Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Geographical Location

Uluru-Kata National Park (25° 05'-25° 25'S, 130° 40'-131° 22'E) is a World Heritage Site situated in central Australia in south-west Northern Territory. Alice Springs is 335 kilometers (km) to the north-west and Yulara tourist resort is approximately 4 km due north of the boundary. The boundary is defined by geographical coordinates and is described by the Australian National Park Wildlife Service.

Date and History of Establishment

In 1958 the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga area was excised from the South West Aboriginal Reserve and declared as reserve number 1012, Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park under section 103 of the Northern Territory Crown Lands Ordinance 1931-57. The park was the administrative responsibility of the Northern Territory Reserves Board under section 13 of the National Parks and Gardens Ordinance 1955. Gazetted on 24 May 1977 as Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park under sub-section 7(2) of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. The Park proclamation was amended on 28 October 1985 to incorporate seven small enclaves previously excluded. The proclamation was further amended in 1993 to change the name of the park to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, reflecting the Aboriginal heritage of the site and to specifically identify its cultural landscape values.

caption Kata Tjuta, Australia. (Source: University of Iowa)

In 1977, the park was declared a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987.


132,566 hectares (ha).

Land Tenure

Persuant to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 1985 and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Act 1985, inalienable freehold title to the land in the park was passed to the Aboriginal Uluru-Kata Tjuta Land Trust on 26 October 1985. The land was subsequently leased to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife for a period of 99 years on 26 October 1985.


Uluru rises approximately 340 meters (m) above the desert to reach 862.5 m above sea level. The summit of Mount Olga at Kata Tjuta is 546 m above the surrounding area and 1,069 m above sea level.

Physical Features

caption The giant monolith, Uluru. (Source: New South Wales Country Areas Program)

Situated on the southern margin of the major Amadeus sedimentary basin, the park comprises extensive sand plains, dunes and alluvial desert, punctuated by the Uluru monolith Kata Tjuta, some 32 km to the west. Uluru is composed of steeply dipping, feldspar-rich sandstone arkose and has been exposed as a result of folding, faulting, the erosion of surrounding rock and infill. The monolith has a base circumference of 9.4 km, smooth sloping sides of up to 80° gradient and a relatively flat top. Major surface features of the rock include: sheet erosion with layers 1-3 m thick, parallel to the existing surface, breaking away; deep parallel fissures which extend from the top and down the sides of the monolith; and a number of caves, inlets and overhangs at the base formed by chemical degradation and sand blast erosion. Kata Tjuta, covering about 3,500 ha, comprises 36 steep-sided rock domes of gently dipping Mount Currie conglomerate consisting of phenocrysts of fine grained acid and basic rocks, granite and gneiss in an epidote rich matrix. Kata Tjuta tends to have hemispherical summits, near vertical sides, steep-sided intervening valleys and has been exposed by the same process as Uluru. Lithosols, gravelly red earths, red earthy sands and calcareous red earth soils are derived from weathered Mount Currie conglomerate, and found as isolated pockets on scree slopes and alluvial fans. Gently sloping sand plains of medium textured red earths, sandy loams and red earth sands are separated from dune formations of red siliceous sand and red earth sands by a transitional zone comprising largely very coarse siliceous sand. Dunes up to 30 m high are characterized by mobile crests, vegetated flanks and swales rilled and gullied by water; these, and the sand plains occupy the bulk of the park. Surface water is largely restricted to seasonal pools fed by short shallow watercourses from the monolith. Defined water courses do not exist in the dune formations, although swales are moister and ponding may occasionally occur. Two aquifers have been located which could supply approximately 870,000 cubic meters of water per annum.


The park experiences two significant seasons: an April to October winter and November to March summer. Mean daily minimum and maximum temperatures are 4 degrees Celsius (°C) and 20°C respectively in winter and 22°C and 38°C in summer. Absolute temperatures range between -5°C and 44°C and frosts are not unusual in June, July and August. Annual rainfall is highly variable, with 140 millimeters (mm) in 1970 and 935 mm in 1974. Mean annual rainfall from 1969 was 310 mm, although this figure probably reflects an unusually wet period. Peak rainfall occurs during winter, whilst mean peak humidity, at about 67%, occurs in June-July. Prevailing winds blow from south-east to north-east in summer and north-east to south-west in winter.


caption The flower Wurmbea centralis is a species in danger of being lost from the park. (Source: Government of South Australia: Department for Environment and Heritage: Parks)

