On 6 May 2022, after years of proposals, campaigns and negotiations, the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area was gazetted. Accompanying this were additions to Gardens of Stone National Park (NP) and Wollemi NP. This land is former State Forest that has been threatened by the impacts of mining. It is home to fabulous pagoda rock formations and diverse plants and animals.
This area has been popular with walkers for generations. The impacts of mining were first noticed in the 1980s, when cliffs were collapsing. In recent years there have been impacts on in-stream water quality, and cracking and draining of fragile upland swamps.
The most striking feature at first look is the pagoda rock formations. Pagodas are beehive shaped outcrops of sandstone up to 60m in height. They can be smooth or have projecting sheets of ironstone. The ironstone layers are harder than the sandstone layers and weather more slowly – leaving steps in the pagodas. The ironstone bands were formed when iron oxides in the sandstone were dissolved and redeposited by moving water. Other geological features include massive block walls of orange sandstone, and deep and narrow slot canyons.
The soils of the pagoda areas vary in depth and support a range or rare plants, including the Pagoda Daisy (Leucochrysum graminifolium), Johnson’s Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea johnsonii) and the Wolgan Snow Gum (Eucalyptus gregsoniana).
Along the Newnes Plateau area are several temperate highland peat swamps. These are home to rare plants and animals such as the Giant Dragonfly (Petalura gigantea), Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leuraensis), Grevillea acanthifolia and Deane’s Boronia (Boronia deanei).
This area is within the lands of the Wiradjuri, Darug and Gundungurra people. There are several sites of cultural significance, including engravings, cave art and grinding grooves.
The new Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area includes the lands formerly known as Ben Bullen State Forest and Newnes State Forest. They join with and connect Blue Mountains National Park, Wollemi NP and Gardens of Stone NP.
A paradise for walkers
The diversity of geology and associated vegetation types, lead visitors to have many different experiences in a single walk, from sheltered ferny glades deep in slot canyons through to forests and woodlands, then out to exposed heathland on the tops.
Two of NPA’s 60 Best Walks are in this area.
Pagoda Walls (#15)
Birds Rock Trail – Birds Lookout – The Pagoda Walls – Birds Creek – 1029 – Fire Trail No 4 – Bird Rock Flora Reserve – Birds Rock Trail. Spectacular pagoda country.
Holts Heaven (#16)
Wollangambe Trail – Subsidence Row – Pagoda Gully – Snake Hill – Bungleboori Creek – Coopers Ridge – Waratah South Fire Trail – Bungleboori Creek – Holts Heaven. Fabulous scenery.
A further three 60 Best Walks are close by in Gardens of Stone NP and Wollemi NP.
Wombat Canyon (#13)
Sunnyside Ridge – Number 8 Lookout – Wombat Canyon – Sonntag Retreat – Fern Gully Ridge – Fire Trail No 8. A great introduction to canyons.
Amphitheatre Creek (#14)
Newnes SF & Gardens of Stone NP. Birds Rock Trail No 2 – Peregrine Point – Amphitheatre Creek – Middle Ridge – Birds Rock Trail No 1. Fabulous views, creek walking with canyon like features.
Milbrodale. Baiame Cave art site – 3 Poles Lookout – Old Bulga Road. One of the great indigenous art sites of Eastern Australia. Follow one of the original convict-built roads.
The Gardens of Stone Visitors Map. 2010. Blue Mountains Conservation Society and Colong Foundation for Wilderness.
NPA’s 60 Best Walks 60 Best Walks