing, rafting, rock climbing and mountain biking.

Accommodation ranges from bush camping to lodges and motels in surrounding towns, and in the adjacent ski resorts of Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Mt Buller and Dinner Plain.Facilities at picnic spots are generally limited to fireplaces, picnic tables, and in some cases toilets. Be self-sufficient with drinking water. Carry it in and/or know how to make untreated water safe for drinking. For more information contact Parks Victoria on 13 1963 or visit the Department of Human Services Better Health website

Aboriginal people went to and through the Alpine area over thousands of years, and knew its flora, fauna, geography and seasonal changes intimately. Groups visited the Alps in summer to hold ceremonies and gather the nutritious Bogong Moths that shelter there. Today, Aboriginal communities in Victoria, NSW and the ACT take a particular interest in the management and heritage of the high country. Much more of the Alps’ Aboriginal heritage was revealed by the fires of 2003 and archaeological surveys were carried out in the following year.

European pastoralists from NSW started moving south into the Alps in the 1830s. Grazing began around Omeo in 1836, and runs were taken up in the foothills. Summer grazing soon extended to the higher country, and huts were built there for shelter and storage during stock mustering. You can experience this history by visiting the cattlemen's huts dotted along the high plains or the ruins of Wonnangatta Station (home of the pioneer Bryce family for many years). Wallaces Hut near Falls Creek, built in 1889, is one of the oldest surviving huts in the area. Sadly many huts and other heritage sites were burnt in the fires of 2003.

From the 1850s to around 1900, gold lured many people to the Alps. Relics can still be seen in Historic Areas adjacent to the park, and towns like Dargo, Harrietville, Mitta Mitta, Omeo and Bright have strong links to the gold era.

The 1939 bushfires in the forests around Melbourne and the boom in house-building after World War II led to a greatly increased demand for timber from the Alps. This resulted in the building of a network of roads that helped open the Alps to visitors. Today tourism is one of the most important activities in the Alpine area.

The fires of December 2006-January 2007 have resulted in further heritage loss. Surveys and restoration works are under way or planned.

Aboriginal Traditional OwnersParks Victoria acknowledges the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Victoria - including its parks and reserves. Through their cultural traditions, the Bidawal, Dhudhuroa, Gunai - Kurnai and Nindi-Ngudjam Ngarigu Monero identify the Alpine National Park as their Traditional Country.Further information is available from Aboriginal Affairs Victoria AAV and Native Title Services Victoria .

The park supports a wide diversity of animals, including threatened species such as the Smoky Mouse, Broad-toothed Rat, Powerful Owl, Spotted Tree Frog and She-oak Skink.
The rare Mountain Pygmy-possum, the world's only exclusively alpine marsupial and the only marsupial that stores food to last throughout the winter, lives on isolated rocky slopes covered with heathland. This specialised habitat is only found in a few places within the Victorian and New South Wales Alps.

Bogong Moths are interesting insects inhabiting the Bogong and Dargo high plains and peaks between November and April, away from the heat of the inland plains. They shelter in rock crevices and provide food for Mountain Pygmy-possums and Little Ravens.

More than 1100 native plant species are found in the park, many of these specially adapted to survive the severe winter climate. Twelve species, including the Bogong Daisy-bush and Silky Daisy, are found nowhere else in the world.
Mature Alpine Ash forests are common as you go up the mountains, and Snow Gums are the predominant eucalypts in the woodlands around the snowline.
In higher exposed areas where conditions are too severe for trees, the vegetation changes to heathlands, alpine herbfields and grasslands, mossbeds and snowpatch communities.

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