Para Wirra Recreation Park

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The park's lake and island

Para Wirra Recreation Park is a 1,417-hectare (3,500-acre) national park located in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide, South Australia.[1] Para Wirra forms part of a larger, 2,573-hectare (6,360-acre) block of contiguous native vegetation, the remainder of which is owned by PIRSA Forestry,[2] the Engineering and Water Supply Department and also by private landholders.[3]


Para Wirra Recreation Park is located in the northern Mount Lofty Ranges, approximately 40 km northeast of Adelaide CBD, and 19 km southeast of Gawler.[4] The other close townships to the park are One Tree Hill to the south and Williamstown to the east.


1. The preservation and management of wildlife

2. The preservation of historic sites, objects and structures of historic or scientific interest within the reserves

3. The preservation of features of geographical, natural and scientific interest

4. The destruction of dangerous weeds and the eradication or control of noxious weeds and exotic plants.

5. The control of vermin and exotic animals

6. The control and eradication of disease of animals and vegetation

7. The prevention and suppression of bushfires and other hazards

8. The encouragement of public use and enjoyment of reserves and education in, and a proper understanding and recognition of their purpose and significance[5][6]


  • Information Centre/ Ranger’s Office
  • Ted and Molly Hughes Conference Centre
  • Barbecue sites
  • Picnic areas e.g. lake area
  • North Oval including a cricket pitch
  • Walking trails
  • Playground
  • Toilets

Major attractions and activities[edit]

- Native wildlife

- Astronomical/star gazing nights

- Bush walking

- Sight seeing

- Goldfields heritage

- Bird watching

- Voluntary weed control (contact the Para Wirra Office and/or Friends group)

- Dusk walks

- Abundant flora, including some rare species such as orchids

- Motor bike riding and cycling on selected tracks

- Walking pets

- Horse riding in a limited area[9][10][11]

Educational value[edit]

Para Wirra Recreation Park’s educational value is invaluable. To name a few, this is because of:

- The unobstructed astronomy/star gazing

- Weed control with volunteer opportunities

- Preservation of native flora and fauna

- Natural bush setting

- Public education of bushfire management strategies

- Raising public awareness of having a sustainable balance between native areas and urban areas

- Adjoining Education Centre[12][13]

Para Wirra Study Centre[edit]

The Para Wirra Study Centre is located in eucalypt woodland above the beautiful South Para River Gorge within the Para Wirra Recreation Park. The Centre's facilities include a classroom, kitchen, gas fridge, oven, cooker, toilet block and bedrooms with plenty of mattresses making it suitable for an overnight stay. It is also suitable for day trips. Popular activities include camping, hiking, exploring the river environment and learning about the history of the area. It is leased by the Trinity College from the Department of Environment and Heritage, and can be booked through the college. Please visit for further details and information.[14]

Importance of Para Wirra Recreation Park[edit]

Para Wirra is not only important as an educational resource, but also for its conservation and recreation value. The boundary of Para Wirra is contiguous with, and forms part of a 2,573 ha block of native vegetation. As only twenty six percent (26%) of the Mount Lofty Ranges remains uncleared, a block of native vegetation of this size is important in terms of its representativeness of vegetation types, for the maintenance of diversity of animal and plant species, maintenance of water quality, and as a valuable recreational resource for the community. Para Wirra Recreation Park also provides a range of recreation opportunities consistent with its conservation significance and its importance and proximity to the expanding population of the northern metropolitan area.[3]


Walking is one of the best ways to discover the beauty of Para Wirra Recreation Park. All trails are graded and timed. Trails include spectacular, invigorating and enlightening walks around the lakes, the goldfields, valleys, open woodland and rivers. More information can be obtained from pamphlets on Para Wirra Recreation Park from DEH. The contact details are listed below under the last heading in this article.[7]


Para Wirra Recreation Park is predominately covered in eucalyptus; however there is a wide variety of vegetation types. Some of these include: - Woodland - Open Woodland (low open woodland) - Low open forest - Closed scrub - Eucalyptus open scrub - Melaleuca uncinata open scrub - Melaleuca uncinata closed heath[3]


Para Wirra is crucial in conserving the native wildlife as much of it has been adversely affected by past agricultural and mining practices.[15]


Para Wirra Recreational Park supports a large population of western grey kangaroos and sometimes euros can be seen. Other native animals present but not frequently observed in the park include the small nocturnal yellow-footed antechinus, the ant and termite eating short-beaked echidna, the common ringtail possum and the brushtail possum.


