Lured by the Big Dog: History and Hiking at White Rock

White Rock

I enjoy history almost as much as I love hiking and there’s a walk in Ipswich, near Brisbane in south-east Queensland, which allows me to combine both. It has an interesting and somewhat poignant past.

The White Rock – Spring Mountain Conservation Estate is of high cultural significance to the Indigenous Ugarapul people. White Rock, a large sandstone rock formation  referred to as Nugum or Boogun (meaning dog) is an important area for women’s business.

White Rock

White Rock

White Rock showing some of the caves.

White Rock showing some of the caves.

Me at the "head" end of the big dog - White Rock.

Me at the “head” end of the big dog – White Rock.

The area was also taken over as a rifle range in 1912 and used for military training in World War I, World War II and Vietnam with remains of gun pits and bunkers still present today.

Old gunpit

Remains of training bunker.

Remains of training bunker.

I cannot imagine how the Indigenous women felt having their special place being used for war practice by thousands of men. It is ironic though that this activity actually protected the area from being logged. Ammunition remains embedded in trees making it too dangerous to mill. In fact, there are still signs today which warn of unexploded ammunition in the area and hikers are advised not to stray off tracks. Unlike the surrounding region which has been turned into industrial, residential or farming land, White Rock remains protected from development.

Unexploded Ammunition Sign

Unexploded Ammunition Sign

I’ve walked there often as it’s convenient to where I live and I also feel attracted to the big rock itself. It’s a strange place though.  I feel drawn to the rock, but when I am there I also feel as though I am trespassing in a way, as though I am walking over graves. I sit quietly under a rock overhang or inside a cave mouth and think about the gatherings of Indigenous women who have been there over the years. Only recently I discovered that I have Indigenous relatives around my age whom I have never met.

Pondering quietly at the base of White Rock

Pondering quietly at the base of White Rock

Sheltering at the base of White Rock

Sheltering at the base of White Rock

 I also think about the thousands of young men who trained at White Rock. I think about the fact that many never returned home from war, or came back with serious physical and mental injuries. I wonder how they felt as they engaged in mock battles – if they knew how bad real war would be. If they were afraid or if they were caught up in the perceived adventure of it.  I also wonder if the mystery pictures in this locket were men who trained at White Rock, as they belonged to an elderly relative who lived in the Ipswich area all that time. If anyone can identify the uniforms I’d be grateful. There were Australian and American soldiers training at White Rock.

Mystery soldiers

Mystery soldiers

If you are not interested in history, White Rock is still a good place to stretch your legs and have a chance to observe wildlife.

Huge male red kangaroo carrying a few ticks.

Huge male red kangaroo carrying a few ticks. Sorry this is blurry but the powerful muscles on this one had me keeping well back.

Lace Monitor

Lace Monitor

Hairy caterpillar trail

Hairy caterpillar trail

Caterpillar trail across the road.

Caterpillar trail across the road.

Rhinoceros Beetle

Rhinoceros Beetle

I've been told these are the remains of carpenter bee tunnels in sandstone

I’ve been told these are the remains of carpenter bee tunnels in sandstone

Tunnel nests of local birds - perhaps kingfishers

Tunnel nests of local birds in banks – perhaps kingfishers

My tall brother modelling with a termite nest.

My tall brother modelling with a termite nest.

Termites Nest

Termite Nest

Monarch larva and beetles on milkweed.

Monarch larva and beetles on milkweed.

Aphids on mildweed

Aphids on milkweed

There is also a large variety of plant-life to see although there have been times when lantana and other exotic vine infestation have dominated the landscape.

lantana

Trees

Trees

Trees

Fungus

Fungi

Ferns

The most interesting feature for me is definitely White Rock itself though, with its varying sandstone colours,  patterns and shapes.

Patterns

Sandstone

Sandstone

sandstone patterns

I’ve never climbed to the top of the rock. Local Indigenous people ask walkers to refrain from doing so and this is clearly stated on information brochures and the car park information sign although this hasn’t stopped others. I am satisfied to sit at the base and enjoy the peaceful isolation.

Local Indigenous groups ask walkers to refrain from climbing to the top of White Rock, but many people either ignore or don't know about their wishes.

Local Indigenous groups ask walkers to refrain from climbing to the top of White Rock, but many people either ignore or don’t know about their wishes.

