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Yuraygir National Park - case study

Yuraygir National Park is located on the north coast of NSW between the Clarence and Corindi rivers. The park includes over 60 km of coastline, making it NSW's largest coastal park. It was gazetted in 1980, amalgamating the former Red Rock and Angourie national parks. Yuraygir National Park lies within the lands of the Gumbaingirr and Yaegl Aboriginal people.

The Yuraygir landscape has a vivid and diverse human history. Before 1788, its rich marine and land resources supported a relatively dense population of Yaegl and Gumbaingirr people. Since 1788, however, it has been an isolated place in an economically marginal region. The soils of its forests, heathlands and swamps did not support agriculture. Its distance from the Pacific Highway and inland farming and regional centres meant that it was not easily accessible. This helped this landscape elude the estate and resort development that boomed along the coastline north and south of it from the 1960s.

The landscape's lack of suitability for agriculture and its inaccessibility have shaped the history of its coastal villages and recreational pursuits to this day.

Despite its isolation, Yuraygir has always been populated. In the late 19th century, before its gazettal as a park, there was logging in the forests and hinterland, grazing of cattle and wintering of bees. While commercial fishing, mining (coal, gold and sand) and summer holidays brought people to the coast throughout this period, it was after the park's gazettal that human activity in the area increased. This is partly because park gazettal coincided with the rise in tourism and recreational activity, partly as more people flocked to the coast from the 1960s and 1970s, and partly due to the end of timber and pastoral activities in the area as a result of park gazettal.

The memories of Yuraygir's history are passed on through the generations of locals, park staff and regular visitors who have attachments to the park. Because of the successful revegetation of 'Banana Hill' at Station Creek, one would have to know its history to realise that there was once a cleared banana plantation on its slope. In other places, past land uses remain etched into the landscape. Setaria grass, planted and fertilised at Station Creek in 1970, remains entrenched throughout the lowlands at the base of Banana Hill. Around Brooms Head the native grasses which were encouraged through regular burning for grazing cattle have been replaced by heath species since regular fires have ceased.

There were always people here: a history of Yuraygir National Park

There were always people here: a history of Yuraygir National Park explores people's historical relationships with the landscape now known as Yuraygir National Park.

The report contains four main sections:

  • Section one outlines the location and geography of the national park, and gives a chronology of general and specific dates of relevance to the history.
  • Section two provides the broad context for Yuraygir's history. Regional, state and national contexts help provide a framework in which to place the stories of work and leisure outlined in section 3, and describe the development of the national park.
  • Section three explores the history of Yaegl attachment to the land, and contains stories of working on the land, particularly in the context of the early timber, grazing and fishing industries. There are also recreational histories which focus on the coastal villages and annual camping holidays.
  • Section four briefly outlines some of the history of attachments to the park. The development of the national park brought closures and new beginnings, and involved hard-fought battles.

Inventory recording of heritage places and landscapes report

Through this project, for the first time, heritage items in Yuraygir National Park have been systematically surveyed and recorded. Inventory recording of historic places and landscapes (Volume 1: Report) (YuraygirNPInventory.pdf, 2.6MB) explores the connections between objects, places and landscapes through history and ecology. These connections enable key historical themes and the unique cultural landscape that is Yuraygir National Park to be better interpreted.

Table of findings

Most physical traces of Yuraygir National Park's history relate to township infrastructure, pastoralism, forestry and park management, with most surviving remains dating to the last 50 years or so.

The activity perhaps most associated with Yuraygir is recreation. However, most historic campsites (associated with holidays, fishing and surfing) in the area have left little tangible heritage - they have either been continually upgraded and remain in use, or have been closed off and are now revegetating. In contrast, the relatively short-lived activities of pasture improvement through planting setaria grass and cropping to grow cane, as well as sandmining, have left enormous landscape modifications.

The environment itself is a significant artefact of human interaction with the park's landscape. In particular, the contemporary vegetation types are products of past Aboriginal land-use, pastoralism (including firing connected with cattle grazing), forestry, sandmining and cropping. A dramatic example is Fanning's cane farm - originally a coastal heathland transformed into a cane farm and subsequently regenerating as paperbark woodland.

