Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve
Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve, part of Canberra Nature Park, is a 506 hectare reserve covering a 15.5 kilometre stretch of the Molonglo River (between Sutton Road and Burbong Bridge in the Kowen area, near Queanbeyan).
The gorge is several kilometres long with side cliffs up to 60 metres, rising to a heavily forested escarpment. The Molonglo River flows through a series of cascades and deep pools.
The Molonglo Gorge Recreation Area, on the western edge of the gorge, has long been popular for picnics and has BBQs, toilets and a parking area. A walking trail follows the river for about three kilometres to the Blue Tiles picnic area.
The reserve is part of a regionally important wildlife corridor along the Queanbeyan Fault, utilised by a number of threatened woodland bird species.
Dogs are allowed on leash.
Please bring your own water and take your rubbish home.
- Dogs allowed on-leash
- Picnic tables
- Picnic shelter
- Walking trails
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 as ‘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.
Molonglo Gorge and the Burbong area hold a special association with Aboriginal people as a Men’s Place, and the area is known to be a major Aboriginal pathway through the landscape leading towards the Alps. The area is still valued by Aboriginal people today, who have planned and participated in the replanting that has occurred on the floodplain area west of the Gorge.
The reserve also protects two known Aboriginal heritage sites, being the physical (archaeological) traces of the rich Aboriginal history of the area. Stone artefacts are found in the reserve, occurring as surface scatters, and the reserve is likely to contain additional surface sites and buried archaeological deposits.
The Kowen area has been subject to heritage surveys in the past, which found many Aboriginal heritage sites along nearby sections of the Molonglo River, and which theorised that the entire area is likely to be a continual landscape of varying artefact densities.
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.
There is a long history of pastoral activity in the vicinity of Molonglo Gorge. Timothy Beard squatted to the west of Molonglo Gorge in the early 1820s, and the rest of the area was taken up by pastoralists in the early 1830s. To the east of the Reserve, the first European settlers in the area were Luke and Mary Colverwell, who in 1831 were living in a hut beside the Glenburn Creek at ‘Dirty Swamp’.
Some small-scale mining operations occurred in the area, but no payable deposits were reported. Sheep farming was the main occupation with some subsidiary and subsistence crops also grown. From 1927 pine plantations were established on parts of the escarpment and used to create charcoal as an alternative fuel during World War II.
There are several historic sites adjacent to or partially within Molonglo Gorge Nature Reserve including Coppin’s Homestead Ruins, Argyle Homestead Ruins, Curley’s Homestead Site and Orchard, Colliers Homestead Ruins and Orchard and the old road and ford across the Molonglo river leading to the Kowen Public School.
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.
Vegetation communities and associations
Exposed bedrock and associated gravelly sediments along the Molonglo River occupy about a quarter of the reserve, supporting River Bottlebush-Burgan Rocky Riparian Tall Shrubland.
Native grassland of low plant diversity (derived from clearing woodland) is found on the river flats to the west of the gorge. Exotic grasses dominate in approximately 10 hectares, and native shrubs and trees have been planted over about 20 hectares. Yellow Box-Apple Box Woodland is also found on the river flats (a subset of the critically endangered White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grasslands).
Apple Box-Broad-leaved Peppermint Tall Shrub-Grass Open Forest occurs on the lower slopes and Red Stringybark-Scribbly Gum-Red-anthered Wallaby Grass Tall Grass-Shrub-Dry Sclerophyll Open Forest is on the upper and steeper slopes.
Black Cypress Pine-Brittle Gum Tall Dry Open Forest has a restricted occurrence on north facing slopes that dip steeply into the gorge.
Plants – Land of diversity
The reserve is a major habitat of Poverty Wattle (Acacia dawsonii), Bull-oak (Allocasuarina luehmannii) and Currawang (Acacia doratoxylon). Bull-oak is at its eastern limit.
Molonglo Gorge is one of just five known ACT locations for Blanket Fern (Pleurosorus subglandulosus).
Other rare species include Blunt Greenhood Orchid (Pterostylis curta) and Pale Flax Lily (Dianella longifolia). Historical records of rare species include Common Brookweed (Samolus valerandi), Native Sow Thistle (Sonchus hydophilus) and River Buttercup (Ranunculus inundatus).
Molonglo Gorge has yet to be comprehensively surveyed for fauna. It is known to be an important wildlife link, particularly for woodland birds such as the Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), Yellow-faced Honeyeater (Lichenostomus chrysops) and White-eared Honeyeater (L. leucotis).
The Gippsland Water Dragon (Physignathus lesuerii) is common amongst the river boulders, and Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) has been observed in some pools. The threatened Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica) has been reintroduced.
Molonglo Gorge provides 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), Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata), White-winged Triller (Lalage sueurii), Scarlet Robin (Petroica multicolor) and Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera).
Molongo Gorge Nature Reserve is accessible from Sutton Road.
About Canberra Nature Park
Canberra Nature Park is made up of over 37 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.