Please don't climb to the top of White Rock.

Please don’t climb to the top of White Rock.

However, further away on the more challenging white ridge track I’ve done a little bit of exploring and enjoyed the view.

View from Ridge Track

View from Ridge Track

Me checking out a cave on the Ridge Track

Me checking out a cave on the Ridge Track

Cave sitting on the ridge track

Cave sitting on the ridge track

There are a number of walks at White Rock, four very short tracks including Little White Rock and Bluff Lookout, and the longer class 4, 6.5km White Rock Multi-user Trail and the class 4, 19km Yuddamun Trail. There is also a more challenging class 5,  7km White Rock Ridge Walk which isn’t included on the information brochure now. The scenery is more interesting and the walk a little rougher, but I do not have a map to share with you. This was the old sign.

Former Ridge Track sign

Former Ridge Track sign

I assume it’s not being maintained now and that is why it has disappeared from the information brochure. I’ve done all the walks multiple times since moving to the Brisbane area and on one very memorable occasion took a few “detours” in the scrub with my brother and ended up hiking about 30km. By the end of it we were so tired we didn’t even react when a highly venomous brown snake slithered across our path. That was a few years ago though, in the days when the signage was poor and a little confusing and the ridge path was very overgrown. Most of the tracks are now dirt vehicle roads or upgraded walking paths with detailed signage.

My brother on the Ridge Track

My brother on the Ridge Track

My daughetr on the Ridge Track a few years ago

My daughter on Little White Rock Lookout Track

My daughter on Little White Rock Lookout Track

My brother on the Ridge Track

My brother on the Ridge Track

A little bit of rough stuff on the Ridge Track.

A little bit of rough stuff on the Ridge Track.

 The improvements in signage and track surface are both good and bad. It means the area is becoming much more popular for regular walkers so a quiet solitary wander is not as easy to achieve. However, it does encourage people to get out and be more active so I can hardly begrudge other people the opportunity to do something I enjoy so much. Some of the trails are also very popular with mountain biking and horse riding  options on the Yuddamun track.

New signage

New signage

The Big White Dog continues to lure me even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to spend time alone there. It’s not a stunning walk by any means and I wouldn’t suggest you drive a long distance just to visit the place but if you happen to be in the Ipswich area and want to ride a mountain bike or stretch your legs it’s very convenient. Perhaps you will be like me though and find the atmosphere of the rock strangely alluring. I suspect the creepy Australian movie, Picnic at Hanging Rock, has influenced me forever. Girraween National Park which I wrote a post about gives me a similar feeling with its giant boulders and other rock formations.

For a detailed information brochure  about the tracks and the fauna and flora read here.

Spot the person...

Spot the person…

34 thoughts on “Lured by the Big Dog: History and Hiking at White Rock

  1. Since I live in southern Michigan which is more or less a pile of gravel and dirt left behind as glaciers retreated, I find any rock formations alluring. This looks like a great place to spend a day (or two) exploring.

    • “A pile of gravel and dirt”…that did make me smile! Well, it’s nice to know that someone else finds these features alluring as well. 🙂 Yes, it’s a great place to explore as you never know what you may find. Just when I think I’ve seen everything, I stumble across something different, whether it’s just another weird rock or some insect. One day I may even find some unexploded ammunition… Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. Great narration… and goodness, some of those photographs – I flat had to stare at some of them for a while! That muscular kangaroo was amazing! And so many odd critters and insects to be seen. I like that you notice the little things along the way. .

    • Actually that kangaroo gave me a fright! I turned around and he was right there watching me. The picture doesn’t really do his giant forearm muscles justice. He looked like a pony in the distance. I moved away quickly before taking the shot as he had a few young females nearby and sometimes they can be quite aggressive if they think you are threatening them. Thanks so much for the lovely comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and pics. It’s always nice to get feedback from my reader friends. Have a lovely day. 🙂

  3. I have to say I felt a bit emotional reading this post Jane as it was a real blast from the past for me. I went out to White Rock a few times when I was a little girl with my family. Until your post I honestly hadn’t thought about this place for a long time. I have just gone rumaging and found a photo of my dad holding me in his arms in one of those caves, I would be about 18 months old. I remember when I was older loving the way the sandstone looked and felt under my hands. Thanks for the post and thanks for bringing back some really fond memories for me.