The vegetation, modified by substrate stability, climate and fire can be grouped into five major categories, arranged concentrically around the monolith formations. First, Uluru supports hardy perennial grass Cymbopogon spp. and Tripogon spp. in soil pockets, and sedge Cyperus spp. and Fymbristylis sp. on very shallow soil. Patches of Acacia spp., spinifex Triodia spp., and isolated Ficus platypoda and Eucalyptus terminalis are also found. Spinifex grass Triodia irritans forms almost pure stands on the Kata Tjuta, whilst on the less steep slopes Acacia spp., Cassia spp. and Hakea spp. also occur. Scree slopes support low trees Eucalyptusspp., acacia and many other shrub species. Dense patches of perennial grass Eriachne scleranthoides dominate the areas immediately around the base of rock outcrops whilst grass and sedge are dominant on the fringing shallow soils. Second, the Kata Tjuta foothills which support annual grasses, principally mulga grass Aristida contorta and oat grass Enneapogon polyphyllus, some low Acacia aneura, and shrubs Cassia spp. and Ptilotus spp.. Eucalyptus spp., shrubs and perennial grasses are found in drainage courses. Third, the fans and outwash alluviums around the monoliths support a complex of open grassland, low trees and shrubs. Species include bloodwood Eucalyptus terminalis, tea-tree Melaleuca sp., acacia, lamb's tails Ptilotus sp., shrubs and grasses Themeda avenacea, Enneapogon cylindricus and Eragrostis eriopoda. During rainy periods this vegetation can be luxuriant. Fourth, the plains area support dense groves of mulga, acacia, native fuschia Eremophila spp. with perennial grass understorey Eragrostis eriopoda; the intergrove areas, however, are sparsely vegetated. Fifth, the sand dunes, rises and plains are dominated by spinifex grass Triodia pungens, open scrub of Eucalyptus gamophylla, Acacia kempeana, broom bush Templetonia hookeri with occasional desert oaks Allocasuarina decaisneana in moister locations. Species which are in danger of being lost from the park include: Wurmbea centralis, Juncus continuus, Gossypium sturtianum, Rulingia magniflora, Hibbertia glabberrima, Baeckea polystemona and Plectranthus intraterraneus. Exotic species, for example Rumex vesicarius and Mossman River grass Cenchrus echinatus, have become established.


Twenty two native mammals are found in the park including dingo Canis familiaris dingo, red kangaroo Macropus rufus, common wallaroo M. robustus, marsupial mole Notoryctes typhlops, spinifex hopping mouse Notomys alexis, several bat species including Australian false vampire Marcoderma gigas (V), bilby Macrotis lagotis (E), occasional short nosed echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus and several small marsupials and native rodents. However, rufous hare-wallaby Lagorchestes hirsutus (R), burrowing bettong Bettongia lesueur (R) and common brush-tail possum Trichosurus vulpecula have been eradicated in the past 80 years although reintroduction is being considered. Introduced red fox Vulpes vulpes, cat Felis catus, house mouse Mus musculus and European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, in addition to feral dogs and camels, compete with indigenous species. More than 150 bird species have been recorded in the park, of which 66 are considered resident. These include parrots, wrens, thornbills and raptors such as peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus. All five Australian reptile families are represented and species include monitor lizard Varanus giganteus, thorny devil lizard Moloch horridus, western brown snake Pseudonaja nuchalis, Ramsay's python Aspidites ramsayi and numerous others. Aestivating amphibians such as water-holding frogs Cyclorana cultripes and C. platycephalus are found. Invertebrates are poorly known but include fairy shrimp Imnadopsis sp. and shield shrimp Triops australiensis, which exploit seasonal rock pools.

Cultural Heritage

The park, and in particular the Uluru monolith, is one of several equally important and interconnected centers of local and religious significance scattered throughout the extensive area of western central Australia occupied by Aborigines. Cave paintings on Uluru, some of which are considered to be ancient, indicate the length of time Aborigines have been present in the area. Traditional religious philosophy, Tjukurpa, provides an interpretation of the present landscape, flora, fauna and natural phenomenon in terms of the journeys and activities of ancestral beings and consequently binds the people socially, spiritually and historically to the land. Tjukurpa also acts as law and imposes a responsibility on the Aborigines to care for the natural environment. The park is criss-crossed by a network of tracks, marking mythical journeys, which interconnect nodes such as Uluru, the Kata Tjuta and other sites both inside and outside the park. A number of sites are regarded by the Aborigines as secret, thus requiring specific management action. Uluru is also considered a significant symbol of national identity by all Australians.

