D’Entrecasteaux National Park is a narrow strip of land 5 to 20 km wide which stretches along the south coast for more than 130 kilometres between Augusta and Walpole. It is the result of the amalgamation of various State forests and timber reserves, Crown land, Shire of Manjimup reserves, conservation reserves, pastoral leases and freehold purchases between the 1970s and 1990s.
There is evidence that Nyoongar people have lived in South-West Australia for over 47,000 years. The oldest archeological evidence at D’Entrecasteaux is dated at 6000 years, although this does not mean it wasn’t occupied early than this. The traditional owners of the park are the Murram group, and the site remains an important place for them. Erosion of sand dunes within the park has revealed numerous stone artifacts, two fish traps, two quarry sites, one mythological site and one burial site. The majority of these are located around the Lake Jasper/ Meerup Dunes area, an area of particular archeological and cultural significance to the Nyoongar people. Artifacts have been found 10 metres below Lake Jasper’s current water levels, indicating a number of major campsites existed here when the lake was a prehistoric forest.
Point D’Entrecasteaux was named in 1792 when French Admiral Bruni D’Entrecasteaux sailed past on a French scientific expedition; the park takes its name from the point. Apart from sealers and whalers little interest was shown in the area until the 1850s, when pastoralists began to settle in nearby communities like Pemberton1 and Manjimup2. These settlers used to bring their cattle into the park to graze on summer coastal pastures, a practice which continued up to the 1980s. Some of their droving tracks were later formalised into vehicle tracks and a few of the huts they used to stay in can still be found in the park. In 1911, the iron barque Mandalay was wrecked off Mandalay Beach; the wreck can still be seen when the tides and sand are favourable.
The park’s impressive natural features include (but are not limited to) the hexagonal-shaped basalt columns at Black Point, formed by a volcanic lava flow 135 million years ago, and the 10-kilometre-long Yeagarup Dunes, the largest land-locked mobile dune system in the southern hemisphere, which are moving into the forest at a rate of 4 metres a year. Inland from the coast is a series of lakes and swamps, including Lake Yeagarup and Lake Jasper, which is the largest freshwater lake in the southern half of the state. Major rivers which flow through the park are the Warren, the Donnelly and the Shannon.
Vegetation is mostly coastal heathlands, grasslands and low woodlands, with scattered pockets of karri forest. Mount Chudalup, a large granite outcrop, boasts a unique ecosystem with 42 species of moss, 28 species of lichen and 6 species of liverwort, some of which are found nowhere else. Much of the biologically diverse flora of the south-west is represented in the park, with more than 850 native plant species to be found here.
D’Entrecasteaux houses a number of threatened species, including the woylie and the chudditch. It is also home to one of the last known mainland populations of quokkas. New Zealand fur-seals have been seen at Black Point. Other animals which can be seen include possums, wallabies and bandicoots. Southern right whales migrate along the coast from September to November. Sandy Island is an important nesting site for flesh-footed shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes), and Lake Jasper and Lake Maringup are recognised as two of the 5 most important wetlands for waterbirds on the south coast.
- D’Entrecasteaux National Park is a remote area. Visitors should come prepared.
- Coastal risks include king waves, tidal surges and cliff collapses. Lives have been lost along this coast so please take care in and around the water.
- Exercise extreme caution near cliff edges especially when fishing. Supervise children at all times.
D’Entrecasteaux National Park is approximately 20 minutes from Pemberton, or approximately 4½ hours from Perth. A few sites in the park are accessible by all vehicles, but most require a 4WD. Travelling within the park will also take some time, as tracks are sand and cannot be taken at speed.
This park features in the Coastal Wonders of Western Australia 2017 Calendar presented by LANDSCOPE magazine, available now in the shop!