“It’s sacred land, the land itself.”
Wiimpatja believe Kurlawirra, a creation being, made the Lands’ ranges and waterholes. These deeds are recorded at a number of the more sacred and access controlled art sites in the area. The Mutawintji landscape is predominantly the eroded remnants of a 400 million year old seabed, although some parts of the Lands date to more than 650 million years old.
To scientists the geology of the Lands tell a story of volcanic eruptions, intrusions of molten magma, the deposition of marine and alluvial sediments, periods of mountain building and eons of erosion and weathering – all over hundreds of millions of years of geologic time (Sharp 2004). These events, and the different rock types they created, have combined to create the area’s present landscape. Land systems provide a useful way of categorising, and describing in summary, largely similar landscape areas with discernable patterns or characteristics in terms of
geology, landforms, soils, drainage and vegetation. They can also provide a useful tool in targeting land management practices to specific, similar, land areas. Land systems were mapped and described for western NSW by the Soil Conservation Service (Walker 1991).
The Byngnano Ranges and the western parts of the Lands are an area of roughly north-south trending dipping ridges of sandstones and conglomerate rocks interspersed with layers of shale (Byngnano and Faraway Land Systems). These form ridges with steep cliff faces. Local relief is up to 100 metres in places, with gentle back slopes and incised drainage often forming deep gullies. Mutawintji Gorge is an example of this.
Some of the highest parts of the Lands, up to 375 metres above sea level (ASL), occur along the eastern ridges of the Byngnano Range. Strike ridges and overhangs, producing the rock shelters as well as boulder scree slopes and outwash plains, such as the Homestead Creek Valley, are typical of this part of the Lands.
To the west, along the Lands’ western boundary, this range and hill country meets the lower-lying wind-blown sand plains and low rises (180-200 metres ASL) of the Nucha Land System.
These hill and range landforms gradually change to the east to become the lower rolling stony downs terrain of the Yurntaana Area (Mt Wright), part of the Nuntherungerie Land System with elevations from 220 to 240 metres ASL. Yurntaana, on the south-east boundary of the Lands, rises to 319 metres ASL. Further to the north-east this landscape in turn gives way to the more elevated sandstone tablelands of the Amphitheatre Creek and Gap Range area, which are part of the Kara Hills and Ravendale Land Systems which average 260 to 300 metres ASL.
Yurntaana (Mt Wright)
The Coturaundee Range is an area of resistant sandstone strike ridges and high ranges with steep strike faces and cliffs to over 100 metres high. The highest points in the Lands (over 420 metres ASL) occur along the main north-western ridge of this outlying area (Byngnano and Faraway Land Systems).
Beyond the immediate vicinity of the clustered buildings and other developments in parts of Homestead Creek Valley, the Lands appear as a largely unmodified, natural landscape. This is despite changes to the cultural landscape, alterations to the vegetation cover and fauna populations, likely altered fire regimes and a limited road network – some of which would not be obvious to most visitors. The Lands’ natural character is valued by both Wiimpatja and park visitors alike.
The Lands are also important, in geological/scientific terms, as one of the few Devonian and Cambrian fossil localities in NSW (Sharp 2004).