Little Desert National Park
The Little Desert National Park is situated 375 km north-west of Melbourne. The three blocks of the park have a rainfall range of 400 mm per year in the north-east to 600 mm in the south-west. The range of soil types causes marked differences in vegetation across the areas. Here in the Little Desert - a desert in name only - you can discover how many species of plants and animals have succeeded, on poor soils with little water, in creating a kind of arid landscape where survival depends on maintaining a delicate balance of natural forces. The best time to visit the park is between late winter and early summer when the temperatures are comfortable and the park is full of blossoms and wildflowers. The eastern block is the most accessible.
Things to Do
Almost 600 km of tracks criss-cross all three blocks of the park, giving access to even the most remote areas near the South Australian border. Most tracks are too sandy for two-wheel drive vehicles and some of the clay surfaces become very boggy after rain. Good signposting makes the park ideal for four-wheel driving.
One of the best ways to see the Little Desert National Park is on foot. There are three interesting self-guided walks in the eastern block: the Sanctuary nature walk south of Kiata, Stringybark walk south of Nhill on the Gymbowen Road, and at the Dimboola end, a short nature walk to Pomponderoo Hill.
From the camping ground south of Kiata, walking tracks lead to a variety of places of interest. An area quite different from the rest of the park can be seen by strolling along the banks of the Wimmera River, or on the walking track at Ackle Bend.
Long distance walkers can tackle all or part of the 84 km Desert Discovery Walk. Options of one to four days duration are possible (a leaflet describing this walk is available).
Basic facilities (fireplaces, tables and toilets) are provided at park camping grounds south of Kiata and at Horseshoe Bend and Ackle Bend south of Dimboola. A fee applies to campers at these campgrounds.
Vehicle-based camping away from the park camping grounds is permitted in the central and western blocks.
A range of accommodation options, including caravan parks, hotels, motels, cabins, bed and breakfast and group accommodation is available at Kaniva, Nhill, Winiam, Dimboola, Goroke and Natimuk. For information and bookings contact the Horsham Tourist Information Centre.
Many years ago flats of box and river red gums provided food for Aboriginal hunters and for the stock brought in by European settlers. For the latter part of the 19th Century a section of the eastern block of the park, including the present camping ground near Kiata, belonged to Woraigworm Station, and grazing and timber harvesting continued until the 1960s.
In 1955 the Kiata Lowan Sanctuary was created. This was the first area of the Little Desert to be reserved, when 217 ha were set aside for the preservation of the Mallee Fowl. The area was increased to 945 ha in 1968 and declared as the Little Desert National Park. At the same time, the Government announced that 80,000 ha of the desert would be sub-divided and cleared for agriculture. The economic viability of the scheme was seriously questioned and it was argued that in the long term the land would be more valuable in its natural state. The plan was abandoned, and in December 1969 the area of the Park was increased to 35,300 ha.
By 1988 the park had increased in size to an area of 132,000 ha with the addition of the central and western blocks to the existing eastern block. The park now extends from the Wimmera River in the east to the South Australian border.
Apart from the elusive Mallee Fowl and rare Southern Scrub Robin, more than 220 kinds of birds have been seen. Parrots, wrens and currawongs are common, and honeyeaters feed on the flowering plants. Animal life includes Brushtailed Possums and Sugar Gliders, kangaroos, bats and many kinds of reptiles. Stumpy-tailed Lizards and Bearded Dragons are often found basking in the sun.
More than 670 species of native plants have been recorded in the Little Desert, representing about one fifth of Victoria's indigenous flora.
The eastern block contains extensive heathlands, with banksia, tea-tree and sheoak, and many spring flowering species.
Woodlands of Yellow and Red Gum with Slender Cypress-pines, and swamps and clay flats of Bull-oak and melaleuca are of particular interest in the western block. Some twelve plant species are considered to be rare or significant. The central block contains elements of the vegetation types of both the other blocks, with extensive areas of stringybark. Three plant species are considered rare or significant.
Scattered throughout sandy areas of the park are ridges of iron-rich sandstones on which Broombush can be found.
Looking After the Park
>> All native plants and animals are protected.
>> Fires may only be lit in fireplaces provided.
>> No dogs or cats.
>> No firearms, generators or chainsaws.
>> Vehicles may only be driven on roads open to the public.
>> Please take your rubbish with you.
During certain times of the year, some tracks may be closed to vehicles.
Tracks in the western and central blocks are unsuited to two wheel drive vehicles.
Carry water with you, as supply is limited.
How to Get There
Little Desert National Park is 375 km from Melbourne, between the Wimmera River and the South Australian border . A number of bitumen roads lead to the park from the Western Highway. The western and central blocks may be approached from Kaniva, the central and eastern blocks from Nhill and Kiata, and a good gravel road leads to the Wimmera River section of the eastern block from Dimboola. Similarly, bitumen road access is possible from the south via Mitre, Gymbowen, Goroke and Edenhope or Booroopki.
The sandy ground surfaces of Little Desert National Park decrease the overall accessibility of the three main camping areas. There are also numerous low obstacles from scattered vegetation and logs around these sites. All sites have toilets, open fireplaces and picnic tables, although the facilities do not offer a high level of accessibility.
>> Big Desert Wilderness
>> Mount Araplies-Tooan State Park
>> Murray Sunset National Park
>> Wyperfeld National Park
Camping, Four Wheel Driving, Scenic Drives, Walking
4. Four Wheel Drive Tours
5. Rock Climbing