8. Early Rangers and Visitors

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In January 1909 the Park’s first ranger, Charles J. McLennan, was appointed. He was installed in a canvas tent rigged up in the shelter of a thicket of tea-tree and paperbark beside the Darby River.

The appearance of the river flats as they now are bears little resemblance to the scene as McLennan knew it. The flats were then covered with small trees and shrubs – mostly tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) and Swamp Paperbark (Melaleuca ericifolia) – and a narrow track wound its way through the trees from a rustic bridge to small open spaces where cattlemen and others had been accustomed to setting up camp.

To the east it was more open and paddock-like where the cattle had gathered before dispersing to their grazing grounds. It would have been kept that way by regular burning.

Near the bridge was a clearing where stood a small building known as the telephone test hut. The hut and the small clearing where it stood was the property of the Postal Department. The building held the equipment and maintenance gear needed for the Fish Creek–Lighthouse telephone line and it was visited regularly by the telephone linemen. When McLennan took up his duties he was given access to the telephone.

He was a Scotsman, short and solidly built, with something of the traditional penchant for whisky. He had spent many years in the Mallee, around Pinaroo and in the northwest of Victoria, where he earned a living as a dingo trapper.
He was a keen observer of nature with a special interest in birds – a talent he put to good use by writing natural history notes and articles for newspapers and magazines…

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