Explore South Australia
The procession of glowing red mountains at Flinders Ranges National Park (vehicle entry fee $8.50), folded and crumpled with age, produces some of the Outback’s most spectacular and timeless scenery, rising from flat scrub to form abrupt escarpments, gorges and the famous elevated basin of Wilpena Pound, a colossal crater rim rising from the plains. The contrast between sky and ranges is softened by native cypresses and river red gums, and in spring the land is burnished by wild flowers of all colours and there are more kangaroos than you can count. Bushwalkers, photographers and painters flock here in their hundreds, but with a system of graded walking tracks ranging in length from a few minutes to several days – not to mention roads of varying quality – the park is busy without being crowded. Most tracks lead into Wilpena Pound, though you can also pick up the Heysen Trail and follow it north from Wilpena for a couple of days around the ABC Range to Aroona Ruins on the northern edge of the park. Nestling up against the edge of Wilpena Pound, WILPENA is a good place to orient yourself for a range of accommodation, fuel and food.Read More
Wilpena Pound’s two main walks are the Hill’s Homestead Walk (6.6km, 2hr) from the visitor centre, and the Wangara Lookout Walk (7.8km, 3hr). Consult the visitor centre before attempting the less publicized full-day hikes to St Mary’s Peak on the rim, and Edowie Gorge inside the pound, or any overnight trips. The walk to Hill’s Homestead across the pound’s flat, grassy bowl takes you to the remains of evidence of the region’s unsuitability for farming. From here you can follow the track northwest to Cooinda Camp, about four hours from Wilpena. Assuming you left early, there should be time to pitch a tent and spend the rest of the day following the creek upstream past Malloga Falls to Glenora Falls (generally flowing May–Sept) and views into Edowie Gorge before returning to Cooinda. Next morning, you could do the steep climb to Tanderra Saddle below the peak, followed by the last burst up to the summit of St Mary’s Peak itself. The effort is rewarded by unequalled views west to Lake Torrens and north along the length of the ABC Ranges towards Parachilna; on exceptional mornings the peak stands proud of low cloud inside the pound. The direct descent from the saddle back to Wilpena is initially steep, but shouldn’t take more than four hours. Shorter routes from Wilpena lead up Mount Ohlssen Bagge (4hr) and Wangara Lookout (3hr) for lower vistas of the pound floor, and southwest across the pound to Bridle Gap (6hr) following the Heysen Trail’s red markers. Things to look out for are wallabies, emus and parrots inside the pound, and cauliflower-shaped fossil stromatolites – algal corals – on the Mount Ohlssen Bagge route, similar to those still living at Hamelin Pool in Western Australia.
Flinders Dreaming and geology
Flinders Dreaming and geology
The almost tangible spirit of the Flinders Ranges is reflected in the wealth of Adnyamathanha (“hill people”) legends associated with them. Perhaps more obvious here than anywhere else in Australia is the connection between landscapes and Dreamtime stories, which recount how scenery was created by animal or human action – though, as Dreamtime spirits took several forms, this distinction is often blurred. A central character is Akurra, a gigantic serpent (or serpents) who guards waterholes and formed the Flinders’ contours by wriggling north to drink dry the huge salt lakes of Frome and Callabonna. You may well prefer the Aboriginal legends to the complexities of geology illustrated on boards placed at intervals along the Brachina Gorge track, which explain how movements of the “Adelaide Geosyncline” brought about the changes in scenery over hundreds of millions of years.