Fowlers Gap Shelter


Welcome to Fowlers Gap where the traditional owners are the Wiljali people. We pay our respect to elders, past, present and emerging.

Outback living

Fowlers Gap is an arid zone research property that was acquired by the University of New South Wales in 1966. It is extensively used by researchers from institutions within Australia and overseas.

A wide range of study is carried out on arid zone birds, kangaroos, reptiles and other flora and fauna, as well as projects relating to the management of the arid zone, soil conservation, solar energy and astronomy.

European Exploration

By the 13th of December 1844 Charles Sturt’s expedition had moved northwards along the western flank of the Barrier Ranges. Discovering that there was no safe route through the country further west they took a northerly route and established a camp on Floods Creek. From there Sturt, Stuart and Flood rode to the east of the Barrier Range where Fowlers Gap is located today.

There were many scrub lined creeks across the plain and Sturt fully expected to find water. Instead, he found only a shallow pool in a creek where the men camped overnight. The following morning they rode many kilometres through timber and scrub until they were in full view of the hills to the east but there appeared to be little hope of finding water.

Once again disappointed, Sturt returned to their camp on Floods Creek, taking a route closer to the northern end of the Barrier Range, and passing to the south side of Bancannia Lake.

Sturt 1849

“Immediately on the other side of the range, there was a plain of great width and beyond, at a distance of between 50 and 60 miles, was a range of hills running parallel to those near the camp.”

Fowlers Gap sculpture

Constructed by Alison Clouston in 1999, the adjacent sculpture depicts the significance of water in the landscape and the impact of pastoralists’ fences on the environment.

Did you know

  • Fowlers Gap is believed to have been named after a squatter named Fowler who established a trail over the Barrier Ranges.
  • The trail was used by miners and prospectors heading to the Albert Goldfields
  • Before motorised transportation drovers walked sheep and cattle through a narrow corridor called a stock route. Dams were built every 20 kilometres to enable the animals to be watered every day.
  • The Fowlers Gap Hotel was built north of the Gap to service coach travelers and drovers in 1888 but closed in 1932.

Look out for

  • Additional sculpture installations along the Sturt’s Steps Touring Route, there are several along the Silver City Highway.
  • Mobs of kangaroos moving across the plain. Be careful to avoid hitting them as they often graze along the edge of the road, especially at dusk.
  • Information about the flora and fauna of the Corner Country when you visit Milparinka and Sturt National Park.

Landscape, flora and fauna

Many unique Australian arid-zone animals and birds are studied at Fowlers Gap but it was the 2016 discovery of a native mammal previously thought extinct in New South Wales that created great excitement.

A young female plains mouse was caught by University of New South Wales scientists surveying for small mammals on the property.

“It was very exciting to come across an animal we thought had gone for good in this state,” says UNSW biologist Dr Keith Leggett, who was one of the researchers who made the discovery.

The plains mouse is distinctive looking with big ears and feet and like other native rodents plays an important role in the Australian ecosystem. Many species have declined significantly due to introduced predators such as red foxes and feral cats.

Geology, flora and fauna

The hills of Fowlers Gap Research Station form the northern reaches of the Barrier Range, and date from Cambrian and Devonian times. Streams and creeks have cut steep-sided gorges before emptying their sediments water onto the plains to the east.

Across the crests of the ranges is sparse vegetation, mulga and dead finish, both species of acacia, together with shrubs of saltbush and bluebush.

On the deeper, loamy soils of the plains are many plant species; belah, rosewood, bluebush, bladder saltbush, but also grasses such as Mitchell grass. When the season is right the wild flowers are spectacular.

These landscapes and the plant communities support the diversity of wildlife found across the Barrier Ranges, the larger mammals such as the four kangaroo species found on Fowlers Gap, the special little plains mouse and monotremes (echidnas), as well as the huge variety of birds and reptiles.