Originally proposed for reservation by Myles Dunphy in 1931, today the Pilot forms part of the greater Snowy-Indi wilderness; together with Kosciuszko National Park, the Snowy-Indi is one of biggest and best examples of Australia’s ‘High Country’ wilderness. At 80,161 hectares, the Pilot extends east over the Barry Way into Byadbo wilderness and south over the Victorian border to the Cobberas-Tingaringy wilderness.
Resting on the Great Dividing Range, The Pilot extends south from Dead Horse Gap and Thredbo village to Victoria. Visitors to the Pilot are awed by soaring panoramas of lush valleys and rugged, rolling mountains.
Mount Pilot is the highest peak in this protected area, rising to height of 1,830 metres and making up over 20% of the Pilot Wilderness. The freshwater creeks west of the Divide feed the Murray River (known locally as the Indi River), while those on the eastern side feed the Snowy River.
An Indigenous dreaming trail called the Bundian Way meanders over the Alps. This ancient pathway is 265km long; it connected NSW Sapphire Coast with the Snowy Mountains and brought together Aboriginal people from Yuin, Ngarigo, Jaitmathang, Bidawal Country for thousands of years.
The Ngarigo people are the Traditional Owners of the Pilot, but corroborees, marriages and trade brought other tribes to the area now known as the Snowy Mountains during the summer. For Aboriginal people in all directions near the Snowy Valley, the mountains are the homes of their ancestral spirits.
Valley sides in this area are heavily forested, with the familiar Snow Gum woodlands and snow grass growing on high, exposed places. White Box and Cypress Pine flourish in the dry woodlands, as do Australia’s distinctive, flowering grass trees – plants that have endured since dinosaurs walked the earth.
An altitudinal succession consists of pure stands of Alpine Ash, followed at lower levels by Messmate growing with Mountain Gum, Ribbon Gum and Apple Box. The tops of the Range are snow covered in winter and carry alpine to subalpine vegetation.
Almost 30 plant species in the Snowy region are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, like the critically endangered Kelton’s Leek Orchid or the vulnerable Kiandra Leek Orchid.
While exploring the Pilot, you could catch a glimpse significant species like the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby or impressive Wedge-tailed Eagles. Populations of wild Emus, Brush-tail Possums, Common Wombats, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and Tawny Frogmouths may also roam this wilderness area.
Approximately 40 animal species in the Snowy region are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered; including, the vulnerable Spotted-tailed Quoll, the endangered Alpine Tree Frog and the critically endangered Yellow-spotted Tree Frog.
Horses are one of the greatest threats to the area. Since 2014 the Pilot wilderness has been subject to a horse riding trial from Tin Mines hut to the bottom of Nine Mile Pinch. There are, of course, extensive areas for horse riding in the park; however, the trial is not based on analysis of horse riding opportunities, but rather addresses the politics of perceived dispossession of high country horse riders.
Horses have been in the Pilot since the arrival of Europeans but are exotic animals; unlike soft-footed native marsupials, their hard hooves damage the environment. The pro-horse lobby are destroying the park by pushing for ineffective horse management (see Plan to stop feral horses degrading Kosciuszko National Park in Bulletin 264). The Pilot is, unfortunately, proposed as a place where feral horse heritage is currently retained.
To ensure the best chances of survival for the plants and animals in the Pilot listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, Wilderness Australia hopes that horse riding in the area will cease and feral horses are removed in their entirety.