For many thousands of years before European settlement, Aboriginal people regularly visited the Warrumbungle Mountains. Three separate language groups bordered the area, the Gamilaroi (also written Gamilaraay), the Wiradjuri and the Weilwan. The name 'Warrumbungle' is a Gamilaroi word meaning crooked mountains. Evidence of Aboriginal camps is widespread and illustrated by stone flakes which are left over from stone tool production.
The park area since colonisation
The first European record of the Warrumbungle Mountains was by the explorer John Oxley in 1818, on his second inland expedition. He named the mountains Arbuthnots Range but this name did not survive. Today the mountains are still known as the Warrumbungles, as they were known to local Aboriginal people before Oxley arrived. Soon after Oxley's exploration, settlers arrived. Large tracts of land in the rugged Warrumbungles were left largely alone. Some logging took place and valleys and lower slopes were cleared for grazing.
Evidence of previous pastoral use survives in the park. There are still old fences, some ruins and exotic garden species at sites where old homesteads and huts once stood. Camp Blackman is located on the original Belougerie homestead site which was owned by the Blackman family until it was added to the park in the 1960s.
History of the park
By the 1930s bushwalkers and rock climbers had discovered the Warrumbungles and the first proposal for a national park was made in 1936. However it was not until January 1952 when, with the agreement of the owner, approval was given for 2428 hectares to be withdrawn from the Crown Lease held by Alfred Pincham and reserved for public recreation. On 30 October 1953 an area of 3360 hectares was notified as Warrumbungle National Park under the care, control and management of trustees appointed by the Minister for Lands.
The first ranger for the park, Carl Dow, oversaw the construction of a new network of walking tracks. These were all built by hand, a considerable physical feat in the rugged Warrumbungles terrain. The John Renshaw Parkway, providing vehicle access to Coonabarabran, was completed in 1966. In 1967 the management of the park was handed over to the newly created NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. A new camping area was opened in 1975 at Camp Blackman. In 1987 a new visitor centre was opened and a field studies centre opened in 1994. Visitor access roads and infrastructure have been gradually upgraded over the years.
Visitation to the park increased dramatically from a few hundred annually in the 1950s to over 85,000 people in the 1980s. Since then annual visitation has stabilised and between 40,000 and 70,000 people visit the park every year. A recent study found that the park contributes to the viability of local economies by generating revenue and directly and indirectly providing employment.
In 2003 Warrumbungle National Park will celebrate its 50th year. Balancing the needs of high numbers of visitors while ensuring that the park's unique natural and cultural heritage is protected remains an on-going challenge.