The shortest way to get to Mungo National Park from Mildura is along Arumpo Road. The total distance is just over 100 kilometres with the first 40 being bitumen and the remaining sixty kilometres are unmade. The road conditions vary from smooth to roughly corrugated so our speed varied from 70 kmh down to 30 kmh. After rain this road is closed – both because it gets slippery and dangerous and secondly because vehicle wheels create deep ruts in the muddy surface making road very repair difficult.
The area around Mungo is very historic. Whilst it is now arid and semi desert, over 70,000 years ago it was a verdant paradise with forest, large lakes and mega fauna. Mungo Mega Fauna were the large prehistoric animals that lived during the Pleistocene epoch that lasted from about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. The Mungo Mega Fauna included a range of species, such as giant kangaroos, wombats, marsupial lions, and diprotodons (giant wombats). It became extinct around 40,000 years ago, which is around the same time that humans first arrived in Australia. It is believed that hunting by humans, as well as changes in the climate and vegetation, contributed to the extinction of these animals.
The remains of the Mungo Mega Fauna have been found in the sediment around Lake Mungo, and they provide cleaR insights into the ecology and evolution of prehistoric Australia. The area around Lake Mungo is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is protected to preserve its unique cultural and natural heritage, including the remains of the Mungo Mega Fauna. There really isn’t a lake here – just a flat area where the lakes used to be.
This is also the location of Mungo Man – the name given to the remains of one of the oldest human skeletons ever discovered in Australia. The remains were found in 1974 by a team of archaeologists in one of the lunettes around the lake. Lunettes are the ancient sand dunes that ring parts of the lake where the shore once used to be. The remains were dated to be around 42,000 years old, making them some of the oldest known human remains in Australia.
Mungo Man is believed to have been a member of the Indigenous Australian population who lived in the area during the Pleistocene geological period. The discovery of his remains has provided valuable insights into the history and evolution of the Indigenous Australian population, and has challenged some of the previously held theories about the origins of human settlement in Australia.
In the 1850s huge cattle runs were taken up across the mallee lands of south-west New South Wales. Gol Gol station was one of the first, in 1860. It took in over 20,000 square kilometres including much of the lakes in the Mungo area. So, long after the mega fauna roamed the vast desert landscape, historic Gol Gol Station brought mega flocks of sheep to this region, In 1869 Gol Gol built what is now the Mungo wool shed as its main shearing base. It was built out of termite-resistant White Cypress Pine logs by Chinese labourers, using drop-log construction. The Chinese had come to Australia in the 1850s gold rush. At the peak of the wool industry Gol Gol was shearing 50,000 sheep a season in 30 stands in this wool shed.
There is a 70 km long Mungo self-guided drive tour, also known as Mungo loop track that we followed in our car. The brochures say that it is is “a brilliant introduction to the awe-inspiring desert landscape and a chance to experience the historic significance of Mungo National Park in comfort” but Jill found it exceptionally long and boring..
The drive began by crossing the ancient lake-bed to the Walls of China and then the one-way route takes in the iconic dunes and mallee country of this outback region, before tracing the north-east shores of the lake. At one lookout, we could see some interesting erosion and a moonlike landscape.
The road continued along the open country and in some parts it weaved it way through the mallee scrub.
Eventually we came to a place simply called “The Round Tank”. In this area, the word ’tank’ is used to describe anything that holds water including a hole dug into the ground. This one was very creative in that it formed a trap for goats. Early settlers brought goats to rural ares for their milk and meat but they have become feral and no one wants them in a national park. They are trapped in this water hole which forms as a bait. As the goats came for a drink, they have to pass through a race with a drop at the end that is too high for them to get back. This causes them to get stuck in the circular fenced area around the tank.
The last location on this drive was at the ruins of the old Zanci Station. In 1921 the Gol Gol Station was broken up into a series of Soldier Settlement blocks and 40,000 acres was allocated to become Zanci Station. Soldier settlement blocks were given to veterans of WW1 as a thank you for their service. I can never understand how these poor buggers that took them up could ever be grateful for surviving the war to end all wars and then being plonked in such a harsh ands unforgiving area such as this. They had to build a house, clear the land and make a living out of a tough landholding.
Conditions were tough for maintaining profitability for the owners, the Vigar family and Stirrat family but somehow they survived until the property was relinked with the former Gol Gol Station. This helped set up the Zanci Station to take advantage of high wool prices that followed WW2.
The family retained ownership of Zanci Staion until 1979 when it was sold to another family who in turn sold it to the National Parks Service in 1984 to become part of Mungo National Park.
Emus and Western Red Kangaroos are often seen bounding through the mallee scrub and the park is home to numerous birds of prey.