Wyperfeld National Park
Located in the flat, semi-arid north-western corner of Victoria, Wyperfeld is one of Australia's most fascinating national parks. The central feature of this huge, 361,000-hectare park is a chain of lake beds connected by Outlet Creek, the northern extension of the Wimmera River.
The lakes only fill when the Wimmera River over-supplies Lake Hindmarsh Lake Reserve to the south of Lake Albacutya Park - a rare event.
When it rains the semi-arid landscape is miraculously transformed by tiny desert plants that sprout from long-dormant seeds, carpeting the ground with clusters of flowers. Many people prefer to visit in the cooler months of the year.
The sand dunes you see in Wyperfeld are estimated to be between 40,000 and 15,000 years old and are the legacy of a shallow sea that was here 25 million years ago. As the seas slowly retreated, westerly winds blew sand over the exposed inland areas, building a complex of rolling dunes.
The Wotjobaluk (local Aboriginal people) regularly travelled along Outlet Creek visiting lakes and swamps, moving around following the water and food resources.
In 1847 James Clow was the first known European to venture along Outlet Creek north of Lake Hindmarsh. He established the first pastoral run here.
In 1909 a number of naturalists persuaded the government to temporarily reserve 3900 hectares of this fast-disappearing habitat. Wyperfeld National Park was declared in 1921.
Drive - explore the park on four wheels
The Eastern Lookout Nature Drive is a highly recommended introduction to the park.
Walk - explore on foot
There are two self-guided nature walks, the Discovery Walk near the Wonga Campground, the Tyakil Walk at Black Flat. For those seeking a slightly longer walk, the Desert Walk is highly recommended.
Cycle - explore on two wheels
The Eastern Lookout Nature Drive and entrance roads and the Outlet Creek track are good for cycling. Others are too sandy.
Animals living in the mallee have adapted to an arid, sandy habitat environment with irregular rainfall. Mitchell's Hopping Mouse and the Desert Silky Mouse live here, as well as a large variety of reptiles such as the Sand Goanna, dragons, skinks and geckos. Snakes, however, are rarely seen at Wyperfeld. Emus and western grey kangaroos are plentiful and can usually be seen grazing on the dry lake beds and surrounding woodlands at dawn and dusk.
More than 200 bird species have been recorded, including the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Mallee Ringneck Parrot, Red-rumped Parrot, Galah, eagle and smaller birds such as the Variegated Fairy-wren and Red-capped Robin. Wyperfeld is home to the rare Malleefowl - one of Australia's most endangered species.
Spring is the best time to see wildflowers, although in drier years the displays are not as spectacular. Around 520 species of native plants occur in Wyperfield, many in distinct communities that can be seen within easy reach of the campgrounds.
River Red Gum and Black Box woodlands cover the floodplains of Outlet Creek and the lakes. Cypress-pine woodlands grow on dunes near the lakes. Mallee covers most of the eastern section of the park. The mallees are shrubby Eucalypts with numerous stems arising from an underground rootstock, called a Lignotuber. This stores food and sends up new stems if those above ground die. The rolling sand plains of the western section are covered with heathland.
An Information Centre is located near the main Wonga camping ground.
Campgrounds have picnic shelters, tables, fireplaces, toilets and limited water. Wonga Campground can be reached via a sealed road from Hopetoun or Rainbow. Casuarina Campground and Pine Plains, in the north of the park are accessible from Patchewollock by two-wheel drive car or Underbool and Wonga Campground via the Dattuck/North-South Track by 4WD. The Western park area is accessed via the Nhill - Murrayville Track, Milmed Rock Track, Chinaman's Well Track, Netting Fence Track using a 4WD or via the bitumen through Yanac or Ouyen, but access may be restricted during wet weather and once there, a 4WD will be required - it is recommended that further advice is sought from rangers at the Wyperfeld office. Camping fees apply at Wonga Campground only.
Accommodation is available in the surrounding towns of Hopetoun, Rainbow, Patchewollock, Walpeup and Underbool.
Carry in drinking water or know how to make untreated water safe for drinking.
Wyperfeld National Park can be accessed via Underbool, which is situated on the Mallee Highway, from Patchewollock and from Hopetoun on the Sunraysia Highway or via Rainbow and Yaapeet if coming from the south through Horsham.