Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves


The Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves (CERRA) is a chain of superb rain forests with plants and animals seldom or never found elsewhere, a U.N. World Heritage Site of more than 50 national parks and reserves stretching more than 500 miles (800 km) along southeastern Australia’s Great Escarpment.

Some of the more than 200 rare and threatened species here go back 55 million years or more, before break-up of Australia from Antarctica and the ancient Gondwanaland supercontinent. These remarkable ecosystems, isolated since then in coastal Queensland and New South Wales, cover altogether 1,415 square miles (3,665 km2) with five distinct rain forest types, largely undisturbed by human activity.

Lyrebirds nest here with courtship dances as dramatic as any in the bird world, when males set in motion perhaps the world’s most specialized tail feathers in a vibrating dorsal umbrella of lacy plumes and separately scintillating lyre-shaped quills. Meanwhile they disconcert the rest of the forest community by mimicking every species within audible range—rare melodic rufous scrubbirds, marbled and plumed frogmouths, Coxen’s fig-parrots, and some 270 other bird species.

Gray goshawks and agile honeygliders maneuver through rain forest canopy where 31 species of bats hang out—literally—some of them visiting and fertilizing 140 species of orchids. A single tree may support a rich mosaic of life with hundreds of orchids, ferns, mosses, and other plant and animal organisms in a myriad ingenious habitat adaptations. Hip-pocket frogs raise tadpoles in skin pouches in males’ “hips.” Sphagnum frogs care for tadpoles which hatch in holes and emerge only after they grow up. On forest floors, three kinds of bowerbirds build elaborately- festooned nuptial rendezvous, and two orchids live and flower entirely underground.

Lighting up the woodland gloom are butterflies of dozens of species by day and fireflies and luminous fungi by night against a chorus of barking owls, harmonious frogs, and giant three inch (8-cm) king crickets.

Egg-laying monotremes—aquatic duck-billed platypus and ant-eating spiny short-beaked echidnas— tend secretive nests. Spiny blue crayfish once thought extinct hiss at hikers on the Lamington Track, where Parma wallabies and Hastings river mice were rediscovered recently. New-found botanical “dinosaurs” include Wollemi pines dating back hundreds of millions of years.

Access and special features vary. Border Ranges National Park has the spectacular Tweed Range Scenic Drive with trails, campsites, and “Lost World Wilderness.” Lamington protects the largest remaining tract of undisturbed subtropical rain forest, breathtaking views, dozens of plant and animal species found nowhere else, with nearby lodges and campsites. Mount Warning, named by Captain James Cook for dangerous offshore reefs, embraces diverse rain forest biota clothing this rugged peak, relic of an enormous volcano which erupted 23 million years ago.

Lowland rain forests of Toonumbar National Park abound in fruit-eating doves, bowerbirds, rare parrots. Coastal Iluka Reserve is the largest remaining stand of fragile littoral rain forest. Fossil caves at Riversleigh and Naracoorte have yielded evidence of extinct species not previously known—marsupial lions, pocket-sized koalas, feather-tailed opossums, carnivorous kangaroos.

Unusual forms of subtropical rain forest in Main Range National Park shelter grounddwelling Albert’s lyrebirds and eastern bristlebirds. Dorrigo is a major CERRA interpretive center with panoramic views of bird-filled forests, especially at nearby Point Lookout. Springbrook has untracked wilderness as well as popular trails with breathtaking waterfalls. has untracked wilderness as well as popular trails with breathtaking waterfalls.

Screeching, yellow-tailed, black cockatoos pierce the silence of Barrington Tops’ mist-shrouded 2,000-year-old glades, along with rufous scrub-birds, satin flycatchers, paradise riflebirds, bell miners, and more quietly below, spotted-tailed quolls, feathertail gliders, and swamp wallabies. Gilbraltar Range and Washpool, saved after a battle between loggers and conservationists, protectdozens of rare and endangered species—Parma wallabies, long-nosed potoroos, satin and regent bowerbirds, colorful Wompoo fruit doves, king parrots, also koalas, wombats.

 Eastern gray kangaroos are champion jumpers of the marsupial world, able to leap up to 30 feet (9 m) in a single thrust of powerful Z-shaped hind legs and to go 30 miles an hour (48 kph), both a function of rubber-band-like hind leg tendons. Only a little smaller than “big reds,” their tiny one-inch (2.5 cm) babies, or joeys, weigh a half-ounce (15 g) when born, finishing development in the pouch reached only after a laborious climb from the birth canal, there to stay for the next 300 days. Eastern grays are browsers as well as grazers in grasslands and open woodlands throughout Tasmania and most of the eastern Australian provinces.

Eastern gray kangaroos are champion jumpers of the marsupial world, able to leap up to 30 feet (9 m) in a single thrust of powerful Z-shaped hind legs and to go 30 miles an hour (48 kph), both a function of rubber-band-like hind leg tendons. Only a little smaller than “big reds,” their tiny one-inch (2.5 cm) babies, or joeys, weigh a half-ounce (15 g) when born, finishing development in the pouch reached only after a laborious climb from the birth canal, there to stay for the next 300 days. Eastern grays are browsers as well as grazers in grasslands and open woodlands throughout Tasmania and most of the eastern Australian provinces.

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