The Greater Blue mountains Area is made up of seven national parks: the Blue Mountains, Wollemi, Yengo, Nattai, Kanangra-Boyd, Gardens of Stone and Thirlmere Lakes as well as the Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve.
The foothills of Blue Mountains start 65km inland from Sydney, rising from the Cumberland Plain in the east to encompass some of the central portions of the Great Dividing Range and rising to an 1100m-high sandstone plateau with its valleys.
The wide range of habitats includes wet and dry sclerophyll forest, mallee heathlands, localised swamps, wetlands and grassland. The area represents a significant amount of Australia’s biodiversity with ten percent of the vascular flora as well as significant numbers of rare or threatened species, including endemic and evolutionary relict species, such as the Wollemi pine. Approximately 100 species of Eucalypts occur in the Greater Blue Mountains Area. More than 400 animal species inhabit the area. These include threatened or rare species of conservation significance, such as the spotted-tailed quoll, the koala, the yellow-bellied glider and the long-nosed potoroo as well as rare reptiles including the green and golden bell frog and the Blue Mountains water skink.
The Blue Mountains region is a place of natural beauty and rich in a history. Till 1813 considered an impassable barrier, the Blue Mountains is now a major gateway to Western New South Wales.
History at a Glance
- 1770 Captain Cook lands at Botany Bay
- 1788 Captain Phillip established the first settlement at Sydney Cove
- 1813 Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains
- 1879 first coal mine opened in Katoomba
- 1959 Blue Mountains National Park was declared in 1959, its total area is 247,000 Hectares
- 2000 The Greater Blue Mountains was announced as Australia’s 14th UNESCO World Heritage Area on 29 November, its total area is over 1mil Hectares
WHY IS IT CALLED BLUE?
The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of Eucalyptus oil, which, in combination with dust particles and water vapour, scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour.
BLUE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Blue Mountains National Park stretches from Glenbrook 60 Km west of Sydney to Mt Victoria 126 Km west of Sydney. The ‘Blue Mountains’ are actually a plateau in geological terms rising gradually in elevation from 160 metres at the eastern edge to an average of nearly 1,100 metres on the western side. The Blue Mountains stand on ancient rock, which can be up to 470 million years old.
The mountains were built from sediment deposited by ancient rivers. Sediment was deposited in horizontal layers Later on, these layers formed rock beds of shales, siltstones and mudstones. In swampy areas around the margins of the sea, piles of dead vegetation were buried becoming coal. All in all, about 500 metres of marine sediments were laid down at this time – between 250 and 280 million years ago. Volcanic activity took place 170-17mil years ago, and pushed the layers upwards.
When we look at the Blue Mountains, we’re looking at the plateau created by that uplift 170 million years ago.
The reason they look like mountains is that the plateau has been dissected. Deep valleys and gorges have been cut into it. Weather was partly responsible – the effects of wind, rain, and heating and cooling. But also gravity. Sandstone is relatively resistant to erosion, but the shales and coals underneath it are much softer. These lower layers wear back relatively easily, causing the sandstone to break off.
Most of our canyons are very recent additions to the landscape. In most cases, the creation of canyons coincides with the departure of glaciers from their valleys.
Main areas in the Blue Mountains
Kings Tableland is recognized as a traditional land of the Gundungurra people, ancient Aboriginal site, Kings Tableland was occupied some 22000 years ago. Another popular spot is Lincoln Rock. It used to be called Honeymoon or Flat rock. It was renamed in 2010 after local who lived in the area and died of asbestos disease. This is to remind us that in 60’s and 70’s in Australia, asbestos was commonly used as an insulation material. Lincoln Rock is top photography spot. You can see main valley from there, also Mount Solitary that is 6km away, Narrow Neck that creates border between Jamison Valley and Megalong Valley.
