Kowen Escarpment Nature Reserve

Kowen Escarpment



Kowen Escarpment

Kowen Escarpment Nature Reserve, part of Canberra Nature Park, is a 466 hectare reserve bordering the Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve to the east of Canberra and close to Queanbeyan in NSW. The reserve is part of the Queanbeyan Fault Scarp which rises abruptly from the floodplain of the Molonglo River.

The reserve includes a small area of critically endangered Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and is used by a number of threatened woodland bird species.

The escarpment’s forest woodland complex supports populations of three threatened plant species — Canberra Spider Orchid (Arachnorchis actensis), Hoary Sunray (Leucochrysum albicans) and Pale Pomaderris (Pomaderris pallida). The reserve is important for populations of Poverty Wattle (Acacia dawsonii), Bull-oak (Allocasuarina luehmannii) and Dumpy Greenhood Orchid (Diplodium truncatum).

There are a small number of management vehicle trails in the reserve. There are picnicking facilities and a walking track within the adjacent Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve.


  • Nature appreciation
  • Bird watching
  • Walking
  • Mountain bike riding (on management trails only)
  • Dogs on lead are allowed

Access and recreation opportunities at Kowen Escarpment Nature Reserve are very limited and generally by arrangement only, with no facilities provided. The exception is walk-in access for walking or bird watching. The only carpark provided is located at Molonglo Gorge.



Cultural Landscape – A continuing connection to country

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.

Traditional Custodians have actively managed the landscape through activities such ‘fire stick farming’ and selectively cultivating certain plants, which created the landscapes first seen by explorers and pastoral settlers.

Continuation of knowledge

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 Conservation Service run cultural activities to educate the wider community about the cultural landscape, heritage values and land conservation practices.

Heritage sites

The reserve protects several known Aboriginal heritage sites including stone artefacts, occurring individually and in small scatters on the surface, and it is likely that other as yet unrecorded sites also occur.

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.

Historic Heritage

Pastoral settlement on the adjacent Kowen plateau began in 1831 and several heritage sites are still found in this area. The Glenburn precinct heritage trail highlights the many sites that remain.

Planting of pine plantations that are located on the adjacent Kowen plateau commenced from 1927.

The area in the Kowen Escarpment Nature Reserve was too steep for pastoral or plantation activities and the vegetation remains in relatively good condition.



Vegetation communities and associations

A majority of the escarpment supports Red Stringybark-Scribbly Gum-Red-anthered Wallaby Grass-Tall Shrub-Grass-Dry Sclerophyll Open Forest. Brittle Gum (E. Mannifera) is also a common tree species on the escarpment. The shrub layer is patchy and includes Bacon and Eggs (Pultenaea microphylla), Daphne heath (Brachyloma daphnoides), Pink Five-corners (Styphelia triflora), Guinea flower (Hibbertia obtusifolia) and Narrow-leaf Bitter-pea (Davesia leptophylla).

On the lower flatter slopes Yellow Box-Apple BoxTall Grassy Woodland is the dominant vegetation community, whereas upslope Red Box (E. polyanthemos) may be more common.

Understorey species include Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis), Corkscrew Grass (Austostipa scabra) and Billy Buttons (Chrysocephalum apiculatum).

The lower escarpment also supports small patches of Apple Box-Broad-leaved Peppermint-Tall Shrub-Grass Open Forest, and shrubs include Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa) and Long-leaf Cassinia (Cassinia longifolia). Understorey species include Poa (Poa sieberiana), Raspwort (Gonocarpus tetragynus) and Wheat Grass (Elymus scaber).


The reserve contains the vulnerable Pale Pomaderris (Pomaderris pallida) and critically endangered Canberra Spider Orchid (Arachnorchis actensis).

Kowen Escarpment is a significant habitat of Poverty Wattle (Acacia dawsonii), Bull-oak (Allocasuarina luehmannii) and Dumpy Greenhood (Diplodium truncatum).


Kowen Escarpment is an important wildlife link, particularly for woodland birds such as the Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang), Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), Yellow-faced Honeyeater (Lichenostomus chrysops) and White-eared Honeyeater (L. leucotis). Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps), Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus gigantus) and the Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa) have been recorded in the area.

The escarpment is habitat and/or an important movement corridor for several threatened or regionally declining woodland birds including the Double-barred Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii), Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus), Flame Robin (Petroica phoenicea), Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang), Speckled Warbler (Pyrrholaemus sagittatus), White-winged Triller (Lalage sueurii) and Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera).



Access to the reserve is from Sutton Road.

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.

Prescribed burns

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.