The Porongurup National Park lies within the traditional lands of the Minang group of the Nyungar people (Green 1984; South Australian Museum 2006). They feature in Nyungar cosmological accounts of the beginning of the world. It was here that different forms of life emerged from the earth and began to grow and move about (Colbung & Montrose 1994). Borongah, local Nyungar peoples’ totem beings first walked the earth during the 'Dreamtime', sometimes in the shape of human beings but not always. As Borongah walked the earth, they left marks of their travels resulting in the contours of the earth. Borongah and Waugal, the Rainbow Snake, made the shape of the earth and all its natural features (Colbung & Montrose 1994).
Traditionally, Minang Nyungar people followed a pattern of seasonal movement between the coast and the interior around the area of what is now the Porongurup National Park. While on the coast during the warmer months they built temporary homes from available material, including grass trees, bark, and branches. During April and September, groups travelled inland to each group’s respective territory to avoid the heavy coastal rains and damp conditions and exploit winter resources such as roots, tubers, kangaroos, and possums (Hallam 1975; Meagher 1974; Anderson 1984).
First contact between Europeans and the Minang Nyungar people was in 1801 when Matthew Flinders visited what is now King George Sound. Friendly relations were established as was the case when Captain Nicolas Baudin visited the area in 1803 and when Admiral Phillip Parker King stopped at King George Sound in 1818 and 1821 (Green 1984).
In December 1826, Major Edmund Lockyer arrived at King George Sound aboard the Amity, and established a military garrison for the British colony. Lockyer established good relations with Nyungar, which were maintained over the next ten years. However, the development of the Albany settlement led to conflict over land and access to resources and these harmonious relations began to deteriorate (Green 1984).
In June 1828, Captain Joseph Wakefield led an expedition inland to map the Kalgan River and explore the mountains called Purrengorup. Wakefield’s party, led by Aboriginal guides, Mokare and Nankina ascended the hill on the eastern side of the range, and enjoyed clear views to Corjernurruf (Stirling Ranges) (Mulvaney & Green 1992; Herford & Burchell 1996).
The Porongurup Range attracted the attention of early European settlers at King George Sound because of the richer green foliage of the karri contrasting with the surrounding country. The first pastoral lease to include the Range was taken out by John McKail in 1859. Logging of karri and jarrah commenced in the early 1900s and the Porongurup area once supported several timber mills. The Bolganup Homestead and Karribank were opened as guest houses in the 1920s.
The Porongurup Range was gazetted as a national park in 1925. By the 1930s it was a leading tourist destination. Historical sites within the Park include The Old Farm, Waddy’s Hut, and the ruins of the old Mira Flores homestead (CALM 1999).