The park area since colonisation
Lieutenant James Cook named Cape Howe on his trip north along the coast of south-east Australia in 1770.
Europeans first settled the Eden area in the 1830s. The main land uses were cattle grazing, timber getting, fishing, whaling and provision of port facilities for the Monaro area.
The Nadgee area was used from at least the 1860s for stock agistment and as a stock route to Mallacoota. Two graziers, Will Palmer and Wally Newton moved to Nadgee following the 1890s bank crash, living at Nadgee Flat and Newtons Flat. They used the area, mainly the heaths, for rough grazing.
In 1916 Palmer's son Jim built a road across the Merrica River to Nadgee Flat and began to clear and build up a farm. By 1933 the farm at Nadgee Flat comprised a homestead, about 60 hectares of improved pasture, an orchard and 20 hectares of cultivation, mainly beans and maize.
In 1933 Nadgee Flat was severely flooded, causing heavy damage and stock losses. The Palmers worked Nadgee until their lease was terminated just before creation of the reserve. The Nadgee Flat homestead progressively deteriorated and was later removed. A number of garden plants remain around the site, but the area has substantially regenerated to native vegetation.
A bush fire destroyed the house at Newtons Flat in 1933 and there are few remains. Until recently much of the clearing at Newtons Flat was kept for camping but it will now be allowed to regenerate.
Many ships have been wrecked along the Nadgee coastline including one just offshore at Jane Spiers Beach (the Jane Spiers in 1878) and another near Bunyip Hole (the trawler Dinjerra in 1981). Disaster Bay at the northern end of the reserve took its name from shipwrecks in the area.
Other features include the route of a telegraph line which ran from Eden to Gabo Island Lighthouse, the concrete floor of a former fisherman's hut at Bay Cliff and footings of a building and remains of a windlass at Greenglade. A concrete marker at Conference Point at the eastern end of the state border was erected in the 1870s, replacing the original cairn.
History of the park
The nature conservation value of Nadgee was realised in the 1950s, leading to 11,430 hectares being dedicated as a fauna reserve in 1957. Following dedication of the fauna reserve, a hut for staff and study group accommodation was built at Merrica River in 1962.
The reserve was dedicated as a nature reserve in 1967 and subsequent additions have brought the area to its present 20,671 hectares. A staff house and workshop were built in 1967 and a flying fox was installed over the Merrica River in 1968 for flood emergency use.
The part of the reserve south of Newtons Beach was declared as Nadgee Wilderness in 1994. The wilderness area was increased in 1997 by the inclusion of the whole of the Merrica River catchment, with the exception of the access corridor to the management infrastructure at Merrica River crossing. The current wilderness area within Nadgee Nature Reserve is 18,880 hectares.
Nadgee Nature Reserve has been a site for scientific research since 1953. It's highly significant as a site for descriptive research on the biological and physical processes of south-east Australia, and as a control site for comparison against more disturbed environments. Lots of information has been collected in the reserve over a long period of time. This is valuable as base data for further research and in building up a more complete understanding of the area's ecology.