Jarrah Forests, WA: My favourite walks

Jarrah Forests, WA: My favourite walks

Megan Holbeck speaks to Patrick Gardner, WA Campaign Manager for the Wilderness Society, about his favourite tracks in WA’s ancient Jarrah Forests

The Bibbulmun Track is probably Western Australia’s most famous walk, winding for 1,000 kilometres through Noongar Country from the hills near Boorloo/Perth to Kinjarling/Albany. End-to-enders complete the walk in six to eight weeks, but it is more commonly divided into shorter sections and completed over years. Patrick Gardner, WA Campaign Manager for the Wilderness Society, loves the Darling Range section for the diversity of native plants and animals, views over the range and proximity to Perth.

Image: Patrick Gardener
“When the morning sun hits the undergrowth among the majestic jarrah and marri trees, it releases a smell of wet forest floor and native floral fragrance. It’s like a meander through a perfume department. Winding tracks give new vistas at regular intervals, and there’s a promise of something new around every curve.”
Image: Bushwalkers in the Jarrah Forests by Patrick Gardner
The Jarrah Forests are ancient, evolving and adapting over many millennia to the area’s harsh conditions. Unique species developed, with 80% of the animals and plants here found nowhere else on earth—making this a globally-recognised biodiversity hotspot.

Image: Jarrah tree by Terri Anne Allen
Giant hollow-bearing jarrah (or djarraly in the Noongar language) and marri provide habitat for birds, in all likelihood predating European colonisation. Three species of black cockatoo live here—Patrick’s favourite time on the trail is early on a crisp morning or late in the afternoon, when the light is golden, the colours vivid and the cacophony of noise and busyness of the birds echoes throughout the forest.

Image: Jarrah Forest by Jenita Enevoldsen
In spring. the wildflower show is legendary, with more than 8,000 species bringing sprinkles of vibrant colour to the understorey. According to Patrick, it’s a case of ‘getting your eye in’ so you can see the pockets of flowers amongst the tall trees, breaking the landscape up beautifully.
“You can be very hidden within the jarrah forest. It feels a lot further away than you actually are.”
Image: Patrick Gardner in the northern Jarrah Forests, with bauxite mining scars in the background

However, this feeling of isolation, of connection and refuge in nature, is being compromised—particularly in the northern section of the Bibbulmun Track. Mining for bauxite was the cause of more than 60% of all deforestation in WA’s tall and medium forests between 2010 and 2020, and more destruction is planned, resulting in the fragmentation of ecosystems, the extinction of species and diminished walking experiences.

Introducing Nature's Elders

Australia is an ancient and diverse continent, with incredible landscapes, wildlife and stories. From this wide range of natural beauty and diversity, the Wilderness Society has identified a collection of special places holding natural and cultural values that are unique on a global scale—including WA's Jarrah Forests. Called ‘Nature’s Elders’, these places have long pasts... and you can help them have living futures.