Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

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Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Australian Capital Territory
IUCN category II (national park)
Australia Capital Territory location map.svg
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Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Coordinates 35°27′47″S148°54′48″E / 35.46306°S 148.91333°E / -35.46306; 148.91333 Coordinates: 35°27′47″S148°54′48″E / 35.46306°S 148.91333°E / -35.46306; 148.91333
Area54.5 km2 (21.0 sq mi)
Managing authorities Territory and Municipal Services
Website Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
See also Australian Capital Territory
protected areas

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a 54.5 square kilometres (21.0 sq mi) protected area, on the fringe of Namadgi National Park. Tidbinbilla is a short drive from the capital city of Australia, Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory. It is the traditional Country of the Ngunnawal people.

Protected area location which receives protection because of its recognised natural, ecological or cultural landscape values

Protected areas or conservation areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognized natural, ecological or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international organizations involved.

Namadgi National Park Protected area in Australian Capital Territory

Namadgi National Park is a protected area in the south-west of the Australian Capital Territory, bordering Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. It lies approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) southwest of Canberra, and makes up approximately 46% of the ACT's land area.

Capital city Primary governing city of a top-level (country) or first-level subdivision (country, state, province, etc) political entity

A capital city is the municipality exercising primary status in a country, state, province, or other administrative region, usually as its seat of government. A capital is typically a city that physically encompasses the government's offices and meeting places; the status as capital is often designated by its law or constitution. In some jurisdictions, including several countries, the different branches of government are located in different settlements. In some cases, a distinction is made between the official (constitutional) capital and the seat of government, which is in another place.


The nature reserve consists of a large valley floor, the Tidbinbilla Mountain and the Gibraltar range. The sides of the valley are steep and relatively undisturbed. The lower slopes of the valley are partly cleared and have a significant history of Aboriginal and European use. Tidbinbilla Mountain is believed to have been used for Aboriginal initiation ceremonies. The word 'Tidbinbilla' is Aboriginal in origin and comes from the word Jedbinbilla – a place where boys become men. [1]

Indigenous Australians are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, descended from groups that existed in Australia and surrounding islands before British colonisation. The time of arrival of the first Indigenous peoples on the continent and nearby islands is a matter of debate among researchers. The earliest conclusively human remains found in Australia are those of Mungo Man LM3 and Mungo Lady, which have been dated to around 50,000 years BP. Recent archaeological evidence from the analysis of charcoal and artefacts revealing human use suggests a date as early as 65,000 BP. Luminescence dating has suggested habitation in Arnhem Land as far back as 60,000 years BP. Evidence of fires in South-West Australia suggest 'human presence in Australia 120,000 years ago', although more research is required. Genetic research has inferred a date of habitation as early as 80,000 years BP. Other estimates have ranged up to 100,000 years and 125,000 years BP.

Known sites of Aboriginal significance at Tidbinbilla include the Birriagi Rock Shelter, which is the oldest Aboriginal site within the Australian Capital Territory. Bogong Rocks is a shelter where the oldest evidence of Aboriginal occupation was found at a bogong moth resting site.

The nature reserve is classified as an IUCN Category II protected area. [2]

International Union for Conservation of Nature World organisation

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".


Indigenous history

Aborigines have inhabited the Tidbinbilla area since antiquity. Archaeological digs at Birrigai, over the hill from Tidbinbilla, found the earliest evidence of the use of fire, dated at 20,000 years old. This was at the time of the last ice age. Excavations at Hanging Rock has dated occupation of that site to some 16,000 years.

The name Tidbinbilla is derived from the Aboriginal word ‘Jedbinbilla' meaning a place where boys become men. The last corroboree, an Australian Aboriginal dance ceremony, held at Tidbinbilla was circa 1904. There are aboriginal rock paintings to be found at Gibraltar Peak in a small cave.