    • Hi Amanda,
      I find it amazing how our experiences can be shared or linked up with others in this way. I’ve been meaning to write about White Rock ever since I started the blog as it’s a special place for me. I’m so glad that this stimulated some memories from your early childhood. I’d love to see the pic of you with your dad in one of the caves! I wonder how much has changed since then. The sandstone is beautiful, isn’t it? I can spend ages at that place just enjoying the feel and look of it. Thanks for sharing your own memories and for reading my blog, Amanda. I wonder how many other posts will trigger memories… 🙂

  4. Its strange how an inappropriate use of an area can ensure its future protection. Silver linings, I guess, though i doubt it felt that way at the time for the local indigenous people.
    Very interesting Jane. Thanks : )

    • Yes, I know what you mean! Can you imagine how we’d feel if our memorials, graveyards, special places and our own homes were just taken over and used for such purposes? I think that’s part of my mixed feelings about the place. Whenever I go there I ponder the history of the place and whether making it more accessible now is actually a good thing. I have a mixed ancestry involving cultures who fought each other. I’m the product of relationships from groups who had animosity towards each other. I guess my existence is proof that love/acceptance can conquer these differences. Thanks for reading and commenting, Dayna, I’m glad you found it interesting. 🙂

  5. I also used to live near here at Collingwood Park. As you say. It isn’t spectacular, but it is still nice to have your very own local patch of bush. You’ve summed it up well. The ridge track in particular is quite nice.

    Incidentally, the park is also home to quite extensive bouldering. Roped climbing is banned on White Rock itself, but there are numerous smaller outcrops throughout the reserve which provide ample opportunity for you to grind the skin off all your fingertips within a few hours. 🙂

    • Hi Cameron,
      I know Collingwood Park quite well. 🙂 White Rock is definitely not in same league as the Glasshouse Mountains that’s for sure! As you say, it’s nice to have some bushland close by to escape from the daily grind though. I’m pretty lucky really. I don’t venture there much in summer as you can guess as it’s not very shady. Winter is nice though.

      I should always check your blog for climbing information when I do my posts, as that’s not my specialty and many places I go to have climbing options which would interest people. Thanks for that new information about this aspect of the reserve! Grinding all the skin off your fingertips? Now why haven’t I done that before. Sounds like fun! Thanks! 😉

    • Hi! I’m glad White Rock captures your imagination too! It’s a strange place. I don’t think I have felt quite the same way about any other hikes I’ve done.

      I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful Indigenous friends in my life who’ve taught me a great deal. When I went to University I took some electives in Indigenous history as well which opened my eyes to some of the sad facts about our past. More recently I’ve found out that I have Indigenous relatives which was a big surprise! Thanks for reading my post and for your kind praise. 🙂

    • Hi Brittany. I can tell you he did look scary in real life. They can actually cause injury with those powerful hind legs and forearms if they are put into a difficult situation/threatened. Fine if you leave them alone though. Most times they jump away before you see them when you are walking. We often see dead ones on the country roads here as they start grazing the green grass by the edges at dawn and dusk and often end up as road kill. Actually, I’m heading off on a country trip over the weekend where I’ll probably see plenty! The smell on a hot day is not so nice if you are riding by on a bicycle. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

    • Hi Suze,
      I think in the hands of a decent photographer, White Rock could produce some extremely stunning images. I love the shapes, textures, colours and patterns. Sadly, my efforts don’t show it as its best!

      It’s not surprising that you haven’t heard of it really as it’s not a national park, but a conservation estate run by Ipswich and as such doesn’t get a lot of exposure. It’s more well known to local rock climbers, mountain bikers and residents who walk their dogs really. Perhaps it’s a good thing as it’s busy enough already! 🙂

      Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  6. I hadn’t heard of White Rock either, so thanks for the introduction to a place I’d want to visit if I were in the area. The name reminds me of the 1975 Australian movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, which I saw on American television earlier this year. It seems you came back from your adventure with nothing amiss.

    Your picture of the monarch caterpillar made me wonder about the distribution of that species. I’ve always assumed it to be native to North America, but I see from the map in the Wikipedia article about the monarch that it’s found in eastern Australia (as your picture confirms) and eastern Asia as well. I did some searching online but haven’t been able to find out whether the species spread out naturally from North America or whether people have carried it to those other places (still assuming it originated in North America).

