Flora, Fauna & Geology
….the process of erosion
The rock strata which forms the dissected plateau of the Blue Mountains are the result of millions of years of deposition of sands and silts. Huge river systems from the north west and later from the south west dumped vast quantities of material over this area.
The extensive coal and shale deposits were formed around 245 to 290 million years ago. The swamps supported a large Glossopterid forest, which was eventually covered by the sands and silts.
Earth movements initiated the change of stream direction which resulted in the laying down of the Narrabeen sandstones. Braided streams deposited quartz rich sands over a period of 10 million years.
These clays are visible as the red band about half way down the cliff sides of the valleys of the Upper Mountains. About 95 million years ago the Eastern Highlands were uplifted by massive earth movements associated with continental plate movement.
Subsequently, about 65 million years ago, the coastal plains dropped, leaving the Eastern Highlands as an exposed plateau. From about this time, fissure eruptions from the earth’s molten core occurred.
The result of this activity is visible as basalt caps on the higher mountain tops of Mt Hay, Mt Banks, Mt Wilson, Mt Tomah and Mt. Irvine. The weathering of these caps has produced a rich soil supporting a diverse vegetation.
At Mt Wilson in particular this has been taken advantage of by European settlement. Also at Mt Tomah where the cool climate Botanical Gardens have been established. Mountain streams have cut through the upper layers of sandstone, following vertical faults in the strata. The softer claystone layers are more readily erodible, resulting in a process called sapping.
As the softer rocks are eroded, unsupported sections of cliff face will collapse. This leaves the characteristic verticle cliffs of the Upper Mountains. The softer permian rocks of the valley have also eroded more readily, exposing the granite plutons which uplifted the area some 150 to 95 million years ago.
As the cliffs and slopes retreated the massive valleys were formed. The process continues today as the canyons and valleys etch into the remaining plateau.
Truly one of Australia’s treasures, the spectacular Mount Tomah Botanic Garden on the Bells Line of Road is set on 28 beautifully landscaped hectares as well as another 186 hectares of sandstone woodland and gullies – on a 1000m high basalt capped peak.
The garden attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year,
Mount Tomah Botanic Garden houses cool climate plants from around the world, with emphasis on plants from the Southern Hemisphere.
The rare Wollemi Pine can be seen along the Gondwana Walk as well as in the Visitors Centre.
Special areas feature conifers, heath and heathers, a rock garden, formal and herb gardens with a rosarium, a forest walk and a terrific Plant Explorers Walk.
Journey back through millions of years
Just 30 minutes of your holiday time will take you on an unforgettable journey back through millions of years of fascinating evolution. The Three Sisters World Heritage Plaza at Echo Point in Katoomba houses a special Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Exhibition.
There you will learn not only why the greater Blue Mountains region was granted a World Heritage listing, youll also discover that the Blue Mountains are millions of years older than the Himalayas; there were once Seven Sisters, not Three; and that the Peregrine Falcon found in the Blue Mountains can fly at 280km/h.
The permanent exhibition brings you face to face with cute life-like bandicoots, koalas, sugar gliders, fruit bats, possums and wombats plus an impressive array of birds including parrots, honeyeaters, eagles, owls, bower and lyre birds.
There’s a special feature on threatened species of the Mountains – such as the Spotted Tail Quoll, the Blue Mountains Water Skink and the Green and Gold Bell Frog. You can also see the incredible Wollemi Pine.
Flowers to Die for
There are literally thousands of species of native and introduced flowers to be found in the Blue Mountains, with some better known and more popular than the others.
Waratah, Wattle, Mountain Devil, Banksia, Rhododendron and Bottle Brush are perhaps the most famous names. These can be found in countless areas of the region – mainly within the huge National Park network – and are more than likely to be encountered on a leisurely bushwalk.
Australia’s unique fauna
If you know where to look there’s no shortage of wildlife in the Blue Mountains – but nothing too big or fierce. It’s often the little fellers you’ve got to watch out for, such as redback and funnel web spiders and brown and tiger snakes, however unless you’re right out in the bush in unusual tourist conditions and locations, you’re unlikely to confront or be confronted by anything that would worry you.
Kangaroos are plentiful with one of the best viewing areas being within the Glenbrook National Park. Around dusk you won’t be disappointed as the ‘roos will actually queue to see you.
You’ll also find them in most valleys, but they’re particularly easy to discover in the Megalong and on the road to Jenolan Caves and Lake Lyell, again specially around dusk or dawn. Drive carefully as they can leave serious dents in your vehicle.
Wombats alive and well are harder to see. Sadly, we see them all too often after they’ve been wiped out by a vehicle, however they can often be found near water – well into dusk – in many areas of the National Park. You’ll want to take one home…but it’s illegal.
Echidnas are out there but in more remote bush regions and they don’t show their snouts too often. Look for the big anthills and you might be lucky.
Australia is lucky to have some of the best birdlife in the world – and the Blue Mountains has the best of the best. The list of birds you’ll most likely see includes: Black or Sulphur Crested Cockatoos; King Parrots; Eastern or Crimson Rosellas; Galahs, Wedge Tailed Eagles; Currawongs & Gang Gangs.
If you’re very lucky you can catch a glimpse of the rare Glossy Tailed Cockatoo (black with red tail) down near Lake Lyell, where the Casuarina tree flourishes. And for what must surely be among the best Wedge Tailed Eagles on Earth, go to the majestic and isolated Kanangra Walls near Jenolan Caves.