Mount Augustus, or Burringurrah as it is known by the local Wadjari Aboriginal people, is about 850 kilometres from Perth and midway between the Great Northern and North West Coastal highways. One of the most spectacular solitary peaks in the world, it rises 717 metres above a stony, red sandplain of arid shrubland—dominated by wattles, cassias and eremophilas—and is clearly visible from the air for more than 160 kilometres.
The rock itself, which culminates in a small peak on a plateau, is about eight kilometres long and covers and area of 4,795 hectares. At about twice the size of Uluru [Ayers Rock] it is the biggest 'rock' in the world.
The rocks of Mount Augustus are from the upper Proterozoic age; they were deposited on an ancient sea floor as sand and boulders some 1,000 million years ago. These deposits consolidated to form sandstone and conglomerate strata, which eventually, with movement in the Earth's crust, folded and uplifted. Sandstone and conglomerate cover a wide area, including Mt Phillip, 35 kilometres to the west-south-west. The granite rock that lies beneath Mount Augustus is 1,650 million years old. Making it not only twice the size of Uluru, but considerably older.
Plants and Animals
Drainage lines from the rock seep beneath the surrounding sands to feed groves of white-barked river gums. Elsewhere mulga, myall, gidgee and other wattles are dispersed across the red sandplain. Here honeyeaters, babblers and galahs forage for food. Nearby emus seek fruits, and bustards snatch insects and small reptiles from the ground. Bungarras (goannas) and red kangaroos are common on the plain, while euros and birds of prey are found closer to the rock. At Cattle Pool on the Lyons River, a tributary of the Gascoyne, permanent pools attract waterbirds such as black cormorants, swans and ducks. In the trees are corellas and blue-winged kookaburras.
Historically, the Aboriginal people who inhabited the area around Mount Augustus were known as the Wadjari. In times of plenty, the Wadjari people would roam over a wide area of the Gascoyne. In times of drought, however, the Wadjari would return to areas where water was available, such as the natural springs along the base of Mount Augustus. Aboriginal occupation is evident by the engravings on rock walls at Mundee, Ooramboo and Beedoboondu visitor sites, and by numerous stone tools discovered in these areas.
There are at least three Dreaming stories for Mount Augustus. Although each differs slightly in detail, the basic thread of the story remains the same. Probably the best-known story is one about a boy called Burringurrah, who was undergoing his initiation into manhood.
'The rigours of initiation so distressed Burringurrah that he ran away. In doing so, he transgressed the Aboriginal tribal law and under the law he had to be punished. Tribesmen pursued the boy, finally catching up with him and spearing him in the upper right leg [spearing still remains the main form of punishment under tribal law]. Burringurrah fell to the ground; the spear head broke from its shaft and protruded from his leg. The boy tried to crawl away, but the women beat him with their mulgurrahs [fighting sticks]. Burringurrah collapsed and died, lying on his belly with his left leg bent up beside his body.'
As you look at Mount Augustus you can see the shape of a body, with the stump of the spear in the leg. The geological fracture lines at the western end of the mount indicate the wounds inflicted by the mulgurrah. The spear stump is the small peak called Edney's Lookout, at the eastern end of the mount.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
* Burringurrah Drive. A 49-km circuit providing views of the changing faces of the rock and access to all feature sites. Suitable for conventional two-wheel-drive vehicles, it features rocky creek gorges, caves, Aboriginal rock engravings (petroglyphs), picnic sites, walktrails and a variety of wildlife on the rock, plain and water courses.
* Emu Hill Lookout.Turn off north approximately 5 kilometres west of the park boundary on the Cobra Station road, and drive 1.5 kilometres along a track suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles. The lookout is a good location from which to take photographs of the Mount; at sunset it is usually most colourful.
* Goolinee (Cattle Pool).A permanent pool on the Lyons River. A day-use area only. Particularly picturesque after rains have filled the pool to capacity. But please be careful, reeds in the pool can make swimming hazardous.
o Corella Trail - 2 km return (1 hour).