European history

There are over 100 years of European tenancy within the nature reserve. Nil Desperandum and Rock Valley Homestead are both pise rammed earth buildings built in the 1890s. Both buildings were built by George Green and George Hatcliff. Nil Desperandum is a historic four-roomed residence alongside Hurdle Creek first occupied by Henry French Gillman. The remains of a commercial camellia plantation and the best preserved eucalyptus distillery in the ACT are also nearby.

Rammed earth technique for constructing foundations, floors, and walls using natural raw materials

Rammed earth, also known as taipa in Portuguese, tapial or tapia in Spanish, pisé in French, and hangtu, is a technique for constructing foundations, floors, and walls using natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime, or gravel. It is an ancient method that has been revived recently as a sustainable building material used in a technique of natural building.

The Rock Valley Homestead was occupied by the Green family. Nil Desperandum was later occupied by George Greens daughter Elsie Jane and her husband Eric Blewitt from the early 1930s to the early 1950s when Eric was killed drenching a horse.

Both Nil Desperandum and the Rock Valley Homestead buildings were severely damaged during the 2003 Canberra bushfires. Nil Desperandum has since been rebuilt in its original condition and design with the kitchen extension but not the enclosed side verandah that the two brothers John Douglas (Doug) & Cyril Leslie (Ned) both slept in.

History of the nature reserve

In 1936 about 8.10 square kilometres (3.13 sq mi) were set aside as a public reserve. In 1939 a koala enclosure was built by the Institute of Anatomy. The government acquired additional land to establish a national park and fauna reserve in 1962, extending the national park to 36.29 square kilometres (14.01 sq mi). Tidbinbilla was later expanded again to its current size.

In 1966 the park saw the appointment of park ranger and later manager, David Kerr. He developed many of the bush walking tracks, enclosures, water fowl areas and roads throughout the park. Under his management the Cape Barren goose enclosure and conservation scheme was developed which has significantly contributed to the survival of the endangered species. In 1969 the first wildlife displays were created. David oversaw the importation of Victorian koalas to the park, the establishment of kangaroo enclosures and the creation of the water fowl areas. Many of the picnic areas enjoyed by generations of visitors were established under his management. David left Tidbinbilla in 1970 to oversee the foundation of Namadji National Park.

In 1971 the nature reserve was officially gazetted.

The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is located adjacent to the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, part of the NASA Deep Space Network.

1988 saw one of the world's first international TV satellite linkups "World Safari" be broadcast from Tidbinbilla's kangaroo enclosure. The ABC linked up with fellow broadcasters across the globe in a live natural history program, which was an idea from David's daughter, Fiona Kerr.

In 2003, bush fires devastated the nature reserve with many of the koala population being lost to the fires. The Manager's Residence was also lost and there was damage to the Heritage listed Rock Valley and Nil Desperandum homesteads.

On 7 November 2008, the nature reserve was added to the Australian National Heritage List as one of eleven areas constituting the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves. [3]

Since 2011, Tidbinbilla has taken the charge of breeding of the critically endangered Northern Corroboree Frog, the Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and the Eastern Bettong on behalf of the ACT Government. It has been successful in the endeavour over the years. [4]


Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve has a wide variety of bushwalks - ranging from 30 minutes to over 6 hours. It is a native habitat for kangaroos, wallabies, platypus, koalas, lyrebirds, emus, and other wildlife. Ninety-nine percent of the park was burnt out in the Bendora bushfire of 18 January 2003, resulting in the loss of countless numbers of wildlife. Of the captive animals, only one koala, six rock wallabies, five potoroos, four freckled ducks, and nine black swans survived the bushfire.

Walking tracks

There are a variety of walking trails which enable people to explore the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. There is a trail to suit all fitness levels and lengths of walks range from 30 minutes to 6 hours.

Congwarra Trail

The Congwarra trail is ideal for families. It is a 3-4km walk that will take visitors approximately 1 hour to complete. This trail starts at the Visitor Centre and leads to the Nature Discovery Playground and picnic area [5] . The playground design is inspired by the Tidbinbilla Valley and blends into the surrounding environment in an effort to preserve the park’s natural beauty [6] .