Local Human Population

The current resident Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara population numbers around 150. These people have traditional rights of occupation and live in the discrete Mutitjulu Community living area close to the rock. The population varies greatly from time to time due to the itinerant nature of the people and increases when special ceremonies are held. Traditional occupations are hunting and gathering, controlled burning has long been used for environmental management. Aboriginal people have tended to emigrate from traditional homelands to seek paid employment although in recent times this has been somewhat reversed. Aboriginal commercial activity in the park includes the Ininti store and the Maruku Arts and Craft retail outlet for locally produced art and artifacts; some Aborigines are employed as park staff.

Visitors and Visitor Facilities

The annual number of visitors has been rising steadily since 1958 to around 300,000 in 1994. Sixty-four percent of visits are made during the cooler May to September period with 86% of visitors arriving by road and the remainder by air. Tracks, paths and some sealed roads provide access to the monoliths and other sites within the park. Accommodation inside the park has been closed since 1984 and is now available at Yulara tourist resort north of the park boundary. The average length of stay at Yulara is 1.4 days and 40% of visitors use campsites, 38.5% use hotels and 21% use lodge accommodation. The most popular activities are sightseeing, walking, climbing Uluru, scenic flights, sunset and sunrise viewing, driving, picnicking and photography. Interpretation programs are centered at the Park headquarters and the newly built cultural center (opened in October 1995), and include official guided tours and other services. A major interpretative message is that "Anangu (the Aboriginal people) don't climb" as a way of discouraging tourists from climbing Uluru.

Scientific Research and Facilities

The first scientific expedition reached Uluru in 1894 and several anthropological studies were made in the 1930s. More recent studies on climate, geology, hydrology, flora, fauna as well as anthropology and other fields are listed in ANPWS (1986a). A recent major fauna survey has been completed and follow up surveys were conducted in 1994 and 1995.

Conservation Value

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is considered to be an example of both cultural and natural heritage of universal value. As a cultural landscape, the park represents the combined works of nature and man, manifesting the interaction of humankind and its natural environment and is an outstanding example of traditional human type of settlement and land-use known as hunting and gathering. The landscape also reflects part of the outcome of millennia of management, using traditional Aboriginal methods governed by the Tjukurpa (the Aboriginal law). While the monoliths are of outstanding scientific and cultural significance, the park also contains and protects a range of desert ecosystems. Within the boundaries of the park, all four principle ecological zones of the region are found.

Conservation Management

The park is protected under a number of statutes including the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975, the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Management is the responsibility of a Board of Management, with an Aboriginal majority, in conjunction with the Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Prohibited activities include, for example, overnight camping and mining, and the Director has the authority to restrict access to areas in the park to protect traditional Aboriginal land-use. The park is valued principally for its cultural and religious heritage, landscape, geology, arid desert ecosystems and for recreation. The current management plan, jointly prepared by the Uluru Kata Tjuta Board of Management and the Australian Nature Conservation Agency is operative to 31 December 1997. Principal management objectives include: the protection of Aboriginal culture; the presentation and interpretation of the landscape, especially its combination of cultural and natural elements; the conservation of representative ecosystems; and allocation of appropriate activities to specific areas through zoning. Visitor use is concentrated around the monoliths and consequently a number of sacred sites at the base of Uluru have been closed to the general public. Key elements of interpretation programs include: provision of information emphasizing the religious significance of Uluru National Park to Anangu, the Anangu role in and contribution to joint management and Anangu perceptions of appropriate and inappropriate visitor activities, using Aboriginal nomenclature; development of both ranger-guided and self-guided activities; and training and accreditation for tour operators.

Management Constraints

The historic erosion of Aboriginal culture has been resisted by granting freehold title to the land and a major managerial and planning role for local people. However, sacred sites, cave paintings and traditional activities such as ceremonies may be threatened by visitors. Other problems are climatic hazards for visitors, especially in the hottest months; soil erosion, visual intrusion and disturbance to Aborigines due to inappropriate vehicle use and road and walking track location; provision of an adequate supply of potable water; control of exotic flora and fauna, feral animals, fire, commercial activities and aircraft noise; provision of housing, health and education facilities and communications for local Aborigines; and control of alcohol abuse amongst local people.


