Location: Wongan Hills
Distance: 7.9km loop
Trail Marker:Yellow marker with a thorny devil symbol
Duration: 2 - 3 hours
Cost: $0, free entry
Date Hiked: Some time in 2016
Kml Map File: Please click here.
I don't remember what month we walked this trail, I just remember it being a spur of the moment decision to pack up the camping gear that afternoon and head for the Wongan Hills. We arrived quite late to the local caravan park, setup camp, gazed at the magic of the stars and the Milky Way and got an early night ready to set off early the next day.
You'll have to excuse the poor quality in the pics, these were taken before I even thought about writing a trail blog so pics were for our purpose only, but the fact is I am unlikely to head back anytime soon so for the purpose of the blog this will have to do.
The trail starts via the access road off Waddington-Wongan Hills Rd and is clearly signed. After parking our car we made our way to the start of the trail, clearly marked by a stone feature along with an interpretative sign. We would be following the yellow trail sign with a thorny devil symbol.
The Wongan Hills Nature Reserve (aka Mount Matilda Walk Trail) is a 418 hectare reserve. The landscape of the hills is a complex of ridges dissected by steep gullies with the rugged ground unsuitable for farming and grazing. It remains an island of natural vegetation surrounded by cleared farmland. The highest point of the reserve is Mt Matilda at 434 metres above sea level.
Flora of the Wongan Hills is extremely diverse with more than 250 species of flowering plants, some that do not occur anywhere else in the Wheatbelt. There are 16 different species which are unique to the Wongan Hills, five species gazetted as rare flora in the Nature Reserve and numerous species of priority flora.
Read the informative plaques throughout the walk detailing the vegetation along the way. Learn about the interesting history of the trail which was initially proposed in the early 1900s but took 93 years to finally construct.
Visit the four lookouts along the trail with magnificent view across the countryside. Mount Matilda is the highest peak within Wongan Hills and offers an uninterrupted panoramic view.
The easy Top Trail has two loops to choose from. A short 4.8 kilometre loop or a seven kilometre loop. The short option follows a yellow marker with a bird symbol while the other loop follows a yellow marker with a thorny devil.
Both trails venture to the western side of the mesa to take in the views of wheat and Lake Hinds. The trails have seats at every view point as well as interpretive signage. Highlights include the views at speakers chair, gimlet gully and red barked gimlets growing in profusion below.
The Speakers Chair (Rock Spur) as seen below, is named after the Hon T F Quinlan Speaker of the House of Assembly who visited on July 7th, 1908 searching for the proposed railway route north of Wongan Hills.
Now if your lucky you just may get to see the namesake of the trail, the Thorny Devil. Thanks to Sophie's keen eye we were able to have an up close encounter with this little guy. Dave had stepped over him without realising. Sophie was a few metres back and almost stepped on him, thankfully seeing him at the last minute. The Thorny Devil is a diurnal (day-active) reptile reaching 20cm in length. It's covered in thorny spines and sports a 'pretend' head on the back of its neck, which is thought to warn off predators.
Sophie's eyes were darting throughout the walk all day and the next thing she came across was the skeleton of movable joint, perhaps of a sheep or goat, not quite sure.
The area was settled by the 1900s, and in 1911 the town was gazetted and named after the range. "Wongan" is derived from the Indigenous Australian name "wangan-katta", "wanka" and "woongan". "Katta" is known to mean "hill", but the meaning of "wongan" is uncertain. It may be related to "kwongan", an indigenous word for sandplain, or "whispering", in which case "wongan katta" would mean "whispering hills" (katta is a word for hill).
Hopefully this post inspires you to visit and if so, we would love to hear your thoughts on the trail. Please feel free to tag us in your adventures.
We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we walk, the traditional lands of the Whadjuk people & wish to acknowledge them as traditional owners paying respects to their Elders, past & present, and Elders from other communities who may be here today.