Naracoorte Caves National Park

Coordinates: 37°2′10″S 140°47′51.5″E / 37.03611°S 140.797639°E / -37.03611; 140.797639
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Naracoorte Caves National Park
Joanna & Mount Light[1]South Australia
Skeleton of a marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) in the Victoria Fossil Cave
Naracoorte Caves National Park is located in South Australia
Naracoorte Caves National Park
Naracoorte Caves National Park
Nearest town or cityNaracoorte
Coordinates37°2′10″S 140°47′51.5″E / 37.03611°S 140.797639°E / -37.03611; 140.797639
EstablishedConservation Park 27 April 1972 (1972-04-27)
National Park 18 January 2001 (2001-01-18)[3][4]
Area6.60 km2 (2.5 sq mi)[5]
Visitation78,000 (in 1999-2000)[6]
Managing authoritiesDepartment of Environment and Water
WebsiteNaracoorte Caves National Park
Part ofAustralian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte)
CriteriaNatural: viii, ix
Inscription1994 (18th Session)
Area300 ha
See alsoProtected areas of South Australia

Naracoorte Caves National Park is a national park near Naracoorte in the Limestone Coast tourism region in the south-east of South Australia (Australia). It was officially recognised in 1994 for its extensive fossil record when the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List, along with Riversleigh. The park preserves 6 km2 of remnant vegetation, with 26 caves contained within the 3.05 km2 World Heritage Area.[7] Out of the 28 known caves in the park, only four are open to the public. Other caves are kept away from the public eye as they are important for scientific research and also for the protection of the caves and their contents. Many of the caves contain spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.[8]


European discovery[edit]

The caves, which are located within the boundaries of what is now the national park, were first encountered in 1845 with the discovery of Blanche Cave.[6]

Naracoorte Forest Reserve[edit]

In 1885, the Department of Woods and Forests appointed a caretaker due to "the popularity of the caves and their vulnerability to vandalism".[6]

National Pleasure Resort[edit]

In 1916, the control of the portion of the forest reserve which contained many of the caves and which consisted of about 20 hectares (50 acres) of land was transferred from the Department of Woods and Forests to the Immigration, Publicity and Tourist Bureau who would manage it as a national pleasure resort under the National Pleasure Resort Act 1914 until 1972. The change of control was gazetted on 1 March 1917.[9][10][3] The national pleasure resort's development into "an important regional tourist destination was greatly assisted by the discovery in 1969 in Victoria Cave of the largest known Australian Pleistocene vertebrate fossil cave deposit".[6]

Conservation Park[edit]

On 27 April 1972, it was renamed as the Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park upon the proclamation of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 which repealed the former act along with other statutes concerned with conservation.[3] In 1982, the conservation park was listed on the now-defunct Register of the National Estate.[11]

World heritage listing[edit]

On 17 December 1994, part of the conservation park, being an area of 300 hectares (740 acres) was "inscribed on the World Heritage List" along with the Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland as the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte).[12]

National Park[edit]

On 18 January 2001, the Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park was abolished and the land that it occupied was reconstituted as a national park because it was considered to be "of national significance by reason of the natural features of the land" and was assigned the name, Naracoorte Caves National Park.[4]

National heritage listing[edit]

On 21 May 2007 The Australian Fossil Mammal Sites was one of 15 World Heritage places to be added to the Australian National Heritage List.[13]

State heritage listing[edit]

On 17 May 2017, the extent of the national park was listed as a state heritage place on the South Australian Heritage Register with the name of the Naracoorte Caves Complex.[14]

Visitor attraction[edit]

The park is a visitor destination in itself, with a camping ground and caravan park, dormitory accommodation for groups, picnic grounds and a licensed cafe. The range of visitor activities is extensive. Show cave tours are guided by professional interpreters through highly decorated caves with some tours visiting amazing fossil deposits. Modern technology has been utilised to show visitors the normally inaccessible interior of Bat Cave, where thousands of southern bent-wing bats breed each year. Other opportunities include adventure caving, a selection of specialty tours and special events. The Wonambi Fossil Centre, the park's visitor centre, features displays of fossils and bones found in the caves and dioramas of extinct animals.


The limestone of the area was formed from coral and marine creatures 200 million years ago and again 20 million years ago when the land was below sea level. Ground water since then has dissolved and eroded some of the limestone, creating the caves. The caves, such as the Victoria Fossil Cave and Blanche Cave, are often not far below ground, and holes open up creating traps for the unwary. This is the source of the remarkable collection of fossils. Mammals and other land creatures have fallen into open caves and been unable to escape. The fossil record has been preserved in strata formed from eroded topsoil washed and blown in. In some places, the fossil-bearing silt is up to 20 metres thick. Some of these areas are being preserved for future research when better methods of dating and reconstructing fossil records may have been found. These fossil traps are especially significant for tracing Australian megafauna.

The latest research[15] pushes back the date of the caves' formation to at least 1.34 million years ago.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search results for "Naracoorte caves National Park" with the following datasets selected – "NPW and Conservation Properties", "Suburbs and Localities", "Local Government Areas", "SA Government Regions" and "Gazetteer"". Location SA Map Viewer. Government of South Australia. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Terrestrial Protected Areas of South Australia (refer 'DETAIL' tab )". CAPAD 2016. Australian Government, Department of the Environment (DoE). 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "No. 56 of 1972 (National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1972)". The South Australian Government Gazette. Government of South Australia: 660 & 702. 27 April 1972. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b Brindal, Mark (18 January 2001). "NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE ACT 1972 SECTIONS 29(3) AND 28(1): ABOLITION OF NARACOORTE CAVES CONSERVATION PARK AND CONSTITUTION OF NARACOORTE CAVES NATIONAL PARK" (PDF). South Australian Government Gazette. South Australian Government. p. 70. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Protected Areas Information System - reserve list (as of 25 November 2014)" (PDF). Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Naracoorte Caves National Park management plan, South East, South Australia (PDF), South East Region, National Parks and Wildlife SA, Department for Environment and Heritage, 2001, p. 15, ISBN 978-0-7308-5846-1
  7. ^ "Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh / Naracoorte)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  8. ^ "About Naracoorte Caves". National Parks South Australia.
  9. ^ STYLES, A. W. (1 March 1917). "GRANT OF NARACOORTE CAVES AS A PUBLIC PLEASURE RESORT, &c" (PDF). The South Australian Government Gazette. South Australian Government. p. 368. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  10. ^ "THE NARRACOORTE CAVES". The Border Watch. Vol. LV, no. 5463. South Australia. 22 July 1916. p. 4. Retrieved 26 February 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Naracoorte Caves Conservation Park (Place ID 8013)". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government.
  12. ^ "Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Riversleigh/Naracoorte), Naracoorte, SA, Australia (Place ID 105089)". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government.
  13. ^ "Australian Fossil Mammal Sites (Naracoorte), Naracoorte, SA, Australia (Place ID 105692)". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government. 21 May 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Naracoorte Caves Complex (designated place of geological, palaeontological and speleological significance)". Heritage Places Database. South Australian Government. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  15. ^ World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves 500,000 years older than previously thought, research reveals, Jack D Evans, ABC News Online, 2022-09-29

Further reading[edit]

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