Tower Hill

Photo essay on a volcanic wildlife haven

The volcanic plains of southwestern Victoria sweep down from the craggy Grampians and Victoria Ranges in the north to the Bass Strait coast, where they are abruptly truncated at sandstone and limestone cliffs or hemmed by soft dunes and marshy lagoons.

From east to west, the Newer Volcanics Province extends 400 kilometres from Melbourne to the South Australian border. It contains over 400 volcanoes, of which Tower Hill is one of the newest, having erupted as recently as 5,000 years ago. Tower Hill is one of the world’s largest maar (cinder cone) volcanoes.

Amidst the flat, fertile, largely featureless arable and pasture land, the extinct volcano is an ecological enclave and a haven for wildlife. It is on the land of the Gunditjmara or Dhauwurd Wurrung people, its custodians for tens of millennia and still resident in the area today. A stone axe was discovered below the volcanic deposits, and dated to 36,800 ± 3,800 years old.

A journey back in time: layers of the outer crater rim uncovered by quarrying

It is also an astonishing place to visit, as my wife and I discovered recently.

The walls of the nested craters create seclusion – a secret wonderland of deep lakes, steep hills, islands. Little things thrive in the scrubby woodland, sheltered from predators and scouring coastal winds: tiny flitting birds, lizards, frogs. Larger charismatic indigenous fauna include wallaby, possum, koala and emu.

Tower Hill’s outer crater lake towards eastern rim
Drooping Sheoke — Allocasuarina verticillata; these small, graceful trees dominate the higher slopes of the crater cones
Secluded crater lake of the ‘Last Volcano’
Close-up of sheoke catkins
One of the locals (Black Wallaby)
Golden Whistler
White-naped Honeyeater
Brush Cuckoo
Brown Thornbill

It will be interesting to return at other times of the year and see the passage of the seasons. The park is home to around 160 bird species, so we’ve only scratched the surface. The Worn Gunditj traditional owners’ cooperative runs the beautifully designed visitor centre and offers guided tours.

You will find an extended version of this post on Vocal Media.

All wildlife photos were taken by my wife Susan (Nikon P950); landscape photos by me (iPhone 11 Pro) © 2021. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Tower Hill

  1. Steve, I so enjoyed this wondrous write-up and photo essay (thank you, Susan) of Australian landscape and wildlife. The Dhauwurd Wurrung people must have a very special relationship with the land; thank you for always recognizing their legitimate rights to the land in your stories. The discovery of the stone ax is absolutely amazing! Best wishes, Lauren

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lauren! Thank you for your kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed our photo essay. There is so much to discover in our little corner of Australia. We’ve just got back from a week camping and birdwatching in the High Country around Beechworth, another remarkable area.


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