, Murray-Sunset National Park
Murrayville (including Cowangie)
Major access point to the Big Desert
Located 22 km west of the South Australian
border, Murrayville is a rural service town of
350 people, situated on the Mallee Highway, 567
km north-west of Melbourne and 110 km west of
Murrayville has a caravan park, a park with
children's play facilities in the centre of
town, a shopping mart and a take-away food shop.
The huge storage tank is filled with bore water
pumped to the surface by windmills. An
information bay is located in a roadside park
where there are picnic tables and a giant Mallee
stump on display.
The stump is a reminder of the difficulties
faced by selectors who began to move into the
area and clear the scrub away for farming in
1909. This scrubby territory was once covered in
this drought-resistant eucalypt which proved
immensely difficult to uproot and destroy. Any
remnant of the subterranean root system led to
regeneration and a heartbreaking renewal of
efforts at clearing.
Things to see:
The Mallee Tourism Association Information
Centre is located at Ouyen, tel: (03) 5092 1000.
The Pine Hill Walking Trail in town takes in an
abundance of native flora and birdlife. It takes
about two hours to complete although there is a
Big Desert Wilderness Park
Big Desert Wilderness Park is an arid area of
sandstone ridges, sand dunes, mallee scrub and
heath. The infertility of the terrain has
ensured that it has not been substantially
altered by Europeans. Nonetheless there is
wildlife aplenty - lizards, snakes, birds, the
pygmy possum, the hopping mouse and other small
Access is by the Murrayville-Nhill Rd which
runs parallel to, but 5 km east of, the park
boundary. It is only suitable for two-wheel
drives in dry weather (check road conditions
before departing) and, as there is no vehicular
access within the park, this is as close as you
get. You will have to walk from the road through
a strip of public land into Big Desert. Only
experienced and entirely self-sufficient campers
and walkers with a map and compass should try
but, even then, there are times in summer when
it is definitely too hot for walking.
There are no facilities of any kind within
the park. However, there are two camping areas
with washing water (not for drinking) on the
Murrayville-Nhill Rd. The Big Billy Bore is 35
km south of Murrayville and Broken Bucket Tank
Reserve is 87 km south. The latter has pit
toilets, an information shelter, picnic and
barbecue facilities. For further information
ring (03) 5395 7221.
Wyperfeld National Park
The Murrayville-Nhill Rd actually follows the
western boundary of Wyperfeld National Park for
some distance and those with a 4WD will find a
couple of tracks heading eastwards into the park
(the Milmed Rock Track and Chinaman Well Track).
Be sure you have a map, compass and plenty of
water and experience as temperatures can be
extreme and there are few distinguishing
features in the landscape. For information on
the eastern section of the park see entries on
Hopetoun). Direct enquiries to (03) 5395 7221.
wildflowers are typical of the parks in
Murray Sunset National Park
To the north of Murrayville is the Murray Sunset
National Park. The state's second-largest, it
was proclaimed in 1991 to protect local fauna
which had been severely affected by the clearing
of nearly 65% of the mallee scrub. It offers
vast, open spaces, a plenitude of wildlife and
an array of colourful wildflowers in spring.
The park is arid and fairly inaccessible.
However, some 4WD tracks enter the park from the
Murrayville area. The Panitya North Rd takes you
to the Bellbird and Boltons Bore area where you
will find 'the Rockholes', dug out of solid rock
by the Aboriginal people, in order to collect
water. Just to the north of this point, Pheenys
Track heads eastwards into other areas of the
park. Another departure point from the Mallee
Highway is the Sunset Track which commences just
east of Cowangie.
These entry points intersect with other 4WD
tracks which enable a thorough exploration of
the park, including the Pink Lakes area (see
Ouyen). The park's pastoral past is evident in the
fences and stockyards of Birthday and Sunset
Plains where emus and kangaroos graze, and at
the old shearers' quarters where there is basic
accommodation if you book (tel: 03 5028 1218).
Very crude facilities also exist at Mopoke Hut,
Mt Crozier, which offers views of mallee-covered
dunes, and Rocket Lake.
Take care as, if you get lost or your vehicle
breaks down, there is no water, no passing
traffic and few distinguishing features in the
landscape. Temperatures can be extreme in summer
and there is the risk of wildfires. Take a map,
compass and water, tell someone you are going
and check on road conditions before you set off.
For further information on the park ring (03)
Red Bluff Flora and Fauna Reserve
22 km west of Murrayville, on the highway, is
the South Australian border. The border track is
a one-way, 4WD-only road which heads due south
along the border, through the Red Bluff Flora
and Fauna Reserve to Bordertown. There is a
camping area with tables, barbecues and pit
Cowangie is a little village on the highway, 19
km east of Murrayville. A gypsum mine to the
north, established in 1920, is still operating
today. There is a picnic area next to the tennis
courts in Lewis Street Park with toilets at the
local hall in Lewis St. The stone building next
to the Uniting Church (c.1918) was originally
one of Victoria's first Bush Nursing Centres,
and the only one still standing.
Cowangie is located in an area known as Kow
Plains and the Kow Plains station homestead is
just east of the town. One of the few surviving
colonial homesteads in the Mallee, it is thought
to date from around 1867 and may have been built
by two Swedish sailors who jumped ship in
Adelaide then headed overland in search of work.
Another theory is that two Chinese were
responsible. It is a rough-hewn vernacular
building which can be viewed from the highway
(there is an identifying sign on the property
Fine wildflower displays are visible from the
roadside in spring.