    Your photograph of carpenter bee tunnel remains reminds me of a rock- and insect-related picture from my neighborhood that I showed two years ago:

    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/pastel-mud-tubes-on-limestone-wall/

    • Hi Steve,

      I watched “Picnic at Hanging Rock” as a very young girl and I remember having a bad dream afterwards. It was very haunting. There is actually a place called Hanging Rock in Victoria. The movie has stayed with me all my life and perhaps has encouraged my fascination with large rock features such as at White Rock. My Girraween National Park post has some very interesting rock features, “The Pyramids”, Balancing Rock and the Natural Archway and triggers thoughts of the movie more than any other place actually.
      http://wp.me/p4gcIq-8S

      Yes, monarchs are migratory butterflies. Many years ago I helped an entomologist do research on the egg laying habits of these butterflies on milkweed. We also collected data on the eating habits (which leaves were chosen) by the larvae. Here is a recent article about research/theories from the University of Queensland about the migratory habits of this butterfly and its spread. Dr Zalucki was actually a lecturer/teacher of the person I helped back in 1990.
      http://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2014/10/monarch-butterflies-built-migration

      Your picture was certainly an interesting and attractive example of critter construction. Thanks for sharing it! I think it is some kind of mud dauber wasp also.

      I really appreciate your interest, and comments on my blog, Steve. I hope 2015 is a wonderful year for you. Best wishes! 🙂

    • Thanks Peggy! It’s not as well known as many places but it’s special to me and there are certainly some interesting discoveries to be made. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for your kind feedback. 🙂

  7. In my youth I spent 5 happy years in Australia, though far from you in Victoria, and very much enjoyed reading this post and looking at your pictures. You have got a new follower.

    • Hi Susan!
      Thank you for following my blog. I’m so glad you enjoyed the words and pics. You lived in Australia for 5 years? Well, I’m happy they were happy ones! I enjoyed taking a look at your own blog and am now following it as well. I look forward to reading your future posts and checking the archives. Have a lovely day! 🙂

  8. Hi Jane

    I was most interested to read your comments on this wonderful place.
    I am a regular rambler through this conservation park, having lived locally for the past eight years. I often walk from Greenbank through to my daughters house at Redbank Plains, via Spring Mountain and White Rock. I rarely see other people in the park until I get to White Rock, which suprises me, as Spring Mountain with its own caves and stunning views is also a very special place. Have you been there?

    • Hi Andrew,
      Great to hear from you. I’m pleased you also enjoy the White Rock area as it’s a regular haunt for me. I just went back there with an old school friend recently to show her around and found a lot of different fungi species so I will probably write another post about it.
      I’ve discussed doing the Spring Mountain to White Rock walk with my brother in the past and we meant to give that a go. Actually, I suspect we accidentally did some of it when we got lost taking an unsigned road once at White Rock! We ended up doing about 30km that day. Sadly, we are both quite busy and it’s hard to find a time when we are both free. I am not actually sure where the walk starts in Greenbank. I will have to look for the details online. Now would be good to go before it gets too hot, although I just noticed today that there are controlled burns planned for the area around there in August. I wouldn’t like to get caught in the smoke! I’ve been here about 6 years but it took me a few years to actually find out about White Rock. I’m very lucky to have such a great place to go so near to home.
      Thanks for reading and your comments, Andrew. You’ve reminded me to check out the Spring Mountain option before it gets too hot. Happy walking! 🙂

      • The entrance point is at the very end of Thornbill Drive. However, the route is not signposted and therefore not so easy to find if you are not familiar with it. I met a couple in the park on Sunday, who are keen to climb Spring Mountain and will be leading them up there sometime in the next few weeks (on a Saturday). Happy for you and your brother to tag a long if you are interested.

        • I was just googling the place a few hours ago, Andrew, and puzzled by the lack of route maps. Thank you very much for the kind offer. I’ve got a few things on during the next few weeks and I am not sure what my brother is doing but please email me when you know what Saturday you decide in case I manage to have a free day. I doubt I’d be as fit as you lot though. It’s been a while since I’ve done a strenuous walk. If you have any links to rough track maps that would be great. I’d love to do it eventually and write about it in my blog. Thanks! 🙂

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