Wongan Hills Nature Reserve (also known as the Mt Matilda Walk Trail) is a 418ha reserve approx 12kms west of Wongan Hills on the Waddington/Wongan Road. 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 434m above sea level.
The walk trail on Mt Matilda is one of WA’s top walk trails, it is dotted with interpretive signs explaining the different flora & fauna that can been seen on the walk. There are 2 trails you can take, the 5km “Wildflower Trail” features a yellow marker with the Malleefowl symbol while the longer 8km loop out to “Speakers Chair” follows a yellow marker with a thorny devil symbol.
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.
In 1986 Mt O’Brien was officially opened to the public by Mrs Hanley (nee Mary Kathleen O’Brien) who was married to James Hanley and lived in Floreat Park.
After being approached by the APEX Club of Wongan Hills to build an observatory on Mt O’Brien, the Wongan Hills Promotion Centre, together with the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu put in a submission for a grant through ‘Centenary of Federation’ to fund a “Lookout”, and in July 1999 funding was approved. The area was marked for CALM to check for rare plants before being cleared and burned.
The entrance road was upgraded and bituminised by the Shire in 2000 and during 2000/01, over 600 tonnes of graved was carted up for the lookout. Mid July 2001 saw the mound for the ‘Lookout’ formed and numerous working bees with APEX and other volunteers formed, patched up and put the rock facing in place. Local businesses made the railings, gazebos, picnic tables and concrete paths with the help of volunteers.
Mt O’Brien Centenary of Federation “Wheatbelt Lookout” was officially opened on 27th October 2001.
Christmas Rock Walk Trail
Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the 2.5km, relatively flat trail, through natural bushland right on the edge of town. Start at Apex Park and follow the signs taking you up onto the Rock and along the rock wall used to divert water to the town dam, then follow the powerlines back to Wandoo Crescent. In spring see the variety of colourful wildflowers/orchids and listen to the many birds.
The Reserve was originally set aside in 1916 for the purpose of “Railway Water Supply”. The Shire of Wongan-Ballidu now manage the reserve and uses the water harvested for the town’s ovals and parks. The entire Reserve covers approximately 2,000ha.
Gathercole Nature Reserve
This Reserve is a 141ha granite outcrop 10km east of Wongan Hills, it was named in honour of a local farmer Herbert Gathercole who brought land here in 1925. In 2011-12 the Department of Parks & Wildlife, Wongan Hills Tourism and Bush Care Groups worked together to interpret the Nature Reserve and further enhance the existing walk trail. A new entrance and better parking facilities have been made to further entice visitors to this amazing reserve.
The Gathercole Walk Trail is suitable for people with a moderate level of fitness. It is recommended that you take at least one other person with you and allow approx 2hrs. Look for “painted” footprints and arrow markers to navigate your way over and through the rocks.
Enjoy a picnic at this Fauna and Flora Reserve on the Manmanning Road 25kms east of Wongan Hills. During the late winter and spring the reserve develops a picturesque covering of wildflowers. This large granite outcrop has a ‘Gnamma’ hole on the rock face, which is a water collection site. There is a picnic area with tables/seating and parking bays.
The lake is 10 km’s west of Wongan Hills on the Calingiri Road. There are picnic spots with tables/seating, but no toilet facilities.
During 1910 and 1911, the water supply in Wongan Hills was very short, and the lake’s supply was used for the townspeople and the railways to keep the steam trains running. Camels which were in the region doing survey work ahead of the railway construction, carted the water from Lake Ninan. The lake actually overflowed in 1917 and again in 1963 with the deepest part of the lake reaching 4.5 metres. For a time in the 1950-60s salt was collected at the lake, today the lake can be up to 600% more salty than the sea.
When the lake is full, it is used for water skiing, sailing, canoeing etc. and there is an abundance of different water birds at this time, before salinity became a problem there were even species of fish found in the lake.
The lake has been listed as an Astrophotography Hot Spot by Astrotourism WA. Check out their page here Astrotourism WA for further information on great spots in Wongan Hills.
Lake Hinds Nature Reserve
Lake Hinds is approx 23kms from Wongan Hills on Waddington/Wongan Hills Road turn off either Lake Hinds North Road or Smith Road. Lake Hinds covers an area of approx 2000 hectares. The catchment area is from the Ballidu district, east Dalwallinu and the west Cadoux district. The whole area drains into the Avon River at Northam and is called the north branch of the Mortlock River.
There are numerous other Reserves to explore within the Shire of Wongan-Ballidu, call into the Visitors Centre for further information & maps.