Emus at Parra Wirra, near the Park Office

There are over 120 species of birds recorded in the Para Wirra reserve. These include the emu which was introduced into the park in 1967. In the aquatic areas of the park birdlife includes the grey teal, Australasian grebe and cormorants. The South Para river and nearby woodland areas support birds such as white-faced herons, black ducks, white-browed babblers, black-chinned honeyeaters and eastern spinebills. A range of birds occur throughout the park including such species as the common bronze wing, scarlet robin, black-faced cuckooshrike, restless flycatcher, grey currawong, little raven and the New Holland honeyeater. white-throated treecreepers, brown treecreepers and white-winged choughs are observed in the woodland areas while laughing kookaburras, red-rumped parrots and peaceful doves prefer the grass and woodland areas. In areas of dense groundcover family groups of superb fairywrens search for food. Flitting in the open areas are jacky winters and yellow-rumped thornbills.[15]

Reptiles and Amphibians[edit]

There are 38 recorded reptiles and amphibians within Para Wirra Recreation Park. These include the long-necked tortoise, marbled gecko, tree dtella, bearded dragon, the shingle back, common grass skink and eastern blue tongue lizard. Only 5 species are amphibians: the brown tree frog, bull frog, spotted grass frog, Bibron's toadlet and brown froglet.[15] The yellow faced whip snake, brown snake and the red bellied black snake have also been sighted in the park.[3]


The reserve takes it name from what are believed to local Aboriginal words, Para meaning "river" and Wirra meaning "forest". Para Wirra National Park was officially opened by the then premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford on 24 September 1963.[17] Para Wirra was the state’s second national park, after Belair National Park. In 1972 Para Wirra was reconstituted as a recreation park. This reconstitution reflected the park’s role as a natural area catering for a wide range of recreational activities. There were no known sites of Aboriginal occupation within the reserve, but the area was thought to have been occupied by the Peramangk tribe prior European settlement.[18] Recent findings are currently under investigation.[19]


The climate is Mediterranean maritime, influenced by south westerly winds with approximately 79% of the total rainfall occurring in the months from April to October, inclusive.[3]


The park ranges in altitude from 137m above sea level immediately below Devil’s Nose to just over 328m asl in the south eastern corner of the park. 76% of the park lies above the 24m contour. (Clarke, 1967) The landform of the park has been described as "a hilly upland with broad crests and dissected slopes" (Lauet al et, 1977). The northern section is a dissected plateau due to the South Para River, which has formed steep sloped valleys and narrow ridge tops; the central reserve area is an undissected plateau; and the southern area is dominated by Mack Creek.[3]


Para Wirra Recreational Park lies entirely within an inlier of crystalline basement rock which extends southwards to Torrens Gorge. It is part of a more extensively exposed Precambrian rock mass, the oldest in the Mount Lofty Ranges. In the extreme west of the park there are undifferentiated metamorphic, mostly very micaceous rocks (schists), and gneisses. A zone of distinctive layered or banded quartz-feldspar rich rocks (gneisses) extends though the central portion of the park. In the extreme east there is another conspicuous rock type (augen gneiss) which is distinguished by the presence of "eye" structures (usually of feldspar) up to 2.5 cm in length, indicative of greater shearing.[3]


There appear to be 3 principal soil types in the park: duplex soils with yellow-grey clay horizons in the southern section of the park, duplex soils with red clay horizions in the north and coarse textured uniform soils on the steep slopes and rockly ridges. The South Para River has limited soil developments and consists of alluvial sands and gravels. All soils are acidic.[20]

