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Carnarvon Station

59,000 ha
200km south of Emerald
Traditional Owners:
Bidjara people

Carnarvon sits in the Brigalow Belt bioregion – one of the most extensive, fertile and well-watered areas in northern Australia.

The Brigalow Belt covers 1.6 times the area of Victoria but has been mostly cleared of vegetation and is maintained that way (regrowth is cleared). Species once dominant on the more fertile plains have been reduced to small patches.

Landscape-scale conservation is now only possible in the least productive and rugged terrain. Extensive patches of this remain and within these are pockets of the ecosystems once on the plains.

White Stallion Lookout.

Carnarvon Station is one such pocket – a 60,000 hectare valley in the midst of the largest remnant in the bioregion, adjacent to Carnarvon National Park, which covers mostly rugged ranges.

Our reserve extends conservation down to the grasslands and fertile valleys to help make the reserve estate a contained microcosm of what once was.

Of around 170 animal species found on the reserve so far, at least 10 are threatened. This reserve also protects hundreds of plant species, five of which are threatened.

Misty morning at Carnarvon Station Reserve.

What Carnarvon Reserve protects

The woodlands protect a wide range of native species, including geckos, gliders, honeyeaters, the tiny Narrow-nosed Planigale and the Common Dunnart. The nationally endangered Northern Quoll has been recorded on Carnarvon in the past and more recently within the adjacent national park.

A Dingo on Carnarvon Station. Photo Kent Womack.
A Dingo on Carnarvon Station. Photo Kent Womack.

Carnarvon also has its own endemic snail, Pallidelix simonhudsoni and the following significant species and communities:

Animals: Koala, Herbert's Rock Wallaby, Greater Glider, Dingo, Squatter Pigeon, Glossy Black-cockatoo, Corben's Long-eared Bat, Adorned Delma, Pale Imperial Hairstreak, Tusked Frog.

Plants: Austral Cornflower (Rhaponticum australe), a sedge (Cyperus clarus), Spiky Anchorplant (Discaria pubescens), Tall Velvet Sea-berry (Haloragis exalata subsp. velutina), King Bluegrass (Dichanthium queenslandicum).

Vegetation communities: Bluegrass grasslands, vine thicket, Brigalow scrub, spring wetland communities, redgum forest, Poplar Box woodlands, Mountain Coolibah woodlands.

What we’re doing

Carnarvon Station was a cattle station for 140 years, so our first priority was removing stock to protect the grasslands and sensitive natural springs.

Conservation involves a lot of the resource-intensive work that might take place on a farm – boundary fences are needed to keep out stock. Access tracks have to be maintained and feral animals and weeds managed.

Significant run-away erosion has been stabilised and infrastructure such as the historic homestead have been restored so staff can live on reserve and maintain its assets.

Austral Cornflower (Rhaponticum australe) is a significant species occurring in the grasslands. Photo Rebecca Diete.
Austral Cornflower (Rhaponticum australe) is a significant species occurring in the grasslands. Photo Rebecca Diete.

Some of the precious alluvial grasslands and grassy woodlands have been cropped in the past and in the process they were infested with weeds such as Johnson Grass and Buffel Grass. With help from volunteers, these have been held in check while the native species regained hold. 

Removing feral horses and pigs has also been important. Horses destroy shelter for ground-nesting birds and other wildlife, cause erosion, and trample springs and watercourses, ruining important turtle and frog habitat. Pigs root up earth around the springs, fouling the water and degrading the tiny wetland habitats encircling the springs.

Planned burns reduce the extent of wildfires threatening life and property. They allow for the retention of vegetation islands within burns as refuges and arks for wildlife.

Our results

Grasslands are now dominated by native species. So much so that we're now harvesting Bluegrass seeds to sell to other local landowners, for use in rehabilitating cleared or degraded grasslands in the surrounding region.

Planned burns have seen a mix of species return across the valleys. The Poplar Box and coolibah woodlands that were cleared are regrowing rapidly. Those that were spared clearing, some still showing scar trees from precolonial times, are now in a varied sea of native grasses.

Reserve Manager Chris Wilson with wife Alison and family in grasslands. Photo by Krystle Wright.
Reserve Manager Chris Wilson with wife Alison and family in grasslands. Photo by Krystle Wright.

The most spectacular difference has been in the upland coolibah and ironbark woodlands. Here the removal of feral horses has seen bare earth return to dense grass and herbs. The return of managed burns has also seen acacias return to the midstorey of the woodlands.

History and cultural values

Keelen Mailman is a Bidjara woman who lives on the neighbouring Mt Tabor Station. For many years the Bidjara people were denied access to Carnarvon Station, even though it's part of their traditional lands. That's all changed.

An Eastern Snake Necked Turtle. Photo Cathy Zwick.
An Eastern Snake Necked Turtle. Photo Cathy Zwick.

“When Bush Heritage acquired Carnarvon Station they took steps to identify the Traditional Owners, which was brilliant for us,” says Keelen.

“It really touched my heart seeing the joy on the face of my old uncle when he was allowed to visit the place he’d lived as a child for the first time in years.”

The reserve holds many sites of cultural importance to the Bidjara, including rock art, burial places, scar trees and quarry sites.

Carnarvon Station seems to have been grazed from the early days of European settlement, with records dating back to 1884. Libby Smith has researched and documented the history of the property since European settlement, which is a fascinating reflection on the changing attitudes of Australia through the years.

Portable Document File (PDF) Carnarvon Station: A history of European Settlement since 1863 (Libby Smith 2003) 5mb

Carnarvon's purchase was made possible with funds from the Commonwealth’s National Reserve System Program, as well as our generous supporters.

Visiting Carnarvon Station

From 1 June to September 30 it’s possible to book a camping spot at Carnarvon Station and to explore the reserve for yourself. Visit our Carnarvon camping page to register your interest and download the camping guide with details of what you’ll need.