Flinders Ranges National Park
Rugged mountain ranges, spectacular gorges, sheltered creeks lined with River Red Gums and abundant wildlife are just some of the attractions that make the Flinders Ranges National Park one of South Australia's most popular destinations. This area is world-renowned for its geological history, Aboriginal rock art sites, impressive fossil remains and its ruins of early European settlement.
Aborigines have lived in the Flinders Ranges for tens of thousands of years. For the Adnyamathanha - the hills or rock people, the ranges are still of immense cultural significance. While geologists use science to explain the formation of the Flinders, the Adnyamathanha people understand the land through their Yura Muda stories, which endow the physical features of the ranges with spiritual meaning.
Flinders Ranges National Park is located in the Flinders Ranges between the townships of Hawker and Blinman. Its area is 95,000 ha (950 square km). Located 450 km north of Adelaide the park offers a wide range of activities for all interests including bushwalking, camping, scenic touring, birdwatching and Aboriginal and European cultural experiences
Flinders Ranges National Park offers excellent bushwalking opportunities for all ages and levels of fitness, ranging from overnight treks and the long distance Heysen Trail to easy walks in Wilpena Pound. This is by the far the best way to truly experience the Flinders Ranges. Be sure to pick up a copy of the free park guide 'Bushwalking in Flinders Ranges National Park' from the Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre before you set off. Plan your walk accordingly, as there is little permanent water in the park.
A series of marked trails and companion brochures are located around the park. The Heysen Trail, which extends for 1,200 km from Cape Jervis in the south to Parachilna in the north, is marked with red and white markers and is accessible from Wilpena, Aroona, Trezona, Yanyanna, Parachilna and Black Gap. The Heysen Trail is closed during summer between 1 December and 31 March each year and on days of total fire ban.
When bushwalking please remember to:
>> choose a walk to match your ability and fitness
>> wear sturdy shoes, hat and sunscreen
>> carry sufficient food and water (at least 3 litres per person for walks longer than 2 hours)
>> understand that weather conditions can change quickly, and ensure you have appropriate wet weather gear.
>> fill in the bushwalkers register at the Wilpena trailhead if you are going on a walk for more than 3 hours
>> tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. Searches will only be initiated if staff are informed that walkers are overdue
>> stay on the route and allow sufficient time to reach your chosen destination.
With its rugged mountain scenery, wealth of wildlife and peaceful settings, Flinders Ranges National Park is one of the state's most popular camping areas. Many opportunities exist in the Flinders Ranges National Park for vehicle-based camping at designated sites. The campground at Wilpena has full facilities with powered sites, toilets, showers, fuel, phone, ATM, internet access, store, swimming pool, bar and restaurant making camping an easy option. Bