Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve
Step back in time and view a land of sweeping plains. Uncover the hidden gems of the Jerrabomberra Valley, with ancient woodland, panoramic vistas and sites of historic and scientific significance.
Experience the magnificent beauty of some of Australia’s most threatened ecosystems.
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve (261 hectares) is lowland native grassland located in the southern part of the Jerrabomberra Valley (south Canberra). The Monaro Highway forms the boundary on the eastern side of the reserve.
What’s so special about Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve?
The ACT and region was, is and always will be part of the traditional home of the Ngunnawal Aboriginal people. Jerrabomberra West has an important Aboriginal cultural connection in the ACT, with up to four known Aboriginal heritage sites of cultural and archaeological significance.
A connected landscape
Jerrabomberra West and Jerrabomberra East (99 hectares) together form one of the largest areas of Natural Temperate Grassland in the ACT. The reserve provides an example of the ‘treeless plains’ and woodland transition area that were typical of the Canberra region before European settlement. The grasslands are a surprisingly diverse ecosystem, providing a haven for both common and endangered plant and animal species.
The reserve is part of a large grassland–woodland complex of over 1000 hectares. The wider complex forms part of one of the largest, best connected and most diverse areas of box–gum grassy woodland remaining in Australia. This ancient ecosystem was once widespread from the northern end of NSW down into Victoria.
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve is home to many threatened species of plants and animals, including the critically endangered Grassland Earless Dragon, the Striped Legless Lizard, Pink-tailed Worm-lizard, Golden Sun Moth and Perunga Grasshopper. Several threatened or declining birds, such as the Brown Treecreeper, Diamond Firetail and Flame Robin, live in the woodland area of the reserve. The reserve is one of just two recorded locations of Medusa Bogsedge (Schoenus latelaminatus) in the ACT.
One of the earliest rural properties on the Limestone Plains (now Canberra) is the heritage listed Woden Homestead, which is just outside the boundary of the Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve. The nature reserve previously formed part of the Woden Homestead property.
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve is located on the Monaro Highway, just south of the suburbs of Fyshwick, Symonston and Narrabundah, north of Hume. It is opposite the Alexander Maconachie Centre and adjacent to the Canberra Model Aircraft Club and Flying Field.
Access into the reserve is by a foot path through Callum Brae Nature Reserve, Narrabundah Lane, Symonston. Access points are limited and there are few management tracks in the reserve. This is in line with the National Recovery Plan for the Grassland Earless Dragon, which recommends restricted access and limited visitor use.
Parking is at Callum Brae Nature Reserve to the west, Narrabundah Lane, Symonston.
Due to the sensitivity of the natural values (especially the Grassland Earless Dragon), only passive, low impact recreation such as bird watching and bushwalking are acceptable within the reserve. Picnic in the depths of the grasslands. No picnic tables are available in the reserve. Dogs and other pets are not allowed in Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve.
There are a few walking and management tracks providing opportunities to explore the reserve.
Share the experience of the bush on your door step with your family. Go to the Nature Play website for more ideas.
Walk the Grassy Plains walk (8km return, 3 hours). From Callum Brae car park emerge from the woodlands into the vast open grassy plains on this spectacular walk through one of the ACT’s most significant remnant Natural Temperate Grasslands. Bird watching and spectacular morning mist views in the reserve are best in the early morning.
There are no facilities in the reserve. Nearest public toilets, public phones and water are at the local shopping centres. See what’s nearby.
We want you to enjoy the Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve safely. Parks and reserves are natural environments that can be unpredictable. For your safety tips read our Safety in ACT Parks and Reserves page.
The reserve is a refuge and home for native wildlife including every rock and log. Your pet, vehicle, camping, collecting wood and fires are a threat to their livelihood. To help us protect the delicate Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve, we ask you to follow the following restrictions.
- No camping
- No timber collection – it’s home to our local wildlife
- No lighting, using or maintaining fires
- No motorised vehicles
Dogs and other pets are not allowed.
Find out where you can take your dog for a walk on the Access Canberra website.
Note: If you have difficulty accessing the information in this map please contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.
- Callum Brae Nature Reserve
- Queanbeyan Nature Reserve
- Wanniassa Hills Nature Reserve
- Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve
- Mount Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve
- Red Hill Nature Reserve
- Bowen Park, Kingston
- Telopea Park, Kingston
Nearest shopping centres, cafes
- Narrabundah shops
- Queanbeyan shopping centre
- Griffith shops
- Manuka shopping centre
The Jerrabomberra Grasslands (Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve and proposed Jerrabomberra East and Bonshaw nature reserves) represents one of the largest remaining areas of Natural Temperate Grasslands in the ACT. The Jerrabomberra Valley is one of the last remaining strongholds of the rare Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla).
The grasslands are significant for their cultural and natural history, geology and biodiversity. Learn more about the bush on your doorstep.
Ecosystems in this reserve
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve is part of the once extensive but now endangered ecological community known as Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Southern Tablelands. Natural Temperate Grassland occurs in a landscape mosaic with several woodland communities across the Southern Tablelands of south eastern NSW down to the Victorian border. The distribution of native grasslands in the region is in areas where few trees grow.
These areas are influenced by a combination of environmental factors, including
- low temperatures due to cold air drainage in winter
- periods of low soil moisture availability in summer associated with infertile or heavy clay soils
- low rainfall in some areas
In the ACT these grasslands are found in areas that act as a cold air sink, in valleys below 625m in altitude. On slopes at slightly higher elevations, the grasslands merge with grassy woodlands. You can see this across the Monaro Highway where the grasslands of Jerrabomberra merge into the woodlands at Callum Brae.
Endangered Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland is present on the slopes in the south west Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve. The Yellow-box Red-gum Grassy Woodland is part of one of the largest, best connected and most diverse areas of box-gum woodland in Australia, providing important habitat for woodland birds and part of a woodland corridor linking to NSW.
Land of diversity
The grasslands of the Jerrabomberra Valley are dominated by deep-rooted, perennial tussock grasses such as Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis), Wallaby Grass (Rytidosperma spp.), and Spear Grass (Austrostipa spp.). Below and between these tussocks grow an abundance of other grasses, sedges, rushes, lilies, orchids, wildflowers, mosses, fungi and lichen. These account for 70% of the forbs growing in the grasslands
Jerrabomberra West is one of just two recorded locations of Medusa Bogsedge (Schoenus latelaminatus) in the ACT. It supports relatively large populations of Austral Mudwort (Limosella australis). Other rare plant species include Behr’s Swainson-pea (Swainsona behriana) and Silky Swainson-pea (Swainsona sericea).
Canberra Nature Map offer photos and descriptions of each of the species.
Home to many
The reserve is home to a number of threatened and endangered species including:
The endangered Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla).
The critically endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana).
Nationally vulnerable Striped legless lizard (Delma impar).
The endemic Canberra Raspy Cricket (Cooraboorama canberrae).
The vulnerable Perunga Grasshopper (Perunga ochracea).
Other fauna that spend all or part of their time in the grasslands include a number of species of frogs, Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis), Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus).
Declining and threatened birds recorded in the woodland area include the Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus), Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata), Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus), Flame Robin (Petroica phoenicea), Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala leucopsis) and Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata).
Every rock tells a story
More than 425 million years ago a shallow sea teeming with life covered much of south eastern Australia. Behind the shoreline, to the west of Canberra, the land was completely barren of any life, though in places the first primitive plants were making a momentous move onto the beaches. Just west of present-day Canberra on scattered islands in the sea, active volcanoes deposited ash and mud into the waters. The chain of volcanoes erupted because of crustal extension. Crustal extension formed the Canberra Rift, the result of which is the present-day low-lying topography of the Canberra region. The shallow waters surrounding the chain of volcanic islands gradually filled up with a mixture of volcanic rocks, marine debris and land erosion.
