|A lookout on the Gwydir Highway|
A few months ago I travelled from Glen Innes to Grafton via the Gwydir Highway. The landscape in this area is wonderfully diverse and surprisingly contradictory. For example usually Sandy soils on the plateau give rise to swamps with peat. It is a special area because the link between the geology, vegetation and even bush fire patterns is quite obvious. I'd like to focus on one rock unit that makes up the balance of the Gibraltar Range National Park area, the Dandahra Creek Leucogranite.
The Dandahra Creek Leucogranite was often referred to as the Danhahra Granite (and still regularly called this in botanical circles). It is part of the New England Batholith and has recently been dated at at 237.6 Ma (Chisholm et al 2014). It is the youngest member of the Stanthorpe supersuite of granites. Outcrops are very frequent in the Mulligans Hut area and the Gwydir highway transverses the unit.
The spectacular tors which are major features of the landscape of Gibraltar Range National Park arise from weathering from the Dandahra Creek Leucogranite. These tors form through onion peel weathering (technically called exfoliation or spheroidal weathering). This weathering process is where water enters cracks in the rocks and then freezes over night. As water turns to ice it expands and sheets off rock just like an onion skin. This is usually a fairly slow process except with the last sloughing off of the onion peel occurring quite rapidly.
Tall open forest is a major feature of the landscape of the Dandahra Creek Leucogranite. These eucalyptus dominated forests can have an open, grassy understorey featuring grass-trees and/or tree-ferns. These landscapes are quite fire prone. Indeed their structure is dependent on multi-decadal scale fires.
There are also some more unusual vegetation communities on rock outcrops because the tor outcrops lend themselves to protecting some vegetation from fires. They are also very thin soils with low nutrient content so even carnivorous plants can be found.
The shallow wide valleys that are formed on the sandy granitic derived soils result in common large peat swamps. The shape of the valleys slows down water and the underlying massive granite means that the water does not infiltrate. The swamps contain sedges and other water loving plants.
If you are interested in the bush or interested in rock the Gibraltar Range National Park is for you. If you are in to camping, bush walking, amazing views of rugged valleys the Gibraltar Range National Park is for you. If you are in to spectacular flowers, rainforests, exploring a rocky creek the Gibraltar Range National Park is for you. If you are in to staying in a lodge, want to see some snow, or bathe in a rock pool on a summers day the Gibraltar Range National Park is for you.
*Chisholm, E.I., Blevin, P.L. and Simpson, C.J. 2014. New SHRIMP U–Pb zircon ages from the New England Orogen, New South Wales: July 2012–June 2014. Record 2014/52. Geoscience Australia
*Clarke, Peter J. & Myerscough, Peter J. 2006. Introduction to the Biology and Ecology of Gibraltar Range National Park and Adjacent areas: Patterns, Processes and Prospects. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales
*New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service 2005. Gibraltar Range Group of National Parks (Incorporating Barool, Capoompeta, Gibraltar Range, Nymboida and Washpool National Parks and Nymboida and Washpool State Conservation Areas) Plan of Management. February 2005. ISBN 0 7313 6861 4