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Culture and heritage

The basalt 'organ pipes', formed about a million years ago when a massive lava flow spread over the plains from nearby volcanic hills. At this point it filled an ancient creek valley so some 20 metres deep. A surface crust formed and the lava beneath cooled very slowly and shrank. Vertical cracks developed, and as the lava continued to harden the cracks lengthened until the basaltic mass was divided into columns. Jacksons Creek then cut a deep valley through the basalt, exposing the ‘pipes'.

Aboriginal people had camped and hunted on the open, grassy plains for thousands of years. The area supported kangaroos, dingoes, tiger cats, bandicoots, gliders and platypuses as well as native grasslands with abundant wildflowers.

Ideal for sheep, the grassy Keilor plains were among the first parts of Victoria to be occupied by European settlers from Tasmania in the 1830s. With settlement and the introduction of exotic plants and animals, the number and variety of native plants and animals soon diminished. The bluestone walls of an early farm can be seen in the park today.

Naturalists were aware of the volcanic formations well over 100 years ago but the area was not protected until 1972, when 65ha (later increased to 85ha) of land were set aside for a national park. In the meantime the land had become degraded and weed-infested. With the creation of the park, volunteers (including Victoria’s first park Friends group) and staff set about restoring the indigenous vegetation, a task that continues today. Many native fauna species have also returned. Small insectivorous bats are a special feature.

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