Set in a natural cleft
at the foot of the scarp, the current 4,300 hectare park stretches up the steep slopes of the
Serpentine River Valley, past a sheer face of granite, that has been polished
smooth by the rushing waters. In winter the white waters of the Serpentine River
cascade into a swirling, rock-rimmed pool below. It is the Serpentine Falls that
has been the focal point of by early European settlers, who came to swim, picnic
and enjoy a bush outing.
Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the Nyoongar Aborigines of the Whadjuk
and probably the Bindjareb tribes hunted and camped in the woodlands regions
that lay between what is now Perth and Pinjarra. It was the Nyoongars of the
south-west who used fire sticks to burn parts of the forest, and over thousands
of years, the scrub fires created some areas of open forest and grassland.
Serpentine River, the surrounding hills and wetlands of the coastal plains,
provided the Nyoongar with fresh water and food, including fish, tortoises,
lizards and birds. Fish traps were constructed on the river, downstream from the
falls and where it flows through a chain of small lakes, on its journey to the
Peel Inlet. With the start of the winter rains, tribal groups from the north,
east and south, would gather near Barragup to catch the fish that were driven
downstream by the fast flowing waters.
Many of the streams flowing off the
scarp supported family groups during different seasons of the year. The two
streams that flow into the Serpentine above the falls were named Carralong and
Gooralong, and an area between them, later to be known as Spencer’s Flats, was
reputed to have been used for corroborees.
First discovered by Europeans two months after the Swan River Settlement was
established in July 1829, the Serpentine River and surround area attracted those
seeking land, timber and precious metals, such as gold and silver. There is
doubt about whether the reported gold strike was genuine, but the remains of
several mine shafts can still be seen in the park.
By the 1890s, so much land
had been cleared for farming, cut for timber or mined, that people began to
realise that the native flora and fauna was disappearing. In 1894, the state’s
first reserve for flora and fauna was proclaimed - 160,000 hectares between
Pinjarra, North Dandalup and Bannister. The demand for timber pushed to reduce
this area, and the reserve was subsequently cancelled in 1911. It was noted,
however, that the falls, which were placed in a reserve for public recreation,
were visited by ‘trainloads of excursionists... every flower season’ and needed
some management presence to protect them from overuse. Over the years, various
blocks of land were reserved and in 1957, they were all vested together and
renamed ‘Serpentine National Park’.
There is no record who named Serpentine
River, but it was first recorded by Captain Mark Currie in 1892, although the
name first appeared on a map published by the Royal Geographic al Society in
1832. The park is named after the river.
Open daily, there is an entry fee per car.
Source: NatureBase, Department of Conservation and Land Management
- now the Department
of Environment and Conservation (DEC)
In addition to our listed online travel guide information, contact the local
tourism visitor centre for your destination for more attractions, tours, local
maps and other information. You can also contact the local DEC office.