Old woolshed at Wartook

Grampians History

There are many historical sites in the Grampians National Park. It has the most aboriginal sites in Victoria. There is also plenty of European historical sites in and around the Grampians.

Northern Grampians - Gulgurn Manja and Ngamadjidj shelters give us a glimpse of some of the early aboriginal culture. Heatherlie Quarry is of great historical significance and there are other examples of early mining activity along Copper Mine Track.

Wartook - There is a lot of early European History in this area. Rosebrook was settled in the 1840's and during the gold rushes of the 1850's Troopers Creek was established to collect taxes from the miners heading for the Stawell, Ararat and Ballarat Goldfields. The old Wartook school site is where the Picnic area is, by the MacKenzie River bridge.

Wonderland - Halls Gap sits adjacent the Wonderland area of the Grampians. Named after CB Hall one of the original settlers in the area, Halls Gap was the original Grampians Holiday destination and houses the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre and National Park Information Centre. In the 1860's the Fyans Valley became the source of water for Stawell. Much of the early timber industry was based near Halls Gap.

Southern Grampians - The best accessible Aboriginal shelters within the Park are in the Victoria Range to the west, the Manja and Billimina shelters near Buandik. The Mount William Goldfield near Mafeking was the scene of the last gold rush in Victoria in 1900. Although the population reached 10,000 the gold soon ran out and by 1912 mining had ceased. Moora Moora was the home of one of the early stations and timber settlements.


The Grampians National Park was declared on July 1 1984. It covers 160,000 hectares and measures about 95km from north to south and about 55km west to east.

Three spectacular, western sloping, upthrust sandstone ridges form the Grampians.

They rise more than 1000 metres above the basalt plains to the south, and are western extremity of the Great Dividing Range.

It has taken 400 million years to produce the spectacular scenery that we see today. The area was once great inland sea. Thick sedimentary layers interspersed with layers of siltstone and mudstone, were laid down. Later earth movements caused lifting and folding and the weathering process began. Softer areas eroded faster and created dramatic formations.

They have been greatly reduced from their original size by weathering. Mt Arapiles and the Black Range have become isolated by the accumulation of sandy soils washed from the mountains.

Today the area is dominated by 4 ranges which run generally North to South. These are the Mt William Range, Serra Range, Victoria Range and the Mt Difficult Range with the gentler slopes to the west.

While the more spectacular ranges have been formed by the erosion of sandstones there are other formations derived from a different origin. You can see low rounded granitic hills in the Victoria Valley and smaller granitic outcrops near Zumstein, Wartook, Mafeking and Halls Gap. These were caused by an up-swelling of magma which did not reach the surface. However where it met the surrounding rock it formed quartzite, which was later faulted to form the waterfalls along the Mackenzie River.

The nearest evidence of surface volcanic activity is generally south of the Grampians where one can see scoria cones at Mt Napier south of Hamilton, and Mt Rouse at Penshurst, and the lava flows and tubes at Byaduk.

Aboriginal Heritage

Aboriginal people have had a long association with the Grampians and have been living in the area for more than 5,000 years. The numerous local clans have left evidence of their lives in the region. The Grampians contains about 80% of the known Aboriginal rock art sites in Victoria, with a number of new discoveries after the fires of January 2006.

For further information and to learn more, visit Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre in Hall's Gap where the life, history and culture of aboriginal communities is brought to life.

There have been more than 60 rock art sites identified in the National Park and some are open to the public and are readily accessible. In the Western Grampians you can visit Manja and Billimina shelters and in the north Ngamadjidj and Gulgurn Mana shelters.

Wartook Gardens is ideally situated to visit these sites.

One of the most important Aboriginal cultural sites in the region, and is Victoria, is Bunjil's Shelter near Stawell.

The ones in the National Park that are readily accessible include:

Gulgurn Manja

Gulgurn Manja Shelter

Gulgurn Manja - meaning hands of young people.

Access from Hollow Mountain carpark. From the shelter small tribal groups would be able to see the fires of other groups moving over the plains to the north. They used the fine grained sandstone to make stone tools.

The paintings include emu tracks and hand prints – many done by children. These paintings were used to help tell stories and pass on the law of the people.

