Nature, culture and history
Mount Barney is the product of a large volcano (the Focal Peak Volcano) that erupted about 24 million years ago. This developed as the Australian crust moved northwards over a ‘hot-spot’ in the Earth’s mantle below.
Initially there was an up-doming and tilting of the previous rocks of the district, namely sandstones and shales deposited by rivers in the Moreton Basin about 180 million years ago, during the Jurassic period. Their inclined strata can be seen along the road over Yellow Pinch. Then the first eruptions were of basalt lava, which flowed from a crater over the present Focal Peak, just west of Mount Barney itself.
Later the magma below changed to the composition of rhyolite, and a large mass accumulated at depth. Some of this began to cool to larger crystals, and suddenly a surge of pressure thrust this upwards 2400m or so to near the surface and inside a major ring fault—the Mount Barney Ring Fault—beside the volcano’s central vent. It cooled to a rock called granophyre—coarser grained than rhyolite but finer than granite. The pressure also dragged up some very old rocks from depth, namely marine sedimentary rocks laid down on the continental shelf about 320 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period. Some of these can be seen on the South Ridge summit route, and the junction between these soft sediments and the hard granophyre is obvious on the eastern slopes of the mountain.
Other rhyolite bodies were intruded outside the ring, but also in a roughly circular pattern, to cool quickly beneath the present mounts Ernest, Maroon, May and Philip, and also Minnages Mount (also known as Minnages Mountain).
Since those times, erosion has stripped away the softer surrounding and overlying sedimentary rocks, leaving the hard granophyre and rhyolite as the mountains we see today (Willmott).
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.
The park's numerous habitats provide homes for over 340 animal species and over 700 plant species. Nine animal species—including the eastern bristlebird and the Coxen's fig-parrot—along with four plant species are listed as endangered. There are roughly 30 plant and animal species regarded as threatened. This means that any major impact on their habitat will endanger the future of these species.
Much of the country is open eucalypt forest with some beautiful grassy slopes, with 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.
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 the creek 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 satinash Acmena smithii grows on Mount Barney. Rock pavements with montane heaths and bell-fruited mallee 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.
The peaks that make up Mount Barney National Park have special significance to Aboriginal people whose stories explain their connection with this country. Some names in the landscape have Aboriginal origins.
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') (Steele).
Captain Logan and botanist Allan Cunningham paved the way for selectors and squatters to follow and settle the land. Government surveyors were sent to survey features such as rivers, creeks and ranges and to set out boundaries for land parcels. Many of the surveyed features later became the boundaries of parishes and counties.
By the 1840s, the surrounding foothills of Mount Barney were being opened up for cattle grazing. Logging also began in the late 1890s with red cedars and hoop pines being felled and later hauled to small, sawmills located in the district. Remnants of large, sawn stumps seen in parts of the park are a reminder of this time. Up until the late 1930s, many contract timber workers lived in tents in the scrubs surrounding Mount Barney, some with a wife and young children.
The unique qualities of this rugged area were recognised in 1947 when Mount Barney National Park and Mount Lindesay National Park were gazetted as separate parks. Mount Barney National Park was extended to include Mount May and Mount Maroon in 1950. Thirty years later, in 1980, the two parks were amalgamated to form the current Mount Barney National Park, named after the park's highest and most imposing peak.
In December 1994, the World Heritage Committee officially declared the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area over the Scenic Rim (including nearly all of Lamington and Springbrook national parks and most of Main Range and Mount Barney national parks) and the rainforests of northern and central New South Wales.
World Heritage status is a prestigious international recognition of the important conservation values of this area, especially its unique geology, subtropical and cool temperate rainforests and rare fauna.