Mount Augustus is known as Burringurrah to the local Wajarri Aboriginal people. The park was gazetted on 22 September 1989 and is made up of former parts of Mount Augustus and Cobra Stations.
During 1999-2000, the State purchased nearby pastoral leases Cobra and Waldburg and part leases of Mount Philip and Dalgety Downs with the aim of managing the whole area – including the national park – for conservation. The total area is now 607,603ha.
Take the 49km Loop Drive around the sandstone inselberg. Access rocky creeks and gorges, open plains, view Aboriginal rock engravings (petroglyphs) and encounter a variety of wildlife.
The majority of Mount Augustus is vegetated. Arid shrubland dominated by wattles, cassias and eremophilas cover the inselberg and the surrounding plain. Take the time to sit quietly in the early morning or late afternoon and you will be rewarded with the site of shy-but-inquisitive wildlife. Marvel at the factors which have shaped the surrounding wildlife – infertile soils and greater climate variability than many other parts of Australia.
Groves of white-barked river gums indicate water seepage from the inselberg - so precious to the local ecology. Mulga, gidgee and other wattles are dispersed across the plain. So too are spinifex pigeons, crimson chats, mulga parrots and babblers – all foraging for food resources. Nearby, emus seek out fruits, and bustards (or wild turkey) sneak up on insects and small reptiles on the ground. Bungarras (goannas) and red kangaroos are common on the plain, while euros and birds of prey are found closer to the mount.
At Cattle Pool on the Lyons River, a tributary of the Gascoyne, permanent pools attract waterbirds such as black cormorants, ibis, heron, and a variety of ducks. In the trees are blue-winged kookaburras, sacred kingfishers and corellas.
Mount Augustus is an ‘asymmetrical anticline’. Anticline means that rock layers have been folded into an arch-like structure – with the oldest layers at its core. Asymmetrical means that each side of the arch-like structure is not physically even or symmetrical. That is, Mount Augustus is steeper on its north-eastern side than the south-west side.
Mount Augustus is often referred to as a monocline (meaning one sided slope) or monolith (meaning one rock) and is often compared to Uluru. Individually each has been described as the ‘largest monolith in Australia’. Both consist of sedimentary rock, but they differ in almost all other aspects including dimensions, lithological variations (physical characteristics of the various rock types), geological evolution, rock structures, and ages of both the landforms and the underlying rocks.
The rocks at Mount Augustus consist of sand and gravel deposited by an ancient, south-easterly flowing river system that drained the region about 1600 million years ago. This river system flowed over a faulted and eroded surface of 1800 -1620 million-year-old granitic and metamorphic rocks. The river deposits consolidated to form sandstone and conglomerate, and were then buried beneath younger marine sediments, which were laid down when shallow seas covered the region between 1600 -1070 million years ago.
The rocks were buckled into their present-day structure about 900 million years ago when movement along faults in the underlying granitic and metamorphic rocks caused localised, strong, north-east directed compression. The marine sedimentary rocks that overlay the sandstone and conglomerate have since been eroded from Mount Augustus, but now form the hills around Cobra and Mount Augustus homesteads.
There are also boulders of exotic rock types such as fine-grained siltstones up to 60cm in diameter derived from older pre-existing rock units. These can be observed in the stream channel of Kotka Gorge and along the track to Goordgeela Lookout.
In addition to the occurrence of exotic rock types within the sandstone, parts of Mount Augustus consists of rocks completely different in age and character from the sandstone. At the western end of the inselberg the cover of sandstone has been stripped away to expose older, underlying igneous and metamorphic rocks (observed at ‘The Pound).
The Mount Augustus Sandstone, at about 1.6 billion years old, is about three times older than the sandstone of Uluru. Importantly, this is different to the age of the actual landform – the island mountain (inselberg) called Mount Augustus.
Information on the ages of Mount Augustus and Uluru is highly speculative and many reporters have confused the age of the rocks underlying the landform with that of the actual landform.
Because Mount Augustus is composed of multiple rock types it is inaccurate to call it a monolith – meaning one rock type – or claim that it is the ‘world’s biggest rock’. Likewise, a monocline, meaning a one-sided slope connecting two horizontal or gently inclined strata (layers) is also inaccurate.
Driving and relaxing
The 49 km Loop Drive around Mount Augustus allows access to all visitor sites within the park. Please note that after rainfall, the Shire of Upper Gascoyne may temporarily close the Loop Drive – which is shire managed.