Trail begins mid-way along the pool. A short, easy stroll. Quiet observant walkers are rewarded with tranquil scenes of waterbirds. Corellas and other species forage in the river gums.
* Goordgeela. This is a small recreation spot at the base of the rock. A trail runs to a cave from which there are good views of the Lyons River meandering through the sandplain and the Godfrey Ranges to the north.
o Cave Hill Trail - 4 km return (2 hours).
A short, steep trail that runs up from Goordgeela to the cave entrance. Do not enter the cave as its ceiling is unstable and rock falls do occur from time to time.
* The Pound. Earlier this century this natural basin was used for holding cattle prior to moving them on the hoof to Meekatharra. Droving to Meekatharra would take 10 to 12 days.
o Saddle Trail - 2 km return (1 hour).
This short walk to the saddle provides views south into The Pound and north over the Lyons River valley.
* Beedoboondu (Flintstone).A short walk along the creek bed of approximately 250 metres will bring you to Flintstone Rock—a huge flat rock that lies across the stream bed. Crawl under Flintstone Rock to observe Aboriginal engravings. After heavy rain, water cascades over the rocks forming several waterfalls.
o Summit Trail - 12 km return (6 hours).
This walk to the top of the mount is only for fit and experienced bushwalkers. From the summit there are extensive views over the surrounding plain and drainage basin to distant ranges. An early start is recommended, and please advise someone of your plans. Seek advice from the ranger or the Mount Augustus Outback Tourist Resort. Wear sturdy footwear and protective clothing and carry at least two litres of water per person.
* Mundee Mundee is reached along a short trail. It is a rock wall with engravings of kangaroo, emu and bustard tracks in three cave-like overhangs. Aboriginal mythology has it that in the beginning, when the rocks were still soft, a Dreaming spirit did these engravings with his fingers.
o Petroglyph Trail - an easy 300 metres return walk to the rock wall.
* Ooramboo A short, easy stroll of approximately 150 metres to view Aboriginal engravings of animal tracks along an escarpment. A 100 metres farther along is 'Edney Spring', a permanent soak.
o Edney's Trail - 6 km return (2.5 hours).
A well-defined trail will lead you to Edney's Lookout (the peak that is clearly seen from the Tourist Resort; it is at the south-east of the mount). Trail suitable for those seeking elevated views but who do not wish to tackle the more strenuous Summit Trail.
* Warrarla (Gum Grove) A pleasant picnic site set among a grove of large river gums.
o Kotke Gorge Trail - 2 km return (1 hour).
This trail is a ramble and rock hop along the usually dry creek bed. There you can discover the variety of rock shapes, textures and exposed in the creek bed. There is no marked trail up Kotke Gorge.
Mount Augustus is 490 kilometres from Carnarvon via Gascoyne Junction and 360 kilometres from Meekatharra. Roads are gravel, but suitable for conventional vehicles most of the year.However, roads may be closed or substantially damaged after heavy rain. Seek advice from the local Shires. Carry ample fuel, water and supplies to cope with all possible occurrences.
Accommodation and Camping:
No camping or open fires are permitted within the National Park or on Mount Augustus Station pastoral lease. Accommodation, powered caravan sites, camping facilities, meals, fuel and water are available at Mount Augustus Outback Tourist Resort, phone (08) 9943 0527 and Cobra Station, (08) 9943 0565.
Caring for the Park:
Be careful. Your enjoyment and safety are our concern but your responsibility.
Be cool. Always carry ample drinking water.
Be clean. Place litter in bins, or take it with you.
Be responsible. Don't light fires. Use your portable gas stove. Dead wood is habitat for wildlife.
Be kind. Protect animals and plants. Pets and firearms are not permitted.
Stay on track. Follow signs in the park and stay on marked trails.
Details about road conditions and accommodation in the Upper Gascoyne Region can be obtained from:
Shire of Upper Gascoyne
4 Scott Street
GASCOYNE JUNCTION WA 6701
Telephone: (08) 9943 0988