Purnululu National Park


Purnululu National Park (W Baluch/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0).

Western Australia
S17 30 0 E128 30 0
Date of Inscription: 2003
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Property : 239,723 ha
Buffer zone: 79,602 ha
Ref: 1094
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The 239,723 ha Purnululu National Park is located in the State of Western Australia. It contains the deeply dissected Bungle Bungle Range composed of Devonian-age quartz sandstone eroded over a period of 20 million years into a series of beehive-shaped towers or cones, whose steeply sloping surfaces are distinctly marked by regular horizontal bands of dark-grey cyanobacterial crust (single-celled photosynthetic organisms). These outstanding examples of cone karst owe their existence and uniqueness to several interacting geological, biological, erosional and climatic phenomena.

Purnululu NationalPark, located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, covers almost 240,000 hectares of remote area managed as wilderness. It includes the Bungle Bungle Range, a spectacularly incised landscape of sculptured rocks which contains superlative examples of beehive-shaped karst sandstone rising 250 metres above the surrounding semi-arid savannah grasslands. Unique depositional processes and weathering have given these towers their spectacular black and orange banded appearance, formed by biological processes of cyanobacteria (single cell photosynthetic organisms) which serve to stabilise and protect the ancient sandstone formations. These outstanding examples of cone karst that have eroded over a period of 20 million years are of great beauty and exceptional geological interest.

Criterion (vii)Although Purnululu National Park has not been widely known in Australia until recently and remains relatively inaccessible, it has become recognised internationally for its exceptional natural beauty. The prime scenic attraction is the extraordinary array of banded, beehive-shaped cone towers comprising the Bungle Bungle Range. These have become emblematic of the park and are internationally renowned among Australia’s natural attractions. The dramatically sculptured structures, unrivalled in their scale, extent, grandeur and diversity of form anywhere in the world, undergo remarkable daily and seasonal variation in appearance, including striking colour transition following rain and with the positioning of the sun. The intricate maze of towers is accentuated by sinuous, narrow, sheer-sided gorges lined with majestic Livistona fan palms. These and the soaring cliffs up to 250 metres high are cut by seasonal waterfalls and pools, creating the major tourist attractions in the park with evocative names such as Echidna Chasm, Piccaninny and Cathedral Gorges. The diversity of landforms and ecosystems elsewhere in the park are representative of the semi-arid landscape in which Purnululu is located and provide a sympathetic visual buffer for the massif.

Criterion (viii)The Bungle Bungles are, by far, the most outstanding example of cone karst in sandstones anywhere in the world and owe their existence and uniqueness to several interacting geological, biological, erosional and climatic phenomena. The sandstone karst of Purnululu National Park is of great scientific importance in demonstrating so clearly the process of cone karst formation on sandstone – a phenomenon recognised by geomorphologists only recently and still not completely understood. The Bungle Bungle Ranges of the Park also display to an exceptional degree evidence of geomorphic processes of dissolution, weathering and erosion in the evolution of landforms under a savannah climatic regime within an ancient, stable sedimentary landscape.

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Warmun is an Aboriginal community in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The town mostly consists of a roadhouse used as a stop off point for travellers heading to Purnululu National Park. The Aboriginal managed community has a population of around 400 people and is renowned for producing a number of internationally recognised artists. Warmun used to be called Turkey Creek after a nearby waterway, but is now named in the local Gija peoples language. Warmun’s beginnings were far from auspicious. Turkey Creek was established in 1901 as a government depot to distribute rations to Aboriginal people forced off their land by pastoralists in the late 1880s. Many were forced onto government cattle stations through government coercion where conditions were little better. In the 1970s, some Gija people, fed up with dispossession and poverty, asked for government assistance to establish a community at Turkey Creek. Slowly, Gija people related by language gravitated in from the stations and settled into small camps till a permanent settlement was established in 1977 [read more].

Halls Creek is a town situated in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It is located between the towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Turkey Creek (Warmun) on the Great Northern Highway. It is the only sizeable town for 600 km on the Highway. Halls Creek is also the northern end of the Canning Stock Route, which runs 1,850 km through the Great Sandy Desert until the southern end of the route at Wiluna. The town functions as a major hub for the local indigenous population and as a support centre for cattle stations in the area. Halls Creek is the administration centre for Halls Creek Shire Council. The land now known as Halls Creek has been occupied for thousands of years by Aboriginal peoples. The land is crossed by songlines and trading paths stretching from the coasts to the deserts, some passing near the modern town. The story of that long occupation remains alive today and it is revealed in the culture of the Jaru, Kija, Kukatja, Walmajarri, Gooniyandi and other Indigenous people who live in Halls Creek Shire [read more].

Kununurra is a small town built on big dreams. In a remote corner of the vast Kimberley region of Western Australia, its unaffected pastoral feel makes a comfortable base from which to explore the majestic natural attractions in the rugged surrounding landscape. Kununurra’s existence is due entirely to a grand engineering scheme to harness the Ord River, and establish an agriculture industry in the area. The town began in the late 1950s as a support centre for the Ord Irrigation scheme. A few vanguard families slowly spread their multi-thousand acre properties across the fertile plain. It has shaken off its pragmatic origins to develop infrastructure for the growing number of visitors to this previously difficult-to-visit part of the Kimberley. From the handful of pioneering farmers, the permanent population has now grown to around 7,000. As early as 1882, fortune seeking pastoralists and farmers have been drawn to pin their hopes on the Ord River and the wide open plains around it [read more].

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