The Loop Drive and all access roads are generally two-wheel-drive friendly. Drive to the road conditions and obey road closures and speed limits
A variety of walks
There’s a walk trail for everyone – from the climb to the summit (taking 5-8 hours and requiring a high level of fitness) to short walks on flat terrain of 300 or 500m, and everything in-between. All walk trails in the park are essentially unmodified with ground level trail marking dots to follow. Walkers should read the information on each trail, and take particular note of the walk trail classifications.
Choose walk trails suitable to your capabilities. Carry and drink 3 to 4 litres of water per person per day of walking; wear sturdy shoes and protection from the sun, wind and rain. Because of the extreme heat in summer, walking during this time is not recommended. If you do walk in summer, extra water will be required.
The Wajarri traditional owners request that visitors complete all their walking during daylight hours. For more information visit TrailsWA.
These walks require a moderate level of fitness. Trail surfaces are uneven and may be unstable.
- At Flintstone –Beedoboondu, the Flintstone Rock walk (Class 3) is the first section of the Gully Trail. Flintstone Rock is a large slab of rock which bridges the rocky gully. Under this rock you can observe Aboriginal engravings.
- At Cattle Pool – Goolinee, the Corella Trail (Class 3) reveals tranquil scenes of waterbirds from the south bank of the Lyons River.
- At Gum Grove – Warrarla, the Gum Grove Trail (Class 3) leads walkers through a shady grove of gnarly white-barked river red gums.
- At The Pound (Class 3), the Saddle Trail (Class 3) offers views of the overall Pound area as well as the Lyons River valley to the north.
- At Mundee and Edney’s – Ooramboo sites, the Petroglyph (Class 3) and Ooramboo Trails (Class 3) lead you to Wajarri (local aboriginal) engravings (petroglyphs).
These walks require a moderate to high level fitness. Trail surfaces are relatively undisturbed and can be rough and unstable. Weather can affect safety.
- At Goordgeela (Class 4), follow the rocky creek before ascending steeply to enjoy views to the north of the meandering Lyons River in the foreground and the Godfrey Range in the background.
- At Edney’s – Ooramboo, from Edney’s Lookout (Class 4) you can see the Mount Augustus Tourist Park and sweeping views of the vast landscape to the north east.
- At Gum Grove – Warrarla, continue on from the Gum Grove Trail along a dry, rocky stream channel to the entrance of Kotka Gorge (Class 4). From here, you will have prime views over the plain to the north east. In the dry stream channel, watch out for fine-grained siltstones derived from older pre-existing rock types.
These walks require a high level of fitness. Trail surfaces are relatively undisturbed and can be steep, rough and unstable. Weather can affect safety.
- At Flintstone – Beedoboondu, allow 5-8 hours for the 12km return trek to The Summit (Class 4 and 5). It is a long, difficult walk ascending over 650m. You are rewarded with extensive views over the surrounding plain and distant ranges.
There is no camping available in the national park. Camp sites and other types of accommodation are available at the Mount Augustus Outback Tourist Park. The tourist park is privately owned and operated by the owners of Mount Augustus Cattle Station. Fuel and basic supplies are available from the tourist park.
Open fires are not permitted in the national park.
Drinking water is not available in the national park. Carry enough water for your own needs.
The risks from exposure and dehydration are significant in this area. During the hotter months (at least December – March) these risks are extreme. Temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius.
- Walk in groups of three or more – in an emergency one might need to wait with the injured person while someone goes for help;
- Tell a trusted and responsible person of your plans and provide sufficient detail to them so they can get help if required;
- Each person needs to carry and drink 3 to 4 litres of water per day of walking;
- Carefully review your daily drinking water needs. Carry cool water if possible;
- There is no drinking water in the park. Extra water may be needed if walking in the hotter months;
- Plan your walk for the most suitable season and/or daily weather conditions;
- Wear a broad brimmed hat, sunscreen and a loose long sleeved shirt for protection from the sun;
- Take regular breaks when walking;
- Wear sturdy footwear and follow the trail markers; and
- Walk during the cooler parts of the day – there will also be more wildlife about during this time.
Walk trails are usually natural unmodified surfaces. Beware of:
- undercut cliff edges; and
- loose rocks and unstable surfaces.
Mount Augustus is a two day drive from Perth via Carnarvon or Meekatharra. The park is 465km from Carnarvon via Gascoyne Junction. The 172km road between Carnarvon and Gascoyne Junction is sealed but all other roads in the area are unsealed. Be aware that there are long distances between settlements, supplies and services – this is outback Australia. Drive to the road conditions and obey road closures and speed limits.
Air charters to Mount Augustus are an option. Alternatively, go to www.australiasgoldenoutback.com or search for Mount Augustus tours online for other opportunities.