What’s special

Despite its name, this park is not a desert in any sense of the word. Its heathlands are renowned for their spring wildflowers, which include many types of native orchid. The park is home to the endangered malleefowl, a ground-dwelling bird that builds mounds of fermenting vegetation that trap heat and incubate its eggs.

Best time to visit

Spring for wildflowers and walking. Most rain falls in winter and frosts may occur at night. Summers are hot with periods of high fire danger.

What to do

Camp at the eastern end of the park where there are plenty of opportunities for short and long (multi-day) bushwalks.  Spring is great for photographing the abundant wildflowers. The park is also a great area for birdwatching.

Little Desert Podcast Project

Listen to this podcast and delve into a fascinating time in Victoria’s environmental history and develop an understanding of significance of the Little Desert National Park. For anyone who is fascinated by this rich story or is planning a visit to the Little Desert, listen to this four part podcast here.

1969 was a very exciting and eventful year in Victoria, Australia. A number of ideas and events came together to create something very significant.

In this four-part podcast series we’ll unpack the history of the political dispute that led to the permanent protection of the Little Desert and its diverse and beautiful flora and fauna.

But the Little Desert dispute also resulted in many other nature conservation outcomes. It changed the Victorian political landscape by putting nature conservation on the party-political agenda.

Listen

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Where

This park is 375km west of Melbourne via the Western Highway. Public transport is available to Dimboola, Nhill and Kaniva, but these towns are all some distance north of the park.

Accommodation

Car-based camping is available at several sites in the east of the park. Bush camping is available at campsites along the longer walking tracks and in the western section of the park. Motels, hotels and caravan parks may be found in Dimboola, Nhill and Kaniva.  Little Desert Nature Lodge, south of Nhill, is on the boundary of the national park and has accommodation and camping.

About the park

Traditional Owners know the Little Desert area as Tatyara, ‘the good country’, but also recognise its limitations. In their words ‘Long time wet, long time dry’ summarises both the annual and multi-year cycles of drought and rain.

It was not until the late 1960s that the area came under major threat from a Victorian Government plan to sell off most of the land to be cleared for agriculture. This resulted in a major conservation campaign from the Victorian National Parks Association, government agencies and many others, and led to the creation of the Land Conservation Council (now the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council) to investigate the use of public land. Recommendations from this investigation resulted in the establishment and expansion of the Little Desert National Park to its current boundaries.

‘Defending the Little Desert’ by Libby Robin is a detailed history of the conservation battle and is available from our online shop VNPA books

The current park consists of three almost separate blocks extending from the Wimmera River near Dimboola west to the South Australian border. Visitor facilities are concentrated in the eastern block. The central and western blocks are crossed by 4WD tracks but are otherwise remote with limited access.

Fire management has been a major issue, with most of the park burnt at least once in the ten years up to 2016. The fires have had a major impact on native plants and animals. Much of the park’s wildlife is dependent on old-growth vegetation that has not been burnt for 25 years or more – repeated fires have caused a marked decline in malleefowl numbers.

The effect on plants has also been significant – some plants that are slow to reproduce have been destroyed before they could produce seeds for the next generation. This causes long-term change to the composition and structure of the park’s vegetation.

Natural history

Little Desert National Park is home to arid zone species and those from wetter areas closer to the coast. More than 200 species of bird have been recorded in the park.

The best-known resident is the malleefowl. This bird is a ‘megapode’, a mound-builder that creates its nest out of sand and decaying vegetation. The female lays her eggs in the mound while the male controls the temperature by adding or removing material. The incubation heat comes from the fermenting vegetation and the sun.

Once the young hatch they are fully independent but vulnerable to predation by foxes and feral cats, which along with habitat loss and too-frequent fire have contributed to the decline of the species.

Mammals and reptiles are present throughout the park but are generally more difficult to see than the birds. Most mammals are nocturnal. Western grey kangaroos occur along the Wimmera River and near grassy clearings. Western pygmy possums are mouse-sized marsupials that feed on nectar and insects in the heathlands. Echidnas occur throughout the park.

On a warm day you might glimpse a bearded dragon or its relative, the painted dragon. Male painted dragons display a combination of blue, yellow and brown during the breeding season. Following winter rain, frogs emerge from their burrows deep beneath the sand to breed in the ephemeral ponds that form between the dunes.

Birds and plants of the Little Desert by Ian Morgan and Graham and Maree Goods is available from our online shop VNPA books

Friends groups

Friends of Little Desert National Park
Contact: Sue Hayman-Fox
Phone: 0412 549 981
Email: Email Sue Hayman Fox