Little Desert National Park
|Little Desert National Park|
|Nearest town or city||Dimboola|
|Area||1,326.47 km2 (512.2 sq mi)|
|Managing authorities||Parks Victoria|
|Website||Little Desert National Park|
|See also||Protected areas of Victoria|
The Little Desert National Park is a national park in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. The 132,647-hectare (327,780-acre) national park is situated near Dimboola, approximately 375 kilometres (233 mi) west of Melbourne and extends from the Wimmera River in the east to the South Australian border in the west near Naracoorte.
While the region is surrounded by agricultural land, the area of the Little Desert itself "consists mainly of deep sandy soils with very low fertility, interspersed with small pockets of clay soils. There are occasional rocky, sandstone outcrops and buckshot rises. Average yearly rainfall varies remarkably from the east to the west." The Little Desert "remains relatively undisturbed by human activity, even though in the earlier years of European settlement it experienced some industry in the way of grazing and woodcutting." Now the desert is a National Park, and is "broken up into three blocks": Western Block, Central Block and Eastern Block; demarcated by two north-south roads, the Nhill-Harrow road and the Kaniva-Edenhope road.
Today the National Park is an important tourist destination receiving about 50,000 visitors each year. Parks Victoria maintain multiple camping sites, walking tracks, look-outs and four-wheel-driving tracks throughout the park. Although most internal roads within the National Park are only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles and some are closed during winter or after wet weather.
Prior to the establishment of the park, small aboriginal family groups camped along the Wimmera River. European activity began with grazing from the 1840s but had ceased by the 1960s. During the Second World World War the Central Block was used as a bombing and gunnery range and the remains of several concrete observation bunkers are still present.
The low-nutrient sandy soil combined with low rainfalls made farming difficult. After the Second World War, the State Government considered clearing and selling land in the Little Desert region. Local opposition to selling the land for farming was intense and quickly gathered support around Victoria. The Bolte Government was initially unmoved by environmental concerns. Public outrage over the proposed subdivision resulted in the responsible minister losing his safe seat in a by-election. The Little Desert debate galvanised Victoria's conservation movement into forming a peak body, the Conservation Council of Victoria and the conservative Victorian government of Henry Bolte to adopt environmental policies, such as establishing the Land Conservation Council to systematically and independently review all future public land use across the state. The architect of the Land Conservation Council was the newly appointed Minister of Lands, Conservation and Soldier Settlement, William Borthwick who supported retaining the area as a nature reserve. So in 1955 the Kiata Lowan Sanctuary was established to preserve the 'Eastern block' of the Desert and protect the local Malleefowl. In 1969 this Sanctuary became 'The Little Desert National Park' in the 'Eastern Block' and in 1986 the 'Central' and 'Western' Blocks were added.
Flora and fauna
The Little Desert receives an annual rainfall of approximately 480 millimetres (19 in), though there is a gradient from 400 millimetres (16 in) in the east to 600 millimetres (24 in) near Naracoorte. The vegetation of the park ranges from pure mallee heathland in the Eastern Block to cypress pine and casuarina woodlands in the moister Western Block. In the Western Block, there are large areas of seasonal swampland formed over claypans. Laterites are scattered throughout the sandy areas of the park and characterised by broombush. Brush-tailed possums and Grey kangaroos are common throughout the park, and lizards can be observed basking in the sun.
With over 200 species of birds the national park has been identified by BirdLife International, an international NGO, as an Important Bird Area because it supports populations of malleefowl and diamond firetails. The malleefowl is a rare bird found on the site and their protection was a contributory factor in the decision to preserve the area in 1968.
- Robin, Libby. Defending the Little Desert: The Rise of Ecological Consciousness in Australia. Melbourne: Melbourne University, 1994
- "Little Desert National Park Management Plan" (PDF). Parks Victoria (PDF). Government of Victoria. June 1996. p. 2. ISBN 0-7306-6173-3. Retrieved 20 August 2014. Note the reference on p. 2 to 1968 should have been December 1969. This was a mistake in the 1996 management plan
- "Little Desert National Park: Visitor Guide" (PDF). Parks Victoria (PDF). Government of Victoria. June 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Victoria, Parks. "Little Desert National Park". parkweb.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- "West Wimmera Shire, Town and Rural District Names and Boundaries" (PDF). Locality names and boundary maps. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, State Government of Victoria. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 October 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Morgan, Ian; Goods, Graham; Goods, Maree (2014). Birds and Plants of the Little Desert: A photographic Guide. Horsham: I.L. Morgan and G.T. and L.M. Goods. p. 2. ISBN 9780646914237.
- Morgan, Ian; Goods, Graham; Goods, Maree (2014). Birds and Plants of the Little Desert: A photographic Guide. Horsham: I.L. Morgan and G.T. and L.M. Goods. p. 1. ISBN 9780646914237.
- Morgan, Ian; Goods, Graham; Goods, Maree (2014). Birds and Plants of the Little Desert: A photographic Guide. Horsham: I.L. Morgan and G.T. and L.M. Goods. p. 5-6. ISBN 9780646914237.
- Clode, Danielle (2007). As if for a thousand years: A history of Victoria's Land Conservation and Environment Conservation Councils. Melbourne: Victorian Environmental Assessment Council. pp. 16–18.
- "Little Desert National Park". Avibase. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
- "Important Bird Areas factsheet: Little Desert". BirdLife International. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
- Taylor, Sue (2013). Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia. New South. p. 141. ISBN 9781742246482.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Little Desert National Park.|
- Official webpage for the Little Desert National Park
- Webpage for the Little Desert National Park on the Protected Planet website
- "Birds of the Mallee Parks" (PDF). Parks Victoria (PDF). Victorian Government. November 2010.