Comprises a park manager, training, project and liaison officers, in addition to senior and junior rangers. There are 15 full time staff, eight Aboriginal ranger trainees in addition to temporary and part-time staff. ANPWS specialists in fields such as research, planning, training, interpretation and capital works are drafted in as required.


In 1994/95 total expenditure at Uluru on salaries, operations and capital works amounted to approximately Aus. $8,677,734. Additional funds were provided for research and other park activities.

IUCN Management Category

  • II (National Park)
  • Biosphere Reserve
  • Natural/Cultural World Heritage Site - Natural Criteria ii, iii/Cultural Criteria i, iv

Further Reading

  • Altman, J. (1985). The economic impact of tourism on the Mutitjulu community, Uluru (Ayers Rock - Mount Olga) National Park. Unpublished report to the Central Land Council and Pitjantjatjara Council as part of the Ayers Rock Region Tourism Impact Study, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. (Unseen).
  • ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service) (1982). Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park: plan of management. Commonwealth of Australia
  • ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service) (1986a). Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park: plan of management. Commonwealth of Australia
  • ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service) (1986b). Nomination of Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Commonwealth of Australia. 31pp.
  • ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service) (1991). Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park Plan of Management. Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management, ANPWS, Canberra.
  • Baker, L. and Mutitjulu Community. (1992). Comparing two views of the landscape: Aboriginal ecological knowledge and modern scientific knowledge. Rangeland Journal 14: 174-189. (Unseen).
  • Baker. L., Woenne-Green, S. and Multitjulu Community. (1993). Anangu knowledge of vertebrate and the environment. Uluru Fauna: vertebrates of the Uluru (Ayers Rock-Mount Olga) National Park, Northern Territories. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra. (Unseen).
  • Central Land Council, Pitjantjatjara Council and Multijulu Community. (1987). Sharing the Park: Anangu initiatives. Ayers Rock tourism. Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs. (Unseen).
  • Flood, J.M. (1983). Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Collins, London. (Unseen). ISBN: 1876622504.
  • Gosse, W.C. (1874). Report and Diary of Mr Gosse's Central and Western Exploring Expedition. South Australian Government Printer, Adelaide. (Unseen). ISBN: 0724300414.
  • Hallam, S.J. (1975). Fire and Hearth: a study of Aboriginal usage and European usurpation in South Western Australia. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra. (Unseen). ISBN: 0855750367.
  • Harney, W.E. (1963). To Ayers Rock and Beyond. Rigby, Adelaide. (Unseen). ISBN: 0727015761.
  • Harris, D.R. (1989). An evolutionary continuum of people-plant interaction. In: Harris, D. and Hillman, G. (eds). Foraging and Farming: the evolution of plant exploitation. Allen and Unwin, London. Pp 11-26. (Unseen). ISBN: 0044452357.
  • Haskovec, I. (1989). Cultural resource management at Uluru National Park: a report on a third trip to Uluru National Park between 30 March 1989 and 15 April 1989. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Darwin. (Unseen).
  • Haskovec, I. (1991). A report on cultural resource management fieldwork carried out at Uluru National Park between 18 and 29 April 1991. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Darwin. (Unseen).
  • Hasovec, I. and Sullivan, H. (1987). Cultural resource management at Uluru National Park: a report on a second trip to Uluru National Park; 4-31 October 1987. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Darwin. (Unseen).
  • Isaacs, J. (1992). Desert Crafts: Anangu maruka puna. Doubleday, Sydney. (Unseen).
  • Layton, R. (1986). Uluru, an Aboriginal History of Ayers Rock. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra. (Unseen). ISBN: 0855752025.
  • Lewis, H.T. (1982). Fire technology and resource management in Aboriginal North America and Australia. In: Williams, N. and Hunn, E. (eds). Resource Managers: North American and Australian hunter-gatherers. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra. Pp 45-68. (Unseen). ISBN: 0865313180.
  • Mountford, C.P. (1950). Brown Men and Red Sand. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. (Unseen).
  • Mountford, C.P. (1965). Ayers Rock: its people, their beliefs and their art. Rigby, Adelaide. (Unseen). ISBN: 0727002155.
  • UNESCO (1992). Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Report WHC-92/CONF.001/12, UNESCO, Paris.
  • Williams, N.M. and Baines, G. (eds). (1993). Traditional Ecological Knowledge: wisdom for sustainable development. Centre for Resource and Environmental Study, Australian National University, Canberra. (Unseen).

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



M, U. (2008). Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156764


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