An overview of the material traces of the history of Yuraygir National Park is presented in the following table. The table links historical themes in the park to their surviving material traces. However, material traces may be connected to a number of themes. For example, Waughs 1940s cottage at Red Cliff was both a holiday house and a pastoral out-station camp.

ActivityDatesHistoryMaterial traces
Aboriginal culturesPre-contact to presentPart of country of Gumbaingirr and Yaegl people. Connection to country continues to present day.Campsites (includes Plumbago Christmas Camp), story places, named places, wild resource use places, pathways, ceremonial places.
Surveying1840s to presentCadastral survey of the region began in the mid 19th century. Trig stations date to mid-late 20th century.Blazed trees, trig stations, fence lines aligned with cadastral boundaries.
Forestry1900 onwardForested areas subject to selective logging and pine plantations. Includes individual workers camps.Huts, camps, formed tracks, snig trails, mill sites, plantations, log/earth loading ramps, cut tree stumps and changes in vegetation structure.
Pastoralism and cattle grazingFrom mid 19th centuryExtensive coastal grazing of cattle in Yuraygir, traditionally in winter. Regular firing of heath and forest understorey to promote feed.Huts, lemon trees, stockyards, dips, lick sheds, dams, stock routes, paddocks, fences and gates, tracks, creek crossings, ring-barked trees, setaria planting, fenced TSR and tick inspection camps.
DairyingBetween 1880 and 1960Dairy located off Wooli Road (1950s). Possible second dairy north of Minnie Water lake in 1930s.Farm with homestead complex, milking shed, paddocks, fences and gates, tracks, ring-barked trees, drains and dams.
Cropping and wine makingBananas, sugar cane and grapes from late 19th centuryVineyard established 1884 near Wooli. Banana plantation established in 1962 near Station Creek.

Sugar cane grown at two main areas (Fannings and Carsons) within park.
Banana plantation with substantial contouring, packing shed, pens, gated and fenced enclosures, tracks.

Sugar cane farms with substantial levelling and drainage systems, homestead complex, sheds, tracks, gates and fences.
Beekeeping1920s to presentOne of oldest commercial activities within the park.

Currently 130 sites operated by 30 apiarists.
Small clearings, rough tracks and occasional signs.
Commercial fishing, oyster growing and bait-gettingFrom at least 1885Limited commercial activity in Yuraygir in the 20th century - associated with trawling, netting, trapping and line fishing, both offshore and inshore waters.

First oyster leases from 1885.
Fishing co-op structure (Sandon), huts, boat ramps, roads/tracks and oyster working complex (Sandon)
MiningSand mining: 1920s to 1980sSandmining took place in Yuraygir mostly in the 1960s-70s. Also some coal mining (Red Cliffs), gold mining (Diggers Camp) and platinum mining (Plumbago Headland).Sand mining - major landscape alteration of coastal dunes, plantings associated with dune rehabilitation, roads/tracks, creek crossing, gravel quarries, camps and storage areas.

Gold mining - shafts, diggings, machinery and mullock heaps.
MilitaryApril 1943Short-lived mustard gas bombing exercise undertaken. Gun firing location and target areas.
Recreation and leisureFrom early 20th centuryBush camping holidays (swimming, hunting, fishing). From the late 1950s, 4WD'ing became more common.

Surfing developed increasingly from the 1960s.
Sandon hut complexes, pines, jetties, other campsites (pre and post-park), fishing spots, trails, other huts, walking tracks, park infrastructure and graffiti.
SettlementFrom late 19th and early 20th centuriesVillages of Angourie, Brooms Head, Minnie Water, Diggers Camp, Wooli (from 1860s), Green Hills (1920s) and Red Rock. Sandon (1914) and Red Cliff (Waugh's 1940s cottage) were also settled places.Village infrastructure including access roads, bridges, quarries, telephone lines, power lines and substations, water pumping stations and rubbish dumps.

Remains of stores, plantings, home complexes at Green Hills.
Memorials1957 onwardsJonaas Zilinska's monument (Slovenski Monument) constructed c. 1957-1960 with later additions. Roadside memorials to deaths.Slovenski Monument roadside memorials (1977, 1995).

Related information

Yuraygir National Park

Index to Cultural landscapes and national parks

Page last updated: 07 March 2011