Menindee location, Latitude -32.39217, Longitude 142.417727
Located in the Outback Region of NSW, nearest town Menindee
Kinchega National Park is located 113km south-east of Broken Hill, adjacent to the town of Menindee. It covers 44,182 hectares and extends southwards from Menindee for approximately 62 kilometres along the Darling River. Lake Menindee and Lake Cawndilla, two of the largest lakes of the Menindee Lakes Storage Scheme, lie within the park.
The Darling Geological Basin is one of the largest on-shore sedimentary basins in Australia, occupying approximately 100,000km2 of western New South Wales. The basin is variably infilled with over 8,000m of mainly Devonian sedimentary rocks, formed in a wide range of depositional environments, ranging from alluvial to marine (Moffitt and Weatherall, 2004). The most common sedimentary rocks are Late Silurian to Early Devonian fossiliferous marine shales and Early Devonian to Early Carboniferous fluvial quartz-rich sandstones (Willcox et al., 2003).
Kinchega National Park lies within the Darling Geological Basin. It is one of only two national park in NSW situated on the Darling River and includes a large area of floodplain, overflow lakes and channels, lunettes, sand plains and dunes. As such, it is an important example of an Australian semi-arid landscape.
Kinchega National Park falls within the area of the Menindee Local and Western Regional Aboriginal Land Councils and is very important to the local indigenous people. There are a large number of Aboriginal sites in the park and adjacent areas, including burials, open sites, carved trees, stone caches and ceremonial sites. One 15, 000 year old site has been located in the park although most sites are probably less than 5,000 years old and mainly represent the last 1,000 years of occupation.
The array of sites present indicates the changing patterns of Aboriginal occupation over the past tens of thousands of years and reveals increasing concentrations of Aboriginal people along the Darling River as the Willandra Lakes system to the south-east dried up following the end of the last ice age in south-eastern Australia. The Kinchega area was probably a preferred site because of the combination of the Darling River and its overflow lakes and channels.
The principal features of the park are the large natural saucer-shaped overflow depressions of Lake Menindee and Lake Cawndilla. These overflow lakes are subject to artificial and often substantial rises and falls in water levels induced by the man-made Menindee Lakes Storage Scheme. Water levels in ephemeral lakes, such as Emu Lake, are also dependent upon floodwaters moving down the Darling River.
The flat black soil floodplain extends from the Darling River and is characterised by open woodland of black box with coolabah present on billabong banks. The transition of flood plain to red- sandhill landscape is characterised by friable clays where water erosion has caused deep fissures or cracks. The remainder of Kinchega National Park is made up of sand dunes and sand plains characterised by light textured red sand and loams. The dunes are of a coarse sandy texture and susceptible to wind erosion with the surface of the sand plains hard and calcareous and the edges often scalded. Tongues of red sand have been blown across the grey soils of the floodplain while some sand ridges have been isolated by flood action.
Lunettes occur on the eastern and north-eastern sides of the lakes where the prevailing Pleistocene westerly winds threw up white-to-yellow crescent-shaped sand and clay dunes on the lake margins. Bluebush and sandhill canegrass dominate these dunes which are very susceptible to turbulent airflow and hence windblown soil erosion.
The native plants and animals of the Darling River floodplain, associated wetlands and overflow lakes within Kinchega National Park are dependent upon periodic flooding and subsequent drying for their continued survival. Extended flooding will cause loss of species, as will repeated flooding at very short frequencies. A dry period after flooding is required to allow plants to complete their life cycle, for nutrients to be recycled and for populations of reptiles and small mammals, such as planigales, to recover. Wetlands should remain inundated continuously for at least four to six months to ensure appropriate conditions for plant and waterbird succession, and rapid drainage is not consistent with maintenance of this succession. Lakes Menindee, Cawndilla and Speculation are now more or less permanently flooded. This has resulted in the loss of the vulnerable plant, Solanum karsense, and the death of extensive stands of black box.
From the information above, it is evident that geological and weather interactions that have been in situ for millennia have been interrupted by modern man's activities and, as a result, incumbent ecological systems are breaking down.
Some other interesting places to visit in the Menindee region include: the historic woolshed and visitor centre, Burke and Wills expedition site and marked tree and the boiler of the 78 ton Paddle Steamer, Providence, which to this day, lies abandoned on the banks of the Darling River after an 1872 boiler explosion left five crew dead.
Kinchega National Park is located 110km south east of Broken Hill on the Broken Hill - Menindee Road. The township of Menindee is two kilometres from the park entrance.