Hattah-Kulkyne National Park is in the far north-west of Victoria, 450km from Melbourne and 75km south of Mildura. Access is easiest with a car, although public buses run along the Calder Highway. The Lake Hattah campground could be reached with a 6km walk from Hattah.
There are two basic camping grounds within the park at Lake Hattah and Lake Mournpall. The nearest motel/hotel is at Ouyen, 40km south on the Calder Highway.
About the park
Aboriginal people occupied this area for tens of thousands of years living on the produce they could harvest from its rivers, lakes and forests. Scar trees, where sections of bark were removed to make canoes or carrying utensils, reveal their presence in more recent pre-European times. Scars are mainly found on river red gums, the oldest and largest trees in the park.
European explorers first reached this area in the 1830s (Captain Charles Sturt in 1830, Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836). Settlers quickly followed in the 1840s. The area was then exploited for its resources, with timber cutting and grazing being important. Along the river, wood was cut as fuel for the paddle steamers that operated on this section of the Murray. Camels were used to transport salt from Spectacle Lake, west of the park, to the Murray River for loading onto paddle steamers.
In 1915 a sanctuary was declared around the Hattah Lakes but the national park was not declared until 1960, largely as a result of advocacy by the Victorian National Parks Association, naturalists and bird groups. The initial park was extended in line with recommendations by the Land Conservation Council to become the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. In 1982 the park, along with some adjacent areas, was listed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, giving international recognition of the area’s important natural values.
The wetlands in this park have adapted over millennia to cycles of flooding and drought. In recent decades a drying climate and increased demands for irrigation and domestic water have taken their toll on the ancient river red gums. Lack of flooding has seen many of these trees die from water stress.
More recently large pumps have been installed along the Murray River and water allocations have been bought, which along with environmental flows has enabled water to be pumped into the park’s wetlands. This has saved trees around the lakes and stimulated regeneration of red gums, however, for many trees the water came too late.
Hattah-Kulkyne National Park is well known for the diversity of its birdlife. More than 200 bird species have been recorded in the park including many listed as threatened. These include the pink cockatoo, regent parrot and the cryptic Mallee Emu-wren.
The park is home to both red and western grey kangaroos as well as many smaller mammals. Unfortunately, many of the smaller native mammals have declined due to loss of habitat and predation from foxes and cats. Rabbits, feral goats and feral pigs have had a major impact on the park although control programs have been effective in reducing their numbers.
There are six major vegetation types in the park. Along the rivers and around the lakes are ancient river red gums. These trees require regular flooding every few years for their survival and the germination of seed.
Further back but still on the flood plain are grey box woodlands. Here the trees are smaller but grey box still requires flooding, although at less frequent intervals than river red gums. Beyond these woodlands are extensive areas of mallee woodland. Mallee trees are usually less than 5 metres tall and are multi-stemmed. They have large underground root bases that allow them to survive fire and to resprout.
Birds such as the mallee emu-wren and malleefowl require long unburnt mallee for their survival. There are also areas of semi-arid grasslands with only scattered woody vegetation and shrublands dominated by hop bushes, wattles and heaths. Unfortunately there are only remnants of the cypress pine woodlands that were once present in the area. Over the years rabbits have decimated pine regeneration except in the limited areas where seedlings have been protected.
Friends of Hattah Inc
Phone: 03 5025 7325
Contact: Roger Cornell