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve and most of southern Canberra suburbs comprise rocks from the second phase of volcanism within the Canberra Rift, the Laidlaw Volcanic Suite. The landscape we see today along the Monaro Highway south to Bredbo is the consequence of the Canberra Rift and its volcanic events.
A continuing connection to country through past, present and future
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve has a long and varied place in our history as a cultural landscape. Aboriginal people lived in and managed the landscape in this region for thousands of years and have maintained a connection to the land to the present day. Generations of Aboriginal people have cared for Country, and have been sustained, physically and spiritually, through their relationship with the land, waterways and cosmology.
Pathway to the Alps
Traditional Custodians have actively managed the landscape for thousands of years, through activities such as ‘fire stick farming’ to assist in hunting and provide good feed for grazing. They also selectively cultivated certain plants, such as yams and tubers. Their management techniques created the landscape first seen by European explorers and settlers. Jerrabomberra Valley Grasslands may have been frequently burnt to maintain high levels of fresh, succulent, green growth to attract animals for hunting and to provide open pathways for travel. Jerrabomberra Valley is known to be a major Aboriginal pathway through the landscape leading towards the Alps.
Linking the past to the present
The reserve protects four known Aboriginal heritage sites, being the physical (archaeological) traces of the rich Aboriginal history of the area. These include stone artefacts, occurring individually and in small scatters on the surface, and a number of areas are likely to contain buried archaeological deposits. These sites are of cultural significance to Traditional Custodians, linking generations of Aboriginal people over time, and they are also of archaeological significance as an important source of information on the history of the reserve and the ACT region.
All Aboriginal places and objects in the ACT are protected under the Heritage Act 2004 and must not be disturbed. Anyone finding an (unregistered) Aboriginal object or place has an obligation to report it to the Heritage Council. Read more information about Heritage.
Traditionally, the local Ngunnawal people shared knowledge and responsibility for Caring for Country. Today, this cultural knowledge continues to be passed down to younger generations and has a role to play in the management of ACT reserves. Aboriginal community organisations and the Murumbung Rangers in the ACT Parks and Conservations Service run cultural activities to educate the wider community about the cultural landscape, heritage values and land conservation practices.
ACT Parks and Conservation Service protect and preserve Aboriginal culture, artefacts and sites in consultation with traditional custodians and seek to provide opportunities for traditional custodians to connect with country. Implementation of ecological burns and restoration activities are undertaken in consultation with the Caring for Country team.
Foundations of the Bush Capital
Traditional Custodians have actively managed the landscape for thousands of years, and created the landscapes first seen by European explorers and settlers through activities such as ‘fire stick farming’. European settlers arrived in the Canberra region from the 1820s, noting the vast treeless plains and ideal conditions for grazing.
Europeans started grazing in the Jerrabomberra Valley in the 1830’s. Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve and its surrounds were first settled by Francis Mowatt in 1832. Mowatt sold the pastoral land to Dr James Fitzgerald Murray in 1837 who named the homestead and the area ‘Woden’, after the Norse God.
Woden Homestead and its environs is one of the earliest rural properties on the Limestone Plains (now Canberra). The homestead is one of the oldest remaining homesteads (from 1832) that has been continuously occupied and managed as part of an agricultural enterprise. The Campbell family (who owned Duntroon) owned the land from 1871 until 1922. Between 1840 and 1852, it was the home of Mrs Anna Maria Bunn, author of the first novel published by a woman in Australia (1838).
Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve has a long history of continuous grazing before it became a reserve. Grazing sheep was the major stock activity. Pastoral management practices in the native grasslands to the north of Woden Homestead have ensured the survival of endangered species and ecosystems including the Grassland Earless Dragon, the Golden Sun Moth and Perunga Grasshopper, Natural Temperate Grassland and Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland.
The reserve is adjacent the historic Callum Brae precinct, which is a significant example of a successful World War I Federal Capital Territory soldier settlement lease, and which contains small simple structures built by the lessee using inexpensive and often recycled materials. Callum Brae property is a working farm and not accessible to the public. The ACT Parks and Conservation Service works with the owners of Callum Brae and Woden to preserve and interpret the history of the landscape.
