Gardens of Stone Reserves

The proposed new Gardens of Stone Reserves in the Upper Blue Mountains near Lithgow will protect over 30,000 hectares of ancient sandstone pagodas and rich eucalypt forests, important cultural heritage, and an array of threatened species and ecological communities.

Panoramic view of the Gardens of Stone reserves

The Gardens of Stone reserves will be created by transferring State forests and crown land across into existing national park and the creation of a new Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area.

In addition to conserving this important landscape in our national park estate, the new reserves will also benefit from one of the largest visitor infrastructure packages ever delivered for a new national park.

Visitors will be able to enjoy a spectacular new attraction, the Lost City Adventure Experience, as well as an iconic new multi-day walk from Wollemi to Gardens of Stone, new and upgraded lookouts, camping areas, walking tracks, mountain bike trails, and more.

Where are the proposed new reserves?

The proposed new reserves are located on the edge of the Blue Mountains (east of Ben Bullen and north of Lithgow) and link Wollemi, Blue Mountains and Gardens of Stone national parks.

What are the conservation and cultural heritage values of the new reserves?

The new reserves are of exceptional conservation value and a longstanding priority for addition to the national park estate. The proposed new reserves are characterised by striking geological features such as the scenically spectacular ‘pagoda country’. The reserves include:

  • the Newnes Plateau – the highest elevation sandstone plateau in the Blue Mountains, containing species such as the Wolgan snow gum (Eucalpytus gregsoniana), which is not found in the existing Blue Mountains reserves
  • internationally significant geoheritage characterised by spectacular sandstone pagodas, cliffs, steep gullies, slot canyons and grassy woodlands
  • at least 16 threatened ecological communities, including elevated swamps listed under both Federal and State legislation as well as box woodland and tableland grassy forest
  • over 80 rare and threatened species, including koalas, spotted-tailed quolls, regent honeyeaters, and Blue Mountains water skinks
  • exceptional cultural heritage with many recorded sites including artefacts, art engravings and pigmentations, carved and scarred trees, stone arrangements and grinding grooves
  • the Mayinygu Marragu (Blackfellows Hand) Aboriginal Place – a place of special meaning to Wiradjuri people and highly valued by the wider Aboriginal community, which contains Aboriginal rock shelters with painted art and is a teaching and occupation site.

How will we work with Aboriginal communities to manage cultural and natural values?

The proposal will protect an important Aboriginal cultural landscape with ongoing cultural connections and many known sites, including rock art, grinding grooves, wells, occupation deposits in rock shelters and surface scatters, and the well-known rock art visitor site of Maiyingu Marragu.

We are committed to working with Traditional Owners to protect this important landscape and develop business and employment opportunities for the Aboriginal community. Traditional Owners will be involved in planning for the reserve establishment.

How will we ensure the ecological values of the new reserves are protected?

We will employ additional staff and invest in land management activities such as feral animal and weed control, threatened species conservation actions, restoration of swamps, hazard reduction and bushfire management to protect the natural and cultural values of the area.

We will prepare and publicly exhibit a statement of management intent and master plan for the new reserve. All infrastructure works will be subject to rigorous NPWS environmental impact assessment processes including preparation of Reviews of Environmental Factors (REFs).

Collection of firewood for use outside of state conservation areas or national parks is not permitted. Forestry Corporation of NSW can provide more information on areas of State forest that are available for firewood collection.

What is the process for establishing the new reserves?

Parliament legislation will establish the Gardens of Stone reserves by transferring them from State forest and Crown land across to national park and state conservation area under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

NPWS will prepare a statement of management intent for Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area to identify and prioritise park management actions. A master plan will be developed for the significant investment into visitor infrastructure including the Lost City Adventure Experience The drafts of these documents will be published on the Environment NSW website for feedback before being finalised.

What visitor and tourism opportunities are planned for the new reserves?

An initial $49.5m in capital investment will create a “must see” destination that will generate jobs and economic growth for the Lithgow region.

The centrepiece of this investment will be a spectacular new attraction – the Lost City Adventure Experience - that will showcase the extraordinary natural beauty of the area. It will include one of Australia’s longest ziplines, the first “via ferrata” rock climbing opportunity in NSW, and spectacular canyon walks.

We will also establish new and upgraded facilities including lookouts, walking trails, camping areas, a 35-kilometre network of mountain biking tracks, and all-weather 4WD touring circuits, with work commencing early 2022.

Licensed and registered four-wheel drive and trail bike users who have been accessing the state forests will continue to enjoy designated four-wheel drive routes. NPWS will be working with 4WD clubs to develop designated 4WD touring routes and supporting infrastructure.

What is the Gardens of Stone-Wollemi Walk?

The Gardens of Stone-Wollemi Walk is expected to become one of the world’s great long-distance wilderness walks. This multi-day walk will feature incredible views across Australia’s largest declared wilderness.

Walkers will experience an array of birdlife, kangaroos, wallabies, and gliders, while enjoying a range of accommodation options, including purpose-built eco-cabins.

What are the economic benefits for the Lithgow region?

The new Gardens of Stone reserves are expected to attract up to 200,000 new recreational visitors per year which will generate more than $30 million in economic output in the Lithgow region each year. This is estimated to generate over 200 ongoing jobs in the region.

The new reserves will help the Lithgow region to recover from economic impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. In the long-term, the proposal will also help to diversify the Lithgow economy and increase its resilience.

Will hunting be permitted?

Hunting will not be permitted in the new reserves, consistent with all other land reserved in the national park estate. Hunting is currently excluded from Ben Bullen and Wolgan State Forests, and part of Newnes State Forest.

Hunting will continue to be permitted in several State forests within a 50km radius of Lithgow (about 70,000 hectares across 11 forests), including the pine forests in the Oberon area. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is working with DPI Hunting to develop information for recreational hunters and recreational hunting groups.