big and little deserts
Little Desert National Park is a great place for camping and is noted for its sandy ridges and springtime wildflower displays. It is the second-largest national park in Victoria. This area was ignored during the European settlement of the Wimmera. The first reserve was created in 1955 to protect the mallee fowl and the park was declared in 1968.
Despite its name, the dry hot summers and sandy soil, this is a desert in name only. The park receives 400 mm of rainfall per annum (mostly in winter) and supports a range of fauna and 670 plant species. With its scrubby woodland of yellow and red gum, as well as swamps and clay flats of bull-oak and melaleuca, it represents a remnant of the Wimmera's pre-colonial vegetation.
The park is essentially divided into three sections.The road to Goroke and Edenhope, which heads south off the highway just east of Kaniva, divides the western and middle sections of the park. Any exploration off this road will require a 4WD. Just east of the road is Broughtons Water Hole which features rare orchids and an abundance of native wildflowers in spring. It is a popular camping ground with seating and fireplaces. Also close by is Mt Turner and Sister Hills. Heading back to the highway is the historic Bills Gully Hall and Reserve featuring small waterhole and toilets.
Also to the east of this road is Yanipy Nature Reserve and is primarily set up for school groups. However, it is open to the public. There are campfires, a table and seating, shelter hut and toilet, but please remember to take all rubbish with you. There are linked walking tracks extending from the camp area with orienteering leaflet available inside the hut. Subject to rainfall, a small dam, just north-east of the hut provides a peaceful spot for bird-watching, as does the Gum Flat Swamp. Bird life includes Parrots, Cockatoos, Honeyeaters, Pardalotes, Thornbills, Martins, Owls, Whistlers, Wrens and Heathwrens. Various orchids can be found close to the camping area, particularly in springtime.
Billy Ho Bushwalk ~ A pleasant bushwalk on private property encompassing wildflowers, orchids, bird and wildlife habitats in season. Numbered pegs enable the identification of various species of desert flora such as scarlet bottlebrush, Mallee honey, flame heath, myrtle and desert banksias. Orchids are in flower from April to December (a brochure is available at the start of the 3km walk). Billy Ho features seating and a fireplace.
Getting there: At the roundabout, heading towards Adelaide, turn south into Madden St (towards Lillimur South) and continue on for about 5 km, there is a signposted turnoff on the right to Billy Ho Reserve
Mooree Reserve is a historic picturesque picnic area situated around dark green lagoons and shaded by huge red gums. A range of wildlife inhabits the reserve. Koorie people have been associated with the area for over 10,000 years. In the 19th century, locals carted water from the lagoons to the early township of Lillimur South. To get there, head west from Kaniva along the Western Highway. After 10 km you will come to Lillimur. Turn next left at Leeor Rd and it will lead you to the reserve.
From there continue west along Lillimur Rd to the picturesque Green Swamp, a peaceful camping ground an popular spot for wildlife and photographers.
Photo; Green Swamp by Annie Austin
Big Desert Wilderness Park,
The Big Desert is Victoria's first declared wilderness area, andis considered to be the best single area in Victoria for reptiles, with over 50 species of lizards and snakes recorded. Nearly 100 species of birds have been recorded in Big Desert including the extremely rare Western Whipbird. Look out for Mitchell's Hopping Mouse, Sand Goannas, Dragons, Emus and Western Grey Kangaroos.
The Border Track
Caution: Unmaintained Track. Drivers require a high level of 4WD experience. Vehicles require a high ground clearance and must carry adequate fuel, food and water supplies. Deflate tyres to 105 kpa (15 psi). There are no vehicle rescue services in this area. Travel in groups with appropriate 4WD equipment.
Photo: Scorpion Springs, Ngakaret Conservation Park, October.
Camping; Make sure you carry in your own supplies including firewood and water. These are not serviced campsites, so ensure you take all your rubbish home with you. There are bush campsites within the Big Desert at Red Bluff Reserve on the Border Track (no fees payable). The site has a toilet and fireplaces. From Kaniva, travel through Telopea Downs and turn left at Red Bluff Track, (approx 45 km north of Western Highway). See Big Desert Map or pick up the Yarriambiack Touring Map available at Kaniva Motels and Information Centre. For more detailed maps, Victoria's Deserts by Westprint Maps if quite comprehensive.
Bore water is also available at Big Billy Bore and Broken Bucket Reserve.
The best times to visit is from April through to October. Do not attempt to visit in summer, as the roads are too sandy and there is a high risk of fire. Access is only available by four-wheel drive. The roads are extremely sandy in places and the Border Track contains many clay pans. Most tracks are not signposted. The Big Desert is best accessed by experienced 4WD groups. Map, Compass, Satelite Phones, GPS and CBs are also recommended as there is no mobile coverage (except for the top of Red Bluff).
Ngkaret Info & Map including 2 wheel access, walking tracks and camping facilities
West Print Maps Specialist local company for Outback touring maps. Victoria's Deserts, ($12.95) contains extensive information on this region