Managing our reserves
Nature reserves are created to protect and conserve native flora and fauna with high conservation value. Reserves are also an important place for scientific research, education, and nature-based recreation. A management plan is in place to ensure the protection of a healthy ecosystem for the plants and animals that live there and for visitors to enjoy. Park rangers follow the reserve management plan in order to:
- restore biodiversity
- protect heritage sites
- research and monitor natural values
- manage threats (weeds, pest animals, inappropriate grazing, impacts of urbanisation and climate change)
- manage fire
- engage with community
Managing Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve
The Jerrabomberra Grasslands Nature Reserve was created in 2008 for the protection and conservation of the Grassland Earless Dragon. The reserve is managed to ensure the dragons not only survive, but flourish in the wild.
Using adaptive land management, we work closely with scientists and researchers to apply knowledge gained through ongoing research to on ground management actions. For the survival of threatened animals and to protect their habitat rangers work on controlling threats to the grassland community and undertaking restoration works to improve biodiversity.
Research and monitoring in Jerrabomberra West Nature reserve include bird surveys by the Canberra Ornithologists Group and extensive research into Grassland Earless Dragons by the University of Canberra.
The ACT is situated on one of Australia’s most threatened ecosystems, the natural temperate grassland. Before European settlement, natural temperate grasslands covered an extensive part of south eastern Australia. Today, they are listed as an endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014. Grasslands are worth saving. They are our equivalent to America’s prairies.
The Grassland Restoration Project is a three year project (2015-2018) to improve the natural integrity and management of the grassland ecosystems within Canberra Nature Park. The emphasis is on improving and expanding habitat for threatened species. This includes restoration techniques such as prescribed burns, slashing, grazing, weed and pest control, rock placement for reptile habitat, and planting. The focus areas include natural temperate grasslands in Jerrabomberra, Crace, Gungaderra, Mulanggari, Kama and Dunlop grassland reserves. In the long term we will be able to support healthy native temperate grasslands and support the recovery of a suite of threatened grassland species.
The Grassland Restoration Project is funded by the Commonwealth through the ACT regional NRM.
Grasslands Earless Dragon captive breeding program
Grassland Earless Dragons are an endangered species. They live in natural temperate grasslands now restricted to ACT grasslands, Queanbeyan grasslands and on the Monaro Plains between Cooma and Nimmitabel.
The Grasslands earless Dragon captive breeding program aims to improve our understanding of this important reptile in our grasslands.
About Canberra Nature Park
Canberra Nature Park is made up of 37 nature reserves ranging from bushland hills to some of the best examples of lowland native grassland and endangered ecological community of Yellow Box-Red Gum Grassy Woodland left in Australia. The ACT Parks and Conservation Service is responsible for managing Canberra Nature Park. For more information visit the Canberra Nature Park webpage.
The management of Canberra Nature Park is greatly assisted by a group of volunteers called ParkCare. ParkCare volunteers undertake a variety of activities including seed collection, plant propagation, tree planting, weed removal, erosion control, vegetation mapping and recording, water quality monitoring, raising community awareness and the maintenance and restoration of heritage places.
For more information visit ParkCare
Caring for Ngunnawal Country
The ACT Government acknowledges the Ngunnawal people as Traditional Custodians of the Canberra region, and their continuing sense of responsibility to preserve the spirit and stories of their ancestors throughout the landscape. Cultural values ;are also living and current, as much as an appreciation of the past. For more information visit Caring for Ngunnawal Country.
Canberra Nature Map
Report rare and endangered plant sightings via the Canberra Nature Map.
For more information on heritage tracks, visit Canberra Tracks which is a network of heritage signage that incorporates six self-drive routes leading to many of Canberra’s historic sites.
The ACT Parks and Conservation Service conducts prescribed burns throughout Canberra Nature Park.
More information and feedback
For more information or to provide feedback, contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or complete an online feedback form.