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April 07, 2022

Spotlight on the Nattai

Massive sandstone escarpments, such as Grant Head and Golden Moon Bluff, make the Nattai one of NSW's most romantic, wild landscapes. This magnificent wilderness area lies within the uplifted south-west sector of the Permo-Triassic Sydney Basin south-west of Picton, east of the Wollondilly River, the Wanganderry and Nattai Tablelands.

Most of the park is covered by sandstone that is 180-220 million years old. Permian sedimentary rocks are exposed below the sandstone in the beds of the Nattai, Alum, Little and Wollondilly Rivers.


The Nattai’s tablelands and intervening gorges cover a wide range of climatic conditions, soil types and topographic habitats. The vegetation that developed under these conditions is equally diverse, especially in the marked rain shadow to the west.

This stunning wilderness area is renowned for its majestic River Oaks, a gallery forest which follows the river for most of its length.

On the richer alluvial soils good stands of Deanes Blue Gum have developed, and the rare Camden White Gum occurs along the Little River near its junction with the Nattai River.


When exploring the Nattai you might encounter Dingo and Emu populations in the Burragorang Valley, or even discover Koalas within and adjoining southern Nattai National Park near High Range. 

Several threatened species can also be found, including the Yellow-Bellied Glider, Powerful Owl, Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Sooty Owl, Eastern Bent-Wing Bat, Large-Eared Pied Bat, the Masked Owl, Eastern Freetail Bat, Large-Footed Myotis and Spotted-Tailed Quoll.

The Traditional Owners

Nattai National Park is the traditional territory of the Dharawal and Gundungurra Aboriginal peoples, with the Wollondilly and Burragorang valleys historically forming a transition zone between the two groups.

According to the Gundungurra people, the area was created during the Dreamtime when a colossal battle erupted between an Eel called Gurangatch - an iteration of the rainbow serpent - and a large native cat or Quoll, Mirrangan. The struggle between two ancestral spirits shaped the earth in this place and formed the river systems of the Cox and Wollondillly Rivers.  

Today, the Burragorang Valley is a living museum containing priceless and ancient rock art, along with tools, burial and occupation sites, and other places of great spiritual significance. As Gundungurra woman, Kazan Brown, says, “My grandfather used to refer to the Nattai River as our Vatican. It’s basically the spiritual centre of Gundungurra nation.”

Part of our history

The efforts of visionary conservationists like Myles and Milo Dunphy, and behind the scenes stalwarts like Alex Colley, led to the protection of the Nattai. Reserved in 1991, it was the fourth and last division of Myles Dunphy’s Greater Blue Mountains National Park to be protected and is now enshrined in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

The Colong Foundation – the organisation now called Wilderness Australia - and Total Environment Centre commissioned a Nattai National Park proposal just in time to be caught up in the 1988 state election. Endorsements for the proposed Nattai National Park were readily secured from two leading local NSW Parliamentarians – Robert Webster, the Member for Goulburn, and John Fahey, Member for the Southern Highlands.

In September 1991, Milo Dunphy suggested to Dr Terry Metherell - who held the balance of power in the NSW Parliament - that a new Nattai National Park should be the first issue on his agenda. Dr Metherell heartily agreed.

Tim Moore enthusiastically developed Metherell’s scheme and secured all the remaining public lands between the Nattai and the Blue Mountains National Park with a 65,000-hectare Nattai National Park incorporating a 29,824-hectare wilderness area, and four new State Recreation Areas totalling a further 30,000 hectares.

Nattai was the first wilderness declared under the Wilderness Act of 1987 and assessment procedures have since been refined. Wilderness additions were proposed in 2004 to bring Nattai up to current standards, and in 2014 it was extended again by 11,440 hectares by Environment Minister Robyn Parker, continuing bipartisan support.

Current threats

Today, Nattai is threatened by flood inundation by the NSW Government’s proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 17 meters, a plan originally rejected over twenty years ago but has now been revived.

We are so lucky to have such precious wilderness areas, but they can vanish in a moment. Through the support of people like your who share our love of nature, Wilderness Australia will continue our campaign to ensure nature in the Nattai is safe, healthy and resilient, now and in the future.

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Australian Foundation for Wilderness Limited
ACN 001 112 143
ABN 84 001 112 143
Advocating as 'Wilderness Australia'
Formerly The Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
Registered Office 8/154 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000
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