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Rising suddenly from the surrounding plains just to the north of Whyalla in South Australia is Wild Dog Hill (above). Its rugged features and imposing profile make it a popular picnic location for local residents.
Wild Dog Hill is the most outstanding topographical feature of the Whyalla Conservation Park (Map). The Park is managed by the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and originally covered an area of 1,011 hectares. It was dedicated in 1971, and conserves a good example of the native flora and fauna of this semi-arid area.
In 2003 an extra area of land to the south of the Park, almost identical in size, was added to the Park. This land was originally part of the BHP Indenture Act land and was under BHP's care and control. With the divestiture of it's Whyalla steel making operations to a new company, OneSteel, some of the land that was excess to requirements was added to the Park and the remainder was handed back to the local community.
The main entrance to the Park is located on the Lincoln Highway, 10 km north of Whyalla, just south of the Port Bonython turn off.
Also known for its Aboriginal history and importance in the Dreaming stories of at least one group of people, Whyalla Conservation Park is definitely worth a visit by anyone who enjoys and respects our natural surroundings.
The park is roughly divisible into two regions, an eastern flat low lying plain and a western portion featuring a series of low hills rising to 95 m. Wild Dog Hill, a sandstone outcrop, rises in the north western corner. Weathering has produced large cracks in the face, which gives the Hill its character and appeal. A walking trail leads to the top, and gives a clear view of the Park and surrounding areas. Interpretive markers line the route helping the visitor gain an understanding of how the semi-arid area vegetation conserves moisture. To walk the full length of the trail will take around half an hour.
A visit to the Park at dusk or dawn will reveal the Park at its best with the red sandstone of Wild Dog Hill ablaze in the sunlight. (The Park is closed from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise.)
Red and Grey Kangaroos are found in the park, and Euros can sometimes be seen on the slopes of Wild Dog Hill at sunset. Smaller, inconspicuous mammals are also present; the Common Dunnart is a carnivorous mouse sized marsupial which eats grasshoppers and small lizards.
Over 80 species of birds have been observed in the Park. Wedge-tailed Eagles and Australian Kestrels can sometimes be seen soaring in the thermals over Wild Dog Hill. The beautiful song of the Grey Butcherbird is frequently heard.
Other common species that can be seen include the Crested Pigeon, White-browed Babbler, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and the Black-faced Woodswallow. More than 20 species of reptiles have been recorded in the Park. The Western Brown Snake, Bearded Dragon, Western Bluetongue and Sleepy Lizard are the most commonly seen species. When disturbed, small Striped Skinks scuttle for cover in the undergrowth.
The most common tree that can be seen in the Park is the Western Myall, Acacia papyrocarpa. These majestic trees with their dome shaped canopy and silver-grey foliage can live to be over 250 years old. Sugarwoods, Bullock Bushes, Native Apricots, Quandongs and Black Oaks can also be found in many areas and Saltbush and Bluebush dominate the understorey.
Despite the apparent harsh conditions, wildflowers such as Fringe-lilies and Paper-daisies can be found throughout the Park, mainly in spring. Delicate lilac Rock Isotomes flower almost constantly at the top of Wild Dog Hill, whilst the tube like flowers of Emu Bushes can be found throughout the Park.
The lichens on rocks, trees and covering the ground within the Park are some of the best examples in the world.