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Nature, culture and history

Natural environment

The park protects critical habitat of the plumed frogmouth Podargus ocellatus plumiferus. Photo: Queensland Government.

The park protects critical habitat of the plumed frogmouth Podargus ocellatus plumiferus. Photo: Queensland Government.


Mount Barney is composed of granophyre, a granite-like rock which formed below the Earth's surface as a dome-shaped intrusive mass. This intrusion and the overlaying sandstone of the Carboniferous period (350 million years ago) were later pushed up 2000 m. Erosion has stripped away the softer overlying sedimentary rocks, leaving the mountain as it stands today.

The nearby peaks of Mount May, Mount Maroon and Mount Ernest also began from underground cooling of molten rock but are composed of rhyolite. The area has some of the most spectacular and rugged range scenery in South East Queensland.

Flora and fauna

Mount Barney National Park is one of the largest areas of undisturbed natural vegetation remaining in South East Queensland. It is significant for nature conservation, with many rare and restricted plant species, especially on the higher peaks. Much of the country is open eucalypt forest with some beautiful grassy slopes, the lower country bearing tall, spreading eucalypts, brush boxes and angophoras. Kangaroos and wallabies are common, as are many species of birds.

The rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest of Mount Barney provide critical habitat for the plumed frogmouth Podargus ocellatus plumiferus. This primitive bird species is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

Creeks with cascades, deep pools and shallow sections flow through the park, and are lined with river she oaks Casuarina cunninghamiana, red-flowering bottlebrushes Melaleuca viminalis, golden silky oaks Grevillea robusta and patches of rainforest. Rarely seen platypus swim in the creeks and nest in their banks; kingfishers swoop over the water and various honeyeaters and robins can be spied nearby.

Higher rocky slopes and depressions support patches of montane heath, some of which have spectacular wildflower displays in spring. Steep, rocky slopes are the habitat of brush-tailed rock-wallabies Petrogale penicillata, which are listed as vulnerable to extinction.

Vegetation of special significance includes Antarctic beech Nothofagus moorei and simple microphyll fern forest on Mount Ballow. Simple microphyll fern thicket with lillypilly or satinash Syzygium smithii, as it is sometimes known, grows on Mount Barney. Montane heaths with rock pavement and mallee ash Eucalyptus codonocarpa shrublands occur on Mount Maroon. On Mount Lindesay, tall forests of Banksia integrifolia subsp.monticola dominate.

The park joins Mount Clunie National Park, Mount Nothofagus National Park and Border Ranges National Park at the New South Wales border. These national parks share many of the plants and animals found within Mount Barney National Park. All these protected areas are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

Culture and history

Double Peak, Mount Barney circa 1957. Photo: Courtesy P. J. Stephenson.

Double Peak, Mount Barney circa 1957. Photo: Courtesy P. J. Stephenson.

Mount Barney National Park has special significance to Aboriginal kinship groups who have legends and stories to explain their connection with the mountains. For many it is taboo (forbidden) to climb Mount Barney. One story tells of an ill-fated plot by a jealous uncle to murder his nephew because it was the nephew, not the uncle, who was to inherit the role of head tribesman. Outwitted by his nephew, it is the uncle that is murdered. Upon discovering the true story of the uncle's intentions and death, the elders placed a curse on the mountain so no further murders could occur. This forbade all kinship groups from climbing the mountain. Today the mountain is still respected by these kinship groups—always from a distance and never climbed.

On a frosty August morning in 1828, the commandant of the Brisbane settlement, Captain Patrick Logan, and botanists Alan Cunningham and Charles Fraser set out from their camp to climb Mount Barney. This was the first recorded European ascent of the mountain. Fraser's journal graphically recounts the climb, describing the perils the group encountered. Logan was the only one to complete the climb to the summit, leaving both Cunningham and Fraser to turn back after finding the ascent too difficult.

It was during these early expeditions into the mountainous area of the scenic rim that many of the peaks were given European names. Mount Barney, Mount Lindesay and Mount Clunie were named after prominent engineers or soldiers of the early 1800s, while Mount Ballow took its name from David Keith Ballow, a Moreton Bay Government Medical Officer who died of typhus while caring for immigrants under quarantine at Dunwich in 1850. Some names were abbreviated from Aboriginal names; Mount Maroon was originally known as 'Wahlmoorum' (Yuggera language meaning 'sand goanna').

By the 1840s the surrounding foothills of Mount Barney were opened up for cattle grazing. Logging also began on the high ridges—cut stumps seen in parts of the park are a reminder of this time.

The unique qualities of this rugged area were recognised in 1947 and again in the 1950s, when a number of the separate peaks in the area were declared national parks. In 1980 these were combined to form Mount Barney National Park which, as part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, was World Heritage listed in 1994.

Reference: Steele, J. G. (1984) 'Aboriginal pathways in southeast Queensland and the Richmond River'. University of Queensland Press.

Last updated
6 July 2018