River in Little Desert National Park
Small rural service centre.
Goroke is a small pastoral and agricultural
centre of some 200 people located 366 km
north-west of Melbourne and 67 km west of
The town was laid out in 1882 and named after
the Aboriginal term for the district which
apparently meant 'magpie'. In 1884 the
population was recorded as about 50. It served
as a supply centre for local selectors. By 1887
there was a flour mill, two stores, a school, a
mechanics' hall, an hotel and a blacksmith's.
The only linkage to Nhill and Kaniva was by a
desert track. By 1891 the population had
increased to 91. A railway line to Natimuk was
completed in 1894.
Poet John Shaw Nielson (aged 8) and his
family settled at Lake Minimay, 30 km north-west
of Goroke, in 1880. He briefly attended school
there and worked as a farm labourer. It was here
that he began writing poetry, his work inspired
by local landscapes. The family left for Nhill
owing to drought in 1885.
Things to see:
Edenhope Visitors' Centre, tel: (03) 5585 1509.
22 km west of Goroke, along the road to
Bordertown, there is an intersection with the
Edenhope to Kaniva Rd which runs north-south.
Just by this intersection is Lake Charlegrark
where there are boating and picnicking
facilities. This is a good spot for fishing with
Murray cod, redfin and yabbies to be had. On the
rim of the lake (turn left into the Edenhope Rd)
are Lake Charlegrark Cottages for overnight
accommodation, tel: (03) 5386 6281. The Lake
Charlegrark Country Music Marathon is held every
year on the third weekend in February.
Lake Charlegrark Cottages can arrange for you to
visit Tom Mulraney who takes pride in showing
people his lovely Clydesdale horses and he also
has a collection of local artefacts. He is just
around the corner from the cottages but you need
to make an appointment in advance so ring the
cottages before passing through.
Minimay Swamp is a pretty spot for a wintertime
visit (it is dry in summer). There is plenty of
birdlife about but there no facilities. Starting
from the intersection mentioned in the last two
entries, continue west along the Bordertown Rd
for about 4 or 5 km and take the turnoff on the
right, heading north for about the same
Water skiing is popular at Lake Bringalbert
although there are, again, no facilities.
Continue west along the Bordertown Rd. 3 or 4 km
beyond the Minimay turnoff, turn left and it is
another 8 km to the lagoon.
Lake Ratzcastle is a noted fishing spot,
particularly for yellowbelly, and it has a
pleasant campground. To get there head south
from Goroke along the road to Harrow. It is
about 10 km out of town to the right.
Just further south along the same road is a
turnoff on the left which leads a short distance
to Lake Karnak.
Little Desert National Park
To the north of Goroke is Little Desert, the
second-largest national park in Victoria. This
area was ignored during the European settlement
of the Wimmera. The first reserve was created in
1955 to protect the mallee fowl and the park was
declared in 1968.
Despite its name, the dry hot summers and
sandy soil, this is not a true desert so don't
expect Sahara-like landscapes. The park receives
400 mm of rainfall per annum (mostly in winter)
and supports a range of fauna and 670 plant
species. With its scrubby woodland it represents
a remnant of the Wimmera's pre-colonial
Wildlife includes possums, the black-faced
kangaroo, the silky desert mouse, reptiles such
as the bearded dragon and the short-tailed
snake, and 220 bird species, including the
mallee fowl which is indigenous to this
semi-arid portion of Victoria. Its presence is
signified by a mound up to five metres in
diameter and one metre high.It lays its eggs
inside the mound which is adjusted daily to
maintain its temperature at 33 degrees celsius.
The chicks emerge already self-sufficient.
The park is essentially divided into three
sections. 11 km east, towards Horsham, a bitumen
road heads north towards Nhill (47 km), dividing
the middle and eastern sections of the park. Not
far south of Winiam, to the right, is the start
of the short Stringybark Walk which is an
excellent spot to see wildflowers, particularly
in spring and early summer.
The park has numerous 4WD tracks. Contact a
ranger for advice on routes and camping areas as
some tracks are closed at certain times of the
year, tel: (03) 5389 1204.
Little Desert Tours and Lodge
Little Desert Tours offer guided and educational
4WD tours into the park from the private
accommodation centre known as Little Desert
Lodge located 16 km south of Nhill on the Harrow
Rd. They also have a Mallee fowl aviary and an
environmental study centre. The Little Desert
Wildflower Exhibition is held here each year in
September-October, tel: (03) 5391 1714.
Jane Duff Reserve
The Jane Duff Reserve (about 20 km east on the
Horsham Rd) is a 26-ha roadside reserve with
remnant native vegetation. It represents the
southernmost occurrence of the mallee. There are
picnic facilities and a monument to Jane Duff,
one of the three Duff children who got lost in
the bush for nine days in 1864. When they were
located by an Aboriginal tracker only Frank Duff
(aged four) was conscious but all three were
carefully nursed back to health. Their story was
immortalised in a popular tale of the era called
'Babes in the Woods'.