Sturt National Park
In the far north-west of the state, in so-called Corner Country, lies one of Australia’s driest, most remote national parks. Sturt National Park is a sea of sand, seemingly endless gibber plains, red rock and mulga bushes. Lake Pinaroo, near Fort Grey, was placed on the Ramsar list in 1996 – when it ﬁlls it is a signiﬁcant refuge for large numbers of waterbirds and waders.
Sturt National Park is real ‘back of Bourke’ country, lying 400 kilometres west of the town touted as epitomising the outback. It is tucked into a distant corner, where the borders of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland converge. This is arid, harsh country, intriguing for its vastness, with vestiges of exploring and pioneering history and surprisingly plentiful wildlife.
From Broken Hill via partly sealed Silver City Hwy; from Bourke via unsealed Bourke–Milparinka Rd then Silver City Hwy (check conditions as roads may be closed after rain)
Autumn to spring
1504 km north-west of Sydney; 335 km north of Broken Hill; 400 km west of Bourke; 22 km north of Tibooburra
- NSWNPWS 1300 361 967
- Tibooburra Visitor Centre (08) 8091 3308
325 329 ha
Tibooburra (08) 8091 3308
Featured Activities in the National Park
Watch for big red kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles and emus
See the famous Dog Fence, the longest fence in the world
Head to Lake Pinaroo after rain, for outstanding birdwatching
Explore the area around historic Mount Wood Homestead
- Sturt National Park, Eco-friendly activity
A look at the past
European explorers trekked through this region in search of water, grazing pastures and a route to the north of the continent. Captain Charles Sturt, after whom the park is named, spent longest – almost a year in the area in the 1840s as he searched for the mythical ‘inland sea’.
A short-lived gold rush where Tibooburra now stands brought a brief ﬂourish of activity, but petered out in less than a decade. Pastoralists moved in and took up vast grazing properties and in 1946 began building the world’s longest fence, the Dog Fence. It slices through the landscape, a 5600-kilometre ribbon of wire stretching to the horizon. Sturt National Park was declared in 1972.
The Karenggapa people survived in this remote area for generations before the arrival of the white man, and many signs of occupation remain, including shell middens and stone relics. Before World War I many of the Aboriginal men worked on the sheep and cattle stations.
The red sands of the Strzelecki Desert roll in on the western side of the park, while the east has stony downs of round gibbers and Mitchell grass. Low, ﬂat-topped hills or jump-ups rise up to 150 metres above the ground in the centre of the park. Lake Pinaroo is an ephemeral lake, only ﬁlling after very heavy rains, but it can retain water for as long as six years, attracting an extraordinary number of birds, which seemingly appear from nowhere.
In this arid environment plant life struggles to survive. Hardy mulga, gidgee and coolibah trees are typical in the park’s east. In the west acacia and scrawny emubushes grow, providing seeds and small native fruits for birds.
The environment is harsh, with temperatures soaring to 50 degrees Celsius in summer and often dropping below zero at night in winter, yet this is where you will see some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife. ‘Big reds’ lope effortlessly across the landscape, wedge-tailed eagles soar overhead and ﬂocks of emus prowl on their gangly legs. Brown falcons and nankeen kestrels are a common sight. There are many other birds (over 150 species recorded in the park), including migratory waterbirds such as the yellow-billed spoonbill, glossy ibis and sharp-tailed sandpiper. The climate and environment also suits reptiles – keep an eye out for goannas, painted and central bearded dragons, shingleback lizards, geckos and skinks.
Call in at the visitor centre at Tibooburra before visiting the park to pick up detailed maps of walks and driving routes, and to get an update on closed roads or other information. Ask about ranger-guided tours during school holiday periods.
Do not consider walking in the extreme heat of summer. There are short walks at Mount Wood, Olive Downs and Fort Grey, where Charles Sturt built a stockade to keep his party’s supplies and secure their sheep on his expedition in the 1840s.
There are loop drives suitable for 2WD vehicles or take the 4WD-only Middle Road that meanders across the park, linking the campsites and letting you appreciate the vastness of the outback. This is remote country so always carry plenty of drinking water and food. Note that roads in the park are closed after heavy rain.
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