Yanga National Park is in the Riverina region of southwest New South Wales and is located just 5kms east of Balranald. It is 840kms west of Sydney, 445kms north of Melbourne and 530kms east of Adelaide. Yanga National Park is a place is of great importance to the Mutthi Mutthi, Wamba Wamba and Nari Nari people, whose connection with the land reaches back more than 40,000 years.
Yanga has an area of 76,000 ha and takes in part of the Lower Murrumbidgee Floodplain covering 2000 square kilometres, it includes 160 kilometres of Murrumbidgee River frontage, wetlands, lakes and important foraging and breeding grounds for migratory waterbirds. Indeed the floodplain of the Lowbidgee has been identified as a distinct ‘bioregion’ defined by unique physical and natural characteristics and has been subject to intensive scientific research.
The stretch of the Murrumbigee River and the lakes and swamps encompassed by Yanga National Park are a central feature of this bioregion. They are, and have been for thousands of years, significant animal breeding grounds and have sustained one of the world’s largest redgum forests and associated flora & fauna that can’t survive in dryer country.
One of these is the Southern Bell Frog, an endangered species (and Balranald’s ‘tourism mascot’) that has established breeding grounds on Yanga, whilst the Regent Parrot, Pink Cockatoo, Yellow Rosella, Painted Honeyeater, Painted Snipe, Blue-billed Duck, and the Mossgiel Daisy are just some of the rare species that have been recorded in the area.
Water is the key to the story of Yanga; it is the floods that are critical for the land. With just 320mm annual rainfall the land above the floodplain is classed as semi-arid and is characterised by endless saltbush plains. However, it’s the annual flooding cycle which is essential to sustain the amazing biodiversity on the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain.
One of the fascinating facts about Yanga it is that the water that sustains life here comes from near Kiandra in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales (more than 700kms to the east). This mountain ridgeline has the evocative name of the ‘Fiery Range’ and is the beginning of the journey of the Murrumbidgee River.
In times of high water flows the stretches of the Murrumbidgee between Hay and Balranald flow overland through a ‘giant alluvial fan’ formed by a network of creeks directing water away from the main river channel. Over thousands of years this process helped form the mixture of red sand and black alluvial soils common to the area.
Around 50,000 years ago the climate and landscape of the lower Murrumbidgee ‘stabilised’ into pretty much like it is today. From archaeological evidence such as that found at nearby Lake Mungo, we know that Aboriginal people arrived in the area at least 40,000 years ago and settled around inland waterways that provided plenty of food and shelter which is witnessed by the countless canoe scar trees and extensive freshwater mussel shell middens scattered across the park.
Yanga has a rich history as a working pastoral property for over 160 years with the 40 stand shearing shed and the spectacular Yanga Homestead surviving complete with original furnishings and fittings as testament to the agricultural productivity of this region. Much of this history is showcased in an interpretive display in the old Cook’s cottage in the homestead gardens.
Important Aboriginal cultural heritage coupled with significant European colonial history and the Lowbidgee being one of the most significant wetland habitats for waterbirds in eastern Australia resulted in the NSW Government purchasing Yanga in November 2005.