Birrigai Time Trail

The Birrigai Time Trail is an easy 3km walk that takes visitors back in time to explore the local Aboriginal and European heritage [7] . Birrigai is the Ngunnawal word for laughter [8] . This trail is a predominantly flat walk that starts at the Visitor Centre and ends at the Birrigai Rock Shelter [9] . Birrigai is the Ngunnawal word for laughter.

The Birrigai Rock Shelter is the oldest Aboriginal rock shelter in the ACT. It is highly valued by the local Aboriginal community as it has a high level of cultural significance [10] . Artefacts have been found at the shelter dating back 25,000 years [11] .

Turkey Hill Trail

This short trail is approximately 500m and will take visitors 15 minutes. Granite boulders and panoramic mountains surround this  as visitors make their way up to Turkey Hill. Drive from the Visitor Centre to the Dalsetta carpark to access the start of this trail [12] .

Xanthorrhoea Loop

Start this walk at Dalsetta carpark and follow the small brown signs that line the trail. This trail overlaps with the longer Gibraltar Peak trail [12] .

Xanthorrhoea Loop is named after the Xanthorrhoea group of 30 species of native Australian plants. This group of plants are commonly referred to as grass trees [13] are seen along the trail.

Church Rock Heritage Loop

This walk starts at the Flints BBQ area in Tidbinbilla and is 2.5km long. It is an easy walk designed for low intensity exercise [12] .

The walk takes visitors past early European settler sites and remains which date back to the late 1800s [14] . Explore the history of the Flints Homestead and Sheedy’s Home Site as the path slowly winds up the hillside and loops around the reserve.

The slowly winds up the hillside and crosses over the main road that loops around the reserve. On the walk visitors will come across a bench that they can rest on while they take in the spectacular mountain views [15] .

After taking in the views of the Gibralter Ranges there will be a short walk to the Church Rock. Diaries dating back to the 1800s indicate the bass of the rock was the meeting point for children to receive religious lessons. There is also evidence the local Aboriginal people used this rock as meeting place [14] .

Sanctuary Loop

The Sanctuary Loop allows visitors at Tidbinbilla to be up close and personal with a range of native animals in their natural habitat [16] . The 2.5km loop is easy and flat walk with well signposted with information about the local history and the native flora and fauna. The wheelchair accessible and child friendly pathway winds through a series of interconnected habitats [16] .

In the Sanctuary visitors will be able to get close to Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, platypus, echidnas, birds, and other animals in their natural habitats [12] [17] . While they are interesting to look at it is important that visitors do not touch or disturb these wild animals.

Gibraltar Peak

This moderate to hard level walking trail is 8.2km long and will take approximately 2-3 hours to complete [18] . Starting at Dalsetta the trail passes through open grassland before it climbs to Eliza Saddle. After taking a short break at the picnic table here continue up the steep climb through rugged bushland to the Gibraltar Peak viewpoint.

As visitors ascend the boulders of the viewpoint they are able to take in 360 degree views of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Canberra and Black Mountain Tower [19] .

See also

Related Research Articles


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Gibraltar Falls

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Gibraltar Peak (Canberra) mountain in Australia

Gibraltar Peak is a mountain with an elevation of 1,038 metres AHD  that is located within the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, approximately 26.4 kilometres from Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory of Australia. Gibraltar Peak is the 45th highest mountain in the Australian Capital Territory. There are two tracks leading up to the summit of the mountain, the longer being 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) and the shorter being 8 kilometres (5.0 mi).

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Corin Forest Mountain Resort is a commercial ski field and tourist destination located in the Tidbinbilla Range, south west of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Situated in a mountain ash forest near the Namadgi National Park, in winter, it offers Australia's most northerly lifted ski area, and the closest to the national capital of Canberra. A 1.2 km mountain slide operates in the warmer months.

The Humps is a granite rock formation known as a "stepped bornhardt inselberg". It is located within The Humps Nature Reserve approximately 295 kilometres (183 mi) east of Perth and 17 kilometres (11 mi) north east of Hyden in the eastern wheatbelt region of Western Australia.


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Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Wikimedia Commons