Image: Gulgurn Manja Shelter



Ngamadjidj Shelter

Ngamadjidj - meaning white person.

On the western side (Staplyton Campground) near a small secluded waterhole.

Remains of campfires and stone tools were found here. The paintings at this site are unusual in the fact that they were only done with white clay. Little is known of the meaning of the paintings.

Image: Ngamadjidj Shelter


Bunjil's Shelter

Bunjil's Shelter

This short 10 minute walk leads to a rock shelter painting which illustrates the legendary hero Bunjil, the creator, who, according to the dreaming, provided all needs.

One of the most important aboriginal rock art sites in the region this site depicts Bunjil, the traditional creator of the land, and his two dingoes. Bunjil was known as a good spirit who created things as they are today and gave the tribes their law and culture.

Location: Black Range Forest, Pomonal-Stawell Road. 11 kilometres from Stawell and sign posted off the Stawell-Pomonal Road.

Image: Bunjil's Shelter



The rockshelters on the Western side of the Grampians near Buandik Falls, offered better protection from the wind and the rain. They had easy access to the plains and the ranges.

This is an impressive overhang shelter and has a large collection of paintings. There are many bars, emus, emu tracks, kangaroos as well about 50 human stick figures.

Location: Buandik Picnic Area, Billywing Rd, off Henty Highway. 1.7 km circuit, medium grade walk. From the Buandik picnic area, follow cultivation creek upstream to Buandik Falls (best after rain). A short uphill walk from the falls leads to the shelter. A massive rock overhang with fascinating rock art.



Manja Shelter

Manja – meaning red painted hands

This shelter has some of the best examples of hand stencils in Victoria. It is believed that the hand stencils were a way of recording a visit to this incredible rock overhang. It is located in an impressive outcrop. While it the area, try to imagine what it may have been like before Europeans arrived.

Off Harrap Track, via Glenelg River Road and Henty Highway.

Start this gentle uphill walk (1 hr return, easy grade) from the carpark through forest and past rocky outcrops. A series of boardwalks protects the moist heathland near the shelter.

Image: Manja Shelter


European Heritage

Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European to visit the area in 1836 and named the area the Grampians because it reminded him of the Grampians in Scotland. In 1841 R. Briggs took up Ledcourt, east of the Mt Difficult Range. He was followed by C.B. Hall who took up vacant land between Mt William and Ledcourt, that was later to become La Rose, Lexington and Mokepilly. Charles Carter came to Horsham in 1842 and in 1845 travelled south. They intended going to the coast but became bogged at Brim Springs. Here they built a cabin. The family prospered and by 1860 owned Moora Moora in the Victoria Valley, Rosebrook at what is now the Wartook Valley and Glen Isla near the present Rocklands reservoir. Glen Isla homestead was built by Samuel Carter in 1873 from stone quarried at Mt Bepcha. Although the property passed out of the family for a time, his descendants regained the homestead portion and have restored the homestead to what it was.

Other runs taken up in the 1840's included Mt William and Mt Sturgeon in the south. The Selection Act of the 1860's enabled the selection of small blocks and many more farmers moved into the area.

From the 1860's the Grampians was seen as a source of water for the drier surrounding areas. After D'Alton came up with the plan, in 1875 the Stawell Council built fluming, a tunnel and pipeline to carry water from the upper Fyan's Creek by gravity to Stawell. This ingenius solution is still in use today with pipes replacing flumeline. It is now dwarfed by the Wimmera-Mallee Stock and Domestic Water Supply Scheme which supplies 15,000 farms, 51 towns and 12 storages. It was one of the largest channel supply systems in the world. A large project is now in the process of putting the whole system into pipes. Lake Wartook was completed in 1886, Moora Moora Reservoir in 1934 and Lake Belfield in 1966.

Settlement began with the establishment of Heatherlie in 1887. The discovery of gold at Mafeking in 1900, quickly saw the population reach 10,000 but the gold soon ran out and Mafeking ceased to exist by the 1950's. Halls Gap, named after Hall of Lexington, began as a centre for the farming and mining community but since the late 19th century has relied on tourism. Walking tracks to several features, including Mt Rosea and Sundial Peak had been built prior to Word War 1 and major tourist roads were opened in the 1920's.

