The Stirling Ranges and the Porongurups Ranges are some 40km north of Albany and are both part of the Stirling Range National Park. These ancient rocks are among the oldest in the world and are home an extremely impressive variety of both flora and fauna. The unusual rocky peaks and brilliant displays of wildflowers of the National Park afford visitors some of the best scenery in the Australias south west.
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Stirling Range National Park
The Stirling Range National Park covers 2401ha of diverse land; the most striking feature is the mountain ranges. This chain of high, craggy peaks stands out against rolling hills and forest covered valleys running 65km east to west. The granite formations of the Stirling Range and Porongurups were formed 1100 million years ago.
The peaks of Castle Rock, Devils Slide, Balancing Rock and Sheeps Head jut out of the rolling ranges and take their names from the stark silhouettes they create.
Up high, moisture-loving karri forests live in the more humid conditions, growing exclusively in a karri loam soil. Below, hardwood giants such as jarrah and marri dominate the lower slopes. Giant round boulders are scattered throughout the ranges and between the peaks, lay long valleys with tall stands of eucalypt forest trees.
The Porongurups are internationally recognized for the diverse wildlife they supports, many species are exclusive to this ancient area. They home to vast forests of beautiful karri trees that require karri loam and a great deal of rainfall to grow.
This southwest area of Western Australia was at one point covered in karri forests. As overall temperatures increased and the area dried out, only certain areas retained their karri population, notably the land around Manjimup and Walpole.
The Porongurups boast a very moist climate on the high peaks as they reach up into the clouds and get plenty of rain-laden sea winds, staying moist and receiving plenty of rainfall. For this reason, the Porongurup Range is home to this one such island of karri forest.
Apart from the thick bush land of karri, jarrah, marri and wandoo trees, the unique environment of the Porongurups support over 1500 varieties of plants, of which 90 are found nowhere else.
Stirling Ranges Wildflowers
Over 1530 species of wildflowers can be found throughout the National Park, many of which are endemic to this area. From the 123 different varieties of delicate ground orchids such as the Jug, Donkey and Spider to the yellow wattles, deep blues of Australian Bluebells, purple flowers of the hovea tree, dryandra, cone bushes, purple calytrix, feather flowers, scarlet banksias and cats paws the Porongurups spectacular displays attract many visitors each year late winter through spring.
Stirling Ranges Bush Walks
There are a number of excellent walking trails throughout the park, varying in difficulty. One of the most popular leads up to Bluff Knoll, the highest peak in the range standing 1073m high. There are barbecue and picnic areas and toilet facilities.
Castle Rock Rock-climbers are also drawn to the area. Castle Rock is a collection of giant boulders and rocky towers atop a rolling hill overlooking forests. On a clear day from the tops of some of the lookouts you can see the town of Albany and the mighty Southern Ocean.
The Porongurups are a definite must-see for the nature enthusiast, or for those yearning for something awe-inspiring.
Nearby, is the town of Mount Barker with its mixed farming and ever-growing world-class wineries and vineyards including the famous Goundrey Estate; Mount Barker is considered the gateway to the Porongurups.
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