Programmes in place[edit]

Programmes in place at Para Wirra Recreation Park include[21]

- Weed control (namely African bridal creeper and boneseed)

- Vermin control (preventing over grazing by feral goats and kangaroos)

- Revegetation programmes aimed at re-establishing indigenous plant species[3]

Affiliated groups[edit]

Affiliated groups with the Para Wirra Recreation Park, aside from the obvious Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH), include: - The Friends of Para Wirra (the major group). They meet on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of every month, starting at 9:00 am in the Conference Centre alongside the Ranger’s office.

- Heart Foundation Walks

- Barossa Goldfields Society

- Tintookies Orienteers


- And various other groups who volunteer and hold functions within the Park less frequently.

Guided walks and school visits[edit]

School visits, guided walks and other functions such as celebrations, meetings and volunteer activities within the park can be arranged.

Conference Centre[edit]

The Friends of Para Wirra also have a small Conference Centre for hire, named the Ted and Molly Hughes Conference Centre after a husband and wife who are valuable life members of the Friends, having provided over 20 years’ service.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Department of Environment & Natural Resources > Para Wirra Recreation Park Accessed 22 March 2012.
  2. ^ PIRSA Forestry Accessed 4 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Para Wirra Recreation Park Management Plan by DEH Published by Department of Environment and Planning Adopted 1993
  4. ^ Para Wirra Recreation Park Demand Survey- Draft Report 8 August 1999 published by QED Pty Ltd (Quality Environmental Decisions)
  5. ^ Para Wirra Recreation Park Management Plan Adopted 1993
  6. ^ Department of Environment and Planning. 1987. A Proposal for a Metropolitan Open Space System. State Government Printer.
  7. ^ a b "Para Wirra Recreation Park" Issued by the National Parks and Wildlife of South Australia, Government of South Australia. Published by Department for Environment and Heritage, Printed April 2008
  8. ^ Suter, S. A Study of Para Wirra Recreation Park. 1990. Unpublished.
  9. ^ " Para Wirra Recreation Park" Issued by the National Parks and Wildlife of South Australia, Department for Environment and Heritage in conjunction with the Government of South Australia and the Friends of Para Wirra. Published by Department for Environment and Heritage, Reprint April 2002
  10. ^ Weber, Delene (Sustainable Environments Research Group School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia) Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Improving our Understanding of Visitors to Belair National Park, Report prepared for DEH, September 2006
  11. ^ "Para Wirra Recreation Park | Adelaide Things to Do". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  12. ^ McPherson, Michelle Para Wirra Visitor Survey, Published by Department of Environment and Heritage 2002–2003
  13. ^ Senior Ranger of Mount Lofty Region unpublished data and comments
  14. ^ "Trinity College". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  15. ^ a b c Alexander, P., Evans, D., and Hill, B., 1978 Para Wirra Recreation Park-Vertebrate Fauna Survey. Unpublished.
  16. ^ Clark, G., 1967. Birds of Para Wirra. South Australian Ornithologist. 24.119-34.
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ Tindale, N.B. 1974 Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Australian National University Press, Canberra.
  19. ^ Lady Alice Mine Conservation Management Plan Draft, prepared by Habitable Places survey team May 2008
  20. ^ Crichton, T., Harvey, W. and Hill, B. 1978. Soil and Vegetation Survey of Para Wirra Recreation Park. Unpublished.
  21. ^ Dahl, E (unpublished data) Project Brief – Vegetation Recovery in Para Wirra Recreation Park. Stage III: Management of Kangaroo Grazing Pressure. Para Wirra Vegetation Recovery Project.


Yaccas growing in crevices in granite gneiss outcrop near Lizard Rock 
Yacca growing in crevice in granite gneiss outcrop near Lizard Rock 

Coordinates: 34°41′28″S 138°49′34″E / 34.691°S 138.826°E / -34.691; 138.826