Purnululu National Park is located in remote North Western Australia, it’s an island in the desert of spectacular and unique geology with World Heritage status.
Incredibly, the place was only “discovered” by the outside world in 1983!
Here’s is a brief history..
History of Purnululu National Park
350 – 375 million years ago rock and sand eroded from a nearby mountain was deposited into the ord basin, where it pretty much sat for a long time.
Slowly however the rock and sand mixture was compressed into a solid rock, and slowly the rock on top started to erode.
About 20 million years ago the rock we see today started to emerge from the surface, and it has been eroding ever since, and eroding into crazy domes which make the place very unique
Evidence suggests that Indigenous people, the Karjaganujaru, have occupied the ranges for about 20,000 years
From then until about 100 years ago their descendants used the ranges for this vital food and water and along the way developed a very deep and complex cultural connection to the ranges.
Around about 1900 white settlers turned up and claimed the ranges and land surrounding it as a cattle station.
In 1983 a TV crew shooting a documentary titled “The Wonders Of Western Australia” were in a hotel bar in a small outback town when a helicopter pilot ambled over and mentioned the strange rock formation he’d seen while mustering cattle. He suggested the TV might want to have a look, and offered to take them out in his chopper.
The TV crew were so amazed at what they saw that the entire documentary featured only the Bungle Bungle Ranges.
In 1987 the 239,723-hectares which encompassed the whole of the ranges were excised from the Cattle Station lease and turned into a National Park, the traditional Indigenous name of Purnululu was chosen.
In 1997 Kimberley Adventure Tours began running tours and taking people into Purnululu National Park
In 2003 Purnululu National Park was declared a World Heritage Site in, see below for why.
In 2017 Kimberley Adventures Tours art still at it.
Purnululu looks like it does for a variety of Geological reasons, one of the most important is ersosion.
The following photo is of an amazing site called Cathedral Gorge, its a natural “Cathedral” shape within the Purnululu rock. It’s about 200 deep and is thought to have taken about 20 million years to get to it’s current size.
Doing the math;
- A 200 metre deep gorge erodes at 10 metres per million years
- 1metre every 100,000 years
- centimetre every 10,000 years
- 1 millimetre every 1000 years
- .1mm every 100 years – human hair is about .05mm thick
- So it takes 50 years to erode the thickness of a human hair!
The Bungle Bungle Range is one of the most extensive and impressive occurrences of sandstone tower (or cone) karst terrain in the world.
The Bungle Bungles were a plateau of Devonian sandstone, carved into a mass of beehive-shaped towers with regularly alternating, dark gray bands of cynobacterial crust (single cell photosynthetic organisms). The plateau is dissected by a 100–200-metre (330–660 ft) deep, sheer-sided gorges and slot canyons. The cone-towers are steep-sided, with an abrupt break of slope at the base and have domed summits. How they were formed is not yet completely understood.
Their surface is fragile but stabilized by crusts of iron oxide and bacteria. They provide an outstanding example of land formation by dissolutional weathering of sandstone, with removal of sand grains by wind, rain and sheet wash on slopes.
Erosion occurred 350 – 375 million years ago from ancienet mountain ranges, conglomerate formations can be seen in echidna chasm
About 250 million years ago, after the uplift occurred, the range was hit by a meteorite, all that remains is a 10km circular structure on top of the range, erosion has removed most of it.
The Bungle Bungle Range, lying fully within the park, has elevations as high as 578 metres above sea level. It is famous for the sandstone domes, unusual and visually striking with their striping in alternating orange and grey bands. The banding of the domes is due to differences in clay content and porosity of the sandstone layers: the orange bands consist of oxidised iron compounds in layers that dry out too quickly for cyanobacteria to multiply; the grey bands are composed of cyanobacteria growing on the surface of layers of sandstone where moisture accumulates.
One of the oldest living organisms, fosil evidence of this bacteria goes back 2.7 billion years (age of earth 4.5 billion years), at this time oxygen levels were about 1% of today’s levels
By producing gaseous oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, cyanobacteria are thought to have converted the early reducing atmosphere into an oxidizing one, causing the “rusting of the Earth and dramatically changing the composition of life forms on Earth by stimulating biodiversity and leading to the near-extinction of oxygen-intolerant organisms.
The Bungles lie in the territory of the Kina or Kitja people
The most famous is Lena Nyadbi, an artist whose Barramundi scale drawing is on top of the Museum du quai Branley in Paris, only viewable from the eifel tower.
While the geology of the Bungle Bungle is indeed significant, the area’s cultural and ecological importance should not be forgotten. The area is rich in Aboriginal art and there are also many burial sites. The Warmun Aboriginal Camp was re-established in the area several years ago and the Aboriginal traditional owners make a valuable contribution to the management of the park.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife has responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the park.
Animals / Birds
More than 130 bird species are the park’s most visible animals, including rainbow bee-eaters and flocks of budgerigars. The nailtail wallaby and euro live around the massif, while the short-eared rock-wallaby and euro are thought to live on top. Several species of rare animals also occur in the park. Purnululu attracts visitors for a whole range of reasons.
A TV crew shooting The Wonders Of Western Australia in 1983 were in a hotel bar in a small outback town when a helicopter pilot ambled over and mentioned the strange rock formation he’d seen while mustering cattle. Had he not done so, then The Wonders Of Western Australia would have aired without WA’s most wondrous wonder of all. The Bungles were promptly incorporated into the new Purnululu National Park.
- Echidna chasm 2km
- Look out Picaninny Creek 1.4km
- Picaninny Creek Gorge entrance 7km return
- Picaninny Gorge 30km return
- Cathedral Gorge 3km return
180mm Dec, 210mm Jan, 210mm Feb = 600mm
Why is Purnululu National Park of World Heritage value?
Purnululu National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003 for its natural values.
- It helps scientists understand how the earth’s landscapes form over long periods of time
The incredible beehive shapes of the Bungle Bungles Range are made of sandstone and conglomerates (individual rocks and pebbles cemented together) formed from twenty million years of erosion. The ‘stripes’ are formed from cyanbacteria. These are single cell organisms and some of the oldest life forms on earth.
- It contains beautiful natural formations and features which are some of the best examples of their kind in the world
The Bungle Bungles Range is one of the most extensive and impressive occurrences of sandstone tower karst in the world. The Bungle Bungles Range can be experienced on foot or from the air. From the air, you will see a maze of beehive shaped domes striped orange and black rising up over gorges and pools. These amazing structures seem to change colour in different seasons. Purnululu National Park also contains incredible cliffs, gorges, seasonal waterfalls and pools.