After the creation of the Grampians National park in 1984 tourism number have greatly increased, and today many overseas visitors have added to the numbers.


Heatherlie Quarry

Heatherlie Quarry is noted for its high quality building stone which has been used in more than 20 distinguished buildings in Melbourne, including Parliament House and the Town Hall. During the 1880’s the quarry was in full production A tramway was built from Stawell to carry the stone to the main railway line and up to 100 men were employed. However demand for stone eventually declined and it closed in 1938.

Sunday excursions to see wildflowers were a great favourite, but the railway finally closed in 1949 and most of the rails and equipment were removed by the early 1950’s.

Today you can still see a number of remains of equipment and tramway and the stone huts have been restored.

The quarry is 14km north of Halls Gap along the Mt Zero Rd.

An interpretative trail has been developed and the area remains a wonderful wildflower viewing site.

Location: Mt Zero Rd, 14 km north of Hall's Gap

The former Mt Difficult quarry was once one of the most important stone sites in Victoria, famous for its high yield of Grampians Freestone. Many famous Melbourne buildings, including the GPO, State Library and Parliament House were built using this stone. Extraction is now only permitted for repairs.

The Grampians National Park Information Centre can provide further details of other historic sites.

Hut made from local stone

MacKenzie Falls / Cranages

Cranages was developed to open up Broken and MacKenzie Falls. He built a hydro-electric system to serve the 6 houses there, a tearooms and walking track.



The Mt William Goldfield was the site of the last goldrush in Victoria. The 3 areas were names Mafeking, Spion Kop and Ladysmith as the Boer War was being fought in South Africa as the discovery was made in 1900. Miners came from all over the world in the aftermath of the 1890's depression. Conditions were harsh and although the population reached 10,000 the gold did not last. Most mining had ceased by 1912 but the township remained into the 1920's A fire in the 1960's consumed the remaining miners huts and virtually all that remains are hidden pits and mineshafts.


Moora Moora

This area was settled by the Carter family in the 1850's as a sheep station, and as the timber industry developed in the Grampians little settlements of milling families grew. Eventually a community of about 80 people developed at Moora Moora but declined during the 1890's. Today there is little trace of the community, but information plaques on the site of the old homestead give some insight into its past.


Smith's Mill

The Grampians has always been seen as a source of timber and the area was dotted with sawmills, most of which were destroyed in the 1939 bushfires. With the creation of the Grampians National Park in 1984 logging ceased.

This site shows the remains of one of the last saw-mills to operate within the Grampians, and information plaques tell the story of what was once a significant industry throughout the area.


Troopers Creek

This is the former site of a police post and lockup that was established in 1857 on the Old Adelaide Road (now Roses Gap Road). The trooper's main job was to collect the 10- pound landing tax from immigrants heading to the goldfields. Many landed in Adelaide and Robe in South Australia in an attempt to avoid the Victorian Tax.

The troopers often gave their horses a spell in the basin which is now Lake Wartook.



The Wartook picnic area is on the site of the old Wartook School and the old Wartook Post Office used to be across, but set back from, the road.

The Rosebrook Homestead, originally built by the Carter family, on the banks of the MacKenzie River, is just downstream from this site with the old shearing shed to the north-east.



Walter Zumstein, born of Swiss parents, came to the Grampians in 1906 to work for Barnes Honey and took up a bee site at Shanty Crossing about a km downstream of Zumstein Picnic area. By 1910 Walter applied for and was granted a bee site up the creek so he left Barnes and by 1912 had built himself a cottage and the area was visited by picnickers near the present day remains of the swimming pool which he used to let out in holiday times.

He married his Scottish wife Jean in 1916. He returned to the area in 1919 and began to develop the picnic area and eventually built cottages for the many tourists who regularly visited the site. In 1935 Walter built the Green, Blue and Orange cottages using the pise or rammed earth technique to improve accommodation for tourists and assisted in the area becoming a popular venue.

It remains a very popular picnic area.

Today there is a historic trail telling some of Walter’s story and the local community are developing a Memorial Water Garden which will eventually display a labelled collection of the flora of the area.