Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Organ Pipes National Park

You don't have to be a geologist to appreciate the uniqueness of the formation – some pipes are over a metre wide and curiously smooth. It looks like part of the ribcage of a tremendous whale, with the highest pillars slightly curved in. When the surface of the river is still, the pipes are reflected in it, stretching down as far as they stretch up. A few hundred metres upstream past the Organ Pipes is Rosette Rock, a radial array of the same type of columns, like spokes from a wheel. There's also a Giant's Causeway-type 'tesselated pavement'.

Walking tracks, toilets, water and picnic tables are all provided. The Organ Pipes National Park is the friendliest place to take your young family. Wander along the banks of the river, looking for the bluestone ruins, or have a picnic – you, or your children, may well discover a deep interest in geology. Or just sit on the grass, looking out over the water at the strangest rock formation in the state.

Follow the Maribyrnong River north-west of Melbourne, past the suburbs, and you'll end up in a Keilor Plains gorge where Jackson Creek feeds into the major river. This is Organ Pipes National Park, a protected area of 300 acres. It's approachable by the Calder Highway, and is close to the City of Hume and City of Brimbank. Visiting Organ Pipes National Park is a way to get in touch with nature. The history of the park traces the history of Australia and, among the manna gums and kangaroo grass, it's easy to imagine the original inhabitants and settlers living on the banks of the valley.

The Woiworung tribe of the Kulin nation are the earliest known inhabitants, drawn to the area by the shelter, water and food around Jackson Creek. The heavy rain – Organ Pipes National Park sits in a rain shadow area – encouraged growth of wild grasses along the Keilor Plains, helping bird and animal species to flourish. Archaeologists have found the remains of campsites and artefacts within the park, authenticating the Woiworung settlement.

The arrival of early European settlers put enormous pressure on the ecology of the area. Thinking that the landscape was strange and alien, the settlers planted flora from their home country and hunted the kangaroo and rabbits for their skin. Soon the wild grass on the creek flats was choked by artichoke thistles, horehound and boxthorn. Most of these plants have been limited or eradicated, but the plum tree orchards still exist, along with the bluestone walls of the settler's village.

Organ Pipes National Park was named after its primary geological feature – the Organ Pipes themselves, a gigantic set of hexagonal basalt columns that resemble metal pipes. Jackson Creek wore down the plain over time, revealing the old volcanic rock formations where lava had slowly cooled. The Organ Pipes are twenty metres high and are considered Victoria's best example of 'columnar joining'. The famous Giant's Causeway in Ireland is an example of the same thing: the tops of the columns, viewed from above, look like smooth natural cobblestones. The Organ Pipes are, if anything, more impressive.

Things to do

Visitor Centre
Accessibility information The information centre is very accessible from the carpark via a level paved path. Inside the semi closed area there is a paved level floor with large displays around the walls.

As you walk down to the Organ Pipes look closely at the trees and shrubs. In 1972 this area was covered with weeds, mainly thistles and boxthorn. Each year since the weeds have been removed more native trees and shrubs have established. The task of re-establishing native grasses and herbs has been more difficult, but there is now a substantial field of Kangaroo Grass (themeda triandra) on the north side of the track. 
About a million years ago, molten lava flowed over the Keilor Plains from Mount Holden and other nearby volcanic hills. It filled the depressions and valleys of the former land surface, then cooled and solidified into basalt. Here at the Organ Pipes, it is believed that the lava filled a river valley running at right angles to Jacksons Creek and was perhaps 70 metres thick. Once a surface crust had formed, the lava beneath cooled very slowly. During cooling, the lava contracted and surface cracks developed (as they do in a drying mud puddle).  As it continued to harden, the cracks lengthened until the basalt mass was divided into columns.  Over the million years since the lava flow, Jacksons Creek has cut a deep valley through the basalt and revealed the Organ Pipes.
Walk down the stream for 200 metres, past wellestablished trees and you will see yellowish rocks across the creek. These are sandstones and mudstones, sedimentary rocks laid down under the sea.  Fossils in these old rocks suggest they were formed about four hundred million years ago. The old river valley now filled by the Organ Pipes was cut in this sedimentary bedrock. Now walk back upstream. About 400 metres past the Organ Pipes, look across the creek to see Rosette Rock, a radial array of basalt columns like the spokes of a wheel. Three hundred metres further on is the Tessellated Pavement, which consists of the tops of basalt columns “filed down” by Jacksons Creek.
You can now return to the car park by the shortcut path shown on the map. The carpark is on an eroded scoria cone – a small volcano that ejected molten volcanic rock called scoria. Scoria is reddish-brown and light in weight; it has many airholes because it was full of steam when ejected.

Opening hours

Organ Pipes National Park is open to vehicles daily from 8.30am to 4.30pm.


Thank you to for the excellent gallery, Photographer Steven Wright, FaceBook Profile

Bird Box Organ Pipes National Park
These bird boxes were placed all around the joint. Making it a holiday for the birds

Bird Dive Organ Pipes National Park
The birds jump and play around without staying in the one stop for long at all.
Dead Tree Organ Pipes National Park
This photo was made from 4 different photos all stitched together. It was pretty large, and couldn't get it all in the one shot.
 Rock Formations
 The Organ Pipes - National Park
My camera wasn't wide enough to really capture this feature, but this is what the park is named after.
 Rock Wall
 Blue Wren
 The V-tree

 Toilet Block

Visit Parks Victoria For More Information
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