Wentworth Falls is one of the most beautiful towns within the Blue Mountains offering possibly the most spectacular bushwalks and views. Originally called ‘Weatherboard’ after the ‘Weatherboard Hut’ built in 1814. In 1879 the name was changed to Wentworth Falls in honour of William Charles Wentworth, one of the three famous explorers. On 17th January 1836, Charles Darwin walked to the Wentworth Falls. Wentworth Falls is a three-tiered waterfall fed by the Jamison Creek, The total height of the waterfall is 187 metres.
Leura is as popular for visitors to the Blue Mountains as Katoomba itself. It is known as garden village, many gardens are privately owned yet open at selected times of the year to the public. Leura Garden Festival and Leura Village Fair are popular events held in October each year. You have an opportunity to visit Leura Mall (main buildings built between 1906-1918), Leura Mall has many fine coffee shops, restaurants and galleries.
Katoomba is the most visited town in the Blue Mountains, iconic rock formation Three Sisters is best seen from viewing platform Echo point near Information Centre. It wasn’t until 1879 that the town of Katoomba became known when J.B. North opened the Katoomba Coal Mine. Coal was obtained from the side of the mountain near Orphan Rock using a cable car to bring the coal to the top. The now famous Scenic Railway operates in the original cutting in the mountain side.
The Superb Lyrebird is almost a mascot of the Blue Mountains: a bit of luck and watchful eye and you can spot lyrebirds on a bushwalk.
They are very shy, they feed by scratching around the leaf-litter for insects and spiders.
They mimic a huge variety of sounds, but are particularly fond of putting whip-bird songs into their repertoire.
Bushwalks where you can spot Lyrebirds include the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, which runs between Leura and Katoomba; between the Three Sisters and Scenic World; and around Katoomba Falls.
ACCORDING TO GUNDUNGURRA DREAMING, three beautiful sisters named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo once lived with the Gundungurra people in the Jamison Valley. The maidens were in love with three brothers from the neighbouring nation of the Dharruk people, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were warriors and decided to take the maidens by force. Tribal war forced the Kuradjuri (clever man) of the Gundungurra people to turn the sisters into stone. He intended to restore them after the danger had passed and the war had ended. Unfortunately, the Kuradjuri (clever man) was killed in the battle and to this day nobody has been able to break the spell and turn the Three Sisters back to their natural form.
Legend reproduced with permission from:
- Sharon Brown Burragurrang Clan, Gundungurra Nation
- Merv Trindal, Chairperson Gundungurra Tribal Council
Please note this is one of a number of versions of the legend.
Three sisters, Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo had a father who was a witch doctor. His name was Tyawan.
Long ago there was a Bunyip who lived in a deep hole who was feared by all. Passing the hole was considered very dangerous, therefore whenever Tyawan had to pass the hole in search for food, he would leave his daughters safely on the cliff behind a rocky wall.
One fateful day, Tyawan waved goodbye to his daughters and descended down the cliff steps into the valley.
Meanwhile at the top of the cliff, Meenhi was frightened by a large centipede which suddenly appeared before her. Meenhi took a stone and threw it at the centipede. The stone continued on its journey and rolled over the cliff, crashing into the valley below which angered the Bunyip.
The rocky wall behind Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo then began to split open and the three sisters were left stranded on a thin ledge at the top of the cliff. All the birds, animals and fairies stopped still as the Bunyip emerged to see the terrified girls.
As the Bunyip began to approach the girls, to protect them from harm, their father Tyawan used his magic bone to turn them into stone.
Angered by this, the Bunyip then began to chase Tyawan. Becoming trapped, in order to flee from the Bunyip, Tyawan changed into a magnificent Lyre Bird, yet in the process dropped his magic bone. Tyawan and his three daughters were now safe from the Bunyip.
Once the Bunyip had disappeared, Tyawan returned in search of his magic bone, yet this was never to be found.
The Lyre Bird has been searching for this magic bone ever since. Remaining in rock formation, The Three Sisters stand silently overlooking the valley hoping that one day he’ll find the bone and turn them back to former selves.
When visiting The Three Sisters, if you listen carefully you may be able to hear the Lyre Bird, Tyawan, as he continues his quest for his lost magic bone.