Willandra National Park
Willandra Station was once famous for its wool, and these days it offers an insight into the pastoral history of the region. The homestead, surrounded by gardens and overlooking peaceful Willandra Creek, has been restored to its former glory and is now available for accommodation. The grasslands and coolibah-lined creek beds to the west of the homestead are home to kangaroos, emus and ground-nesting birds.
This park is near...
Hillston (64 km, 60 minutes)
Griffith (174 km, 120 minutes)
Best access routes
From Roto in the north take the Roto - Hillston Road and turn right onto Lowlands Road. Turn left onto the Trida Road where you'll see signs to the park.
Road quality: unpaved sections
From Hillston take the Ivanhoe - Mossgiel Road (unsealed and impassable after rain). Drive 45 kilometres and you'll see a sign to Willandra National Park on the right.
Road quality: unpaved sections
Facilities & things to do
>>Canoeing & boating
>>Picnics & barbecues
Native plant communities
Reptiles and amphibians
Culture & history
History in the park
One of the park's old sheep bridges
The park area since colonisation
Before European settlement saltbush, cotton bush and native grasses were probably the main plant cover on the plains. Europeans grazed cattle and sheep in the locality from the late 1830s, attracted by the river system and native grasses. As the nutritional value of the saltbush and cottonbush were recognised and intensive grazing took place, the former cover became grassland. The plant and animal communities of the park therefore don't represent the environments that were there before the introduction of cloven-hoofed animals.
During the second half of the 19th century, the grazing of sheep for wool predominated in the region, with some cattle and horse agistment. In the 1890s Willandra Station responded to a falling overseas market and severe economic decline by expanding and promoting its stud merino flocks that proved well suited to low-rainfall areas. Its ownership and management has reflected the cycles in the Australian pastoral economy: entrepreneurs, banks, national and international pastoral corporations.
As the largest pastoral station in the area, Willandra was the focus of economic and social life at all levels and served as the local polling station until the 1930s. The region is an excellent example of the effects of subsequent state land legislation, including devices to defeat that legislation, such as 'peacocking' (securing prime water locations) and 'dummying' (using family, friends or employees as stooges to secure additional land).
It experienced illegal squatting, occupation under squatting licence, early leasehold combined with freehold, homesteading, the establishment of the Western Lands Commission to administer the long-term leases, resumptions and soldier settler occupation. The culmination was the expiry of the leases leading to the gazettal of the national park and the purchase of the Willandra pastoral station homestead and shearers' precincts in 1975.
History of the park
With the expiration of the Willandra leases, the NSW Government resumed its Crown land grants and in 1972 Willandra National Park was gazetted. The rehabilitation of native flora and fauna is encouraged and introduced plants and animals are controlled.
With the additional freehold portion containing the historic precincts acquired in 1974, the cultural heritage of Big Willandra has been conserved. Willandra's pastoral past is now recalled most vividly at shearing time, when a local grazier sometimes uses the shed, shearers occupy the men's quarters, and sheep once more graze in the woolshed paddock.
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service