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Nature and History at White Rock Conservation Park

Take a moment to look at the photo of White Rock above.  Squint your eyes or relax them … do you see it?  In the language of the Jagera People, the traditional custodians of this land, the name for the rock means dingo or wild dog.  From this angle, I do see a large dog resting on the hilltop, his head up and alert with a paw stretched out in front.  

White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich, Australia

Having just climbed to the top of the ridge I can quite sympathise with him taking a little lie down.  The trail is 6.5km return and for the most part is a wide, easy walking track, it’s sandy in parts which surprised me this far inland and hard-packed earth in others.  

It’s only when you get near the rock that the trail becomes a steep slope then a series of deep stairs.  Clearly, I need to do a bit more walking myself because in the heat of the day a rest under one of the overhangs doesn’t sound like a bad idea by the time I reach the top.

The surrounding forest is largely open Eucalypt with low scrub.  The trees provide some intermittent light shade over the track but make sure you have a hat and sunscreen with you, you can’t rely on the tree cover to save you from sunburn.

The White Rock Conservation Reserve is only our second foray into Ipswich, our first was almost 20 years ago on our very first visit to Australia.  We drove up from the Gold Coast for the Winternational drag racing, and while I still enjoy watching motorsports occasionally the serenity of this spot today is far more in line with what my body and soul needed.  It’s surprisingly quiet and uncrowded on the tracks compared to other parks a similar distance from the city.

The White Rock Conservation Park is a 2500 hectare tract of land that has been protected amid the rampant urbanisation of Ipswich to help ensure the survival of the regions diverse flora and fauna.  Over 6oo plants and 150 birds, animals and insects are found in the area including some that are quite rare such as the little black-breasted button quail, echidna, kangaroos and koala.

White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich, Australia
White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich, Australia

The history of the White Rock Conservation Park

The region has a long history and importance to the indigenous Jagera People of the region.  The rock itself is sacred to them and you are asked out of respect, not to climb it.  If you’re after a bit more challenge on the return walk there’s a bit of climbing and scrambling involved in the (no longer official) ridge track that might satisfy your desire for adventure and a workout.  The rocky outcrops of the ridge track are able to be climbed with care.

In an area that is urbanising rapidly, where huge tracts of land have been bulldozed bare and packed with high-density housing, the park owes its protection in a large part to its more recent history.

During WWII, in 1942 and 1943 up to 80,000 U.S. troops were based nearby at Camp Cable in Jimboomba.  These soldiers trained in the forests of White Rock and Spring Mountain.  Later in 1966 the Australian Army 6th infantry battalion also trained here.  The effect of using the area as a shooting range was that it was scattered with live ammunition making it too unsafe to undertake wide-scale forestry activities.  In turn that allowed it to stay intact long enough to receive conservation protection.  Today the area is home to the most significant flora and fauna collection in the region.

White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich, Australia

Walking the White Rock trails

The White Rock Conservation Park and trails were more developed than we were expecting but still not overly busy for how close it is to a major urban area.  There are two good-sized car parks off School Road, the first has free form parking to allow for vehicles towing horse floats, there is a hitching area and drinking trough for your horses and you can access the Yaddamun trail directly from there.   The second car park is at the Paperbark flats picnic area, there are covered picnic tables and toilet facilities available here at the start of the other trails.

While we confined ourselves mainly to the White Rock track on this visit there are several other walks all leading off from the same starting point and looping off at well-marked junctions.  With varying lengths and points of interest, there is something here to suit all abilities.   The walks include:

White Rock Multi-User trail – 6.5 km return

Multi-use trails are for hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders.  As this is a conservation park a horse is the only domesticated animal you may bring into the area, dogs and other pets must be left at home.  The trail goes from the car park to the base of White Rock, you can walk around the rock and return to the trail near where you started to ascend, from there you return along your original path.

Mountain biking on the Multi use trail at White Rock Conservation Park

Six Mile Creek Boardwalk – 500 metres one-way

This track loops off and back onto the Six Mile Creek Track and we’re told this is the track for birders.  The trees in this part are endangered blue gum and koala have also been sighted here so remember to look up.  

Koalas have certain trees that they like and return to regularly, because of this you can keep an eye out for their scratches and their droppings around the base of the trees to give you a clue on where to look.  To be honest, when I spot them it’s always by looking up at the right time and if you’re lucky catching a little glimpse of movement as they scratch or reposition themselves.

We’ve only once seen a koala walking on the ground in the wild and that was in the Tallebudgera Conservation Park on the Gold Coast.  He was changing trees from the high side of the path beside us to the lower side near the river.  We got a great look at him as he wasn’t in any hurry but as Murphy would have it in my excitement I knocked the focus ring on my camera to manual without noticing so only got a couple of useable photos from behind him.

