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Park Feature - Mount Augustus National Park

Drawing obvious comparisons to world-famous Uluru, Mount Augustus offers rocky creeks and gorges, open plains, Aboriginal rock engravings and a variety of wildlife – all the beauty, with only a fraction of the tourists.

  • By Jenna Oliver
  • 29th September, 2021

This article appeared in LANDSCOPE magazine Spring 2021

Upon entering Mount Augustus National Park, a visitor sees a carpet of arid shrublands dominated by wattles, sennas and Eremophilas that blanket the plain and extend right up to and over the giant rock. Sporadic groves of river gums indicate water seepage from beneath the island mountain. 

Visitors will encounter rocky creeks, gorges, open plains, Aboriginal rock engravings (petroglyphs) and a variety of wildlife. Mulga, gidgee and other wattles are sprinkled across the plain, and a keen eye will spot spinifex pigeons, crimson chats, mulga parrots and babblers as they forage for food.

At Cattle Pool on the Lyons River, permanent pools attract cormorants, ibis, heron, and a variety of ducks. The trees play home to blue-winged kookaburras, sacred kingfishers and little corellas.

Emus visit regularly to seek out fruits, while bustards sneak up on insects and small reptiles on the ground. On the plain you’re likely to see bungarras and red kangaroos, and as you scale the mount, euros and birds of prey can be found.

Taking a moment to sit quietly and enjoy the serenity may afford you the added bonus of seeing some of the more shy-but-inquisitive wildlife, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon. While patiently waiting to glimpse a critter, marvel at the factors, like infertile soils and climate variability, that have shaped the thriving ecosystem.

Site significance

Mount Augustus and surrounds are the traditional lands of the Wajarri people. The Wajarri name for the site is Burringurrah, named after a boy who was undergoing his initiation into manhood. The rigours of this process so distressed him that he ran away, breaking Aboriginal law. Tribespeople chased the boy and hit him with a mulgurrah (fighting stick). Burringurrah collapsed and died, lying on his belly with his left leg bent up beside his body. You can see his final resting pose as you approach Mount Augustus from the south. 

Aboriginal occupation is evidenced by engravings on rock walls at Mundee, Ooramboo and Beedoboondu visitor sites, and by numerous stone tools discovered in the area.

Common plants and animals of Mount Augustus

  • Wattles (Acacia spp.)
  • Sennas (Cassias, Senna spp.)
  • Eremophilas (Eremophilia spp.)
  • Mulga (Acacia aneura)
  • Gidgee (Acacia pruinocarpa)
  • Spinifex pigeon (Geophaps plumifera)
  • Crimson chat (Epthianura tricolor)
  • Mulga parrot (Psephotus varius)
  • Babblers (Pomatostomus spp.)
  • Cormorants (Phalacrocoracidae)
  • Ibis (Threskiornithidae)
  • Heron (Ardeidae)
  • Ducks (Anatidae)
  • Blue-winged kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)
  • Sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)
  • Little corella (Cacatua sanguinea)
  • Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
  • Bustard (wild turkey, Ardeotis australis)
  • Bungarra (goanna, Varanus spp.)
  • Red kangaroo (Osphranter rufus)
  • Euro (Osphranter robustus)
  • Birds of prey

Staying safe

Tragically, several lives have been lost at this location in recent years, mainly on the Summit Trail and due to heat stress. Despite this, some visitors continue to arrive and go on to hike without sufficient preparation. This park is incredibly remote and even small problems can escalate quickly when far  from help.

These tips will help you plan your visit and pack appropriately:

  • Avoid hiking in hot weather – hike in the coolest times of the day. Temperatures can be extreme, exceeding 40°C. Radiant heat from the rocks can increase the temperature by 5 – 10 degrees Celsius.
  • Plan and prepare – Use this form to provide a trusted responsible person with enough detail of your travel plans so they can get help if required. Ask them to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned and/or contacted them by the agreed time.
  • Start slowly - spend a few days hiking shorter trails before considering longer hikes.
  • Hike in groups - of three or more experienced hikers to allow for emergencies and stay on marked trails.
  • Physical fitness - Use trail classification information to choose trails that match your fitness level. Know your limits!
  • Water - Carry and drink a minimum of one litre per person, per hour when hiking and more in hotter weather. There is no drinking water in the park.
  • Dress appropriately - Wear a broad brimmed hat, loose long-sleeved clothing, sturdy footwear and sunscreen.
  • Carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) - or satellite phone, it could save your life. Mobile phone coverage is extremely limited.
  • Weather - Take note of the weather before you leave and be prepared for unexpected weather changes.
  • Take care – only walk as fast as your slowest group member and watch out for their wellbeing. Stop frequently to let them catch up and rest.

A famous cousin

Mount Augustus is often — and mistakenly — referred to as a monocline (one sided slope) or monolith (one rock), and frequently compared to Uluru. Both consist of sedimentary rock, but they differ in almost all other aspects including dimensions, geological evolution, and ages of both the landforms and the underlying rocks (see ‘Mega Geology’, LANDSCOPE Winter 2021). The Mount Augustus sandstone is estimated to be about 1.6 billion years old and thought to be about three times older than the sandstone of Uluru.

Mount Augustus is in fact an ‘asymmetric anticline’ because of the arch-like shape it is folded into, which is composed of multiple rock types. 

The mount can also be described as an inselberg, meaning ‘island mountain’, and rises 715 metres out of the surrounding alluvial plain.

Things to do

The park has 11 trails in total, from short hikes to moderately difficult hikes through to the extremely challenging Summit Trail, which is a five-to-eight-hour hike and requires a high level of fitness  and preparation. 

All hike trails in the park are essentially unmodified and ground-level trail markings should be followed. Hikers should read the information and classification for each trail and choose hike trails suitable to their capabilities. In case of emergency, it is strongly recommended you carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or satellite phone as mobile phone coverage is extremely limited.

Carry and drink a minimum of four litres of water per person per day of hiking, wear sturdy shoes and protection from the sun, wind and rain. The area experiences extreme heat in the warmer months (September to March), so hiking is not recommended. If you do walk in the heat, extra water is essential.

The Wajarri Traditional Owners request that visitors complete all their hiking during daylight hours and be off the mount by nightfall.

The 49-kilometre Loop Drive around Mount Augustus allows access to all visitor sites within the park. The Loop Drive and  all access roads are generally two-wheel-drive friendly.

Do it yourself

  • Where is it? 465 kilometres north-east of Carnarvon via Gascoyne Junction
  • Total area: 9168 hectares
  • Recreational activities: Hiking, appreciation of nature and culture
  • Nearest Parks and Wildlife Service office: Shark Bay District office, Knight Terrace, Denham 6537. Phone (08) 9948 2226
  • Where to stay: Mount Augustus Tourist Park adjacent to the national park offers camping, accommodation and basic supplies.
  • Before your visit: Check Park Alerts for current park alerts and download the free Emergency+ app.
tree roots incorporating rocks at Edneys - Ooramboo

Picnic bench at Edneys - Ooramboo

Sturt's Hibiscus at Mount Augustus National Park

Sturt's Hibiscus

Colourful wildflowers and the red dirt trail create a stunning contrast.