Bluff Lookout Circuit – 200 metres one-way

Leading off from Six Mile Creek Boardwalk this track has an incline and uneven surface leading up to the treetop views out over Six Mile Creek and the forested hills and escarpments of the park.

Little White Rock track – 1.2 km return

This path leads through a patch of spotted gum, a favourite of the local koala population so you might get lucky with a sighting through here.  As you pass the base of the ridge you’ll see caves and also some remains of a historic military training bunker.

Little White Rock Lookout Circuit – 200 metres

Detour off the Little White Rock track for this one. It’s a little more difficult as you climb but the views over the forest are worth it.

Six Mile Creek Track – 1.4 km return

Paperbarks, Swamp Box and Blue Gums grow along this trail section.  The bushland around the six-mile creek is pretty, just don’t get your hopes too high on an actual creek, or a swim.

Lace Monitor at White Rock Conservation Park, Australia

Yaddamun trail – 19 km

The track cuts across the northern section of the park and includes some steep inclines and rough surfaces, it’s long and rated as a class 4 track.  The elevation does give some vistas out to the city of Ipswich, Brisbane and Morton Bay.

(Unofficial) Ridge Track – approx 6km return

This is a much more difficult return track from White Rock.  Instead of coming back via the multi-use trailhead back to the stairs then continue along in the opposite direction from the rock.  It’s a bit of a goat track in parts but easy enough to follow where it leads.  

We scrambled along a short distance just to take a look but there’s little shelter from the scorching sun up on the ridge so pick your day if you are doing this one.  This used to be a marked track but the signpost at the start has been removed so only use it if you’re experienced in hiking grade 5 and are well prepared.  Here’s an explanation of the Australian walking track grading system if you aren’t familiar with it.

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White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich
White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich

In addition to its world-famous National Parks, Australia has many fantastic but little-known forests and conservation areas to explore.  White Rock Conservation Park in Ipswich is a recent addition to our list but we’ll definitely be heading back down that way soon for some of the other walks in this group and to investigate some of the other parks in the area.  If you’re interested in a visit to the region the Ipswich Council publish brochures on their reserve and park areas on their website together with plenty of other ideas to include while visiting the area.

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Thursday 24th of November 2016

Hi there, I certainly agree that White Rock is a great spot for history and seeing wildlife, so much so that I write three blog posts about it, "History and Hiking at White Rock," "The Art of Hiking - White Rock Galleries" and also "Seeking Solitude at White Rock." It's a very special place to me for many reasons, including my Indigenous connections. I'm glad you enjoyed it too. It's not very well known but certainly worth the visit if you are in the area. I have often made the reflection that the very thing that originally took away this special place from indigenous people (war activities) ended up preserving the conservation estate from logging because of the ammo embedded in the trees. During my visits, I came across the remains of old bunkers and it was a strange feeling wondering if the men who practised there perished in the war. Best wishes. Jane

2 Aussie Travellers

Thursday 24th of November 2016

Hi Jane. White Rock is an emotionally charged area on many levels. I've just followed the link through to your posts and I'll definitely take a look through more, your photos and information on the Australian flora and fauna are great. We are only beginners here and take a lot of photos of plants, insects and funghi when we walk then spend hours on google when we get home trying to work out what we've seen. We enjoyed our visit to White Rock so much that we'll definitely be back this summer to walk some more of the tracks there and around Ipswich. I tried contacting Visit Ipswich to see if there was an Ingigenous liaison they work with who I could confirm some background with but no success so far. When we visit a place like this or other sites of special significance like we recently visited in Lennox Head and the Glasshouse Mountains I feel I would like to include an Acknowledgement of Country but although Australia is our home I wasn't educated here and I'm not confident on when and how it's appropriate.


Monday 21st of November 2016

Wow... it's been so long since I was down that way - I can't believe I hadn't heard of this wonderful place!

Vicky and Buddy

Tuesday 15th of November 2016

It's interesting that what initially caused damage eventually saved the area! It looks like a really beautiful place to hike, I can see why the Jagera People consider it sacred.

Francesca @onegrloneworld

Tuesday 15th of November 2016

I've never heard of the White Rock Conservation Reserve, you did such a beautiful job of describing it. I can't believe there are 150 birds there! It must he incredible to be there in person! Gorgeous photos btw


Monday 14th of November 2016

What a cool looking spot! I would love to go hiking at White Rock Conservation Reserve sometime. I love all the cliffs and rock formations. I'm definitely putting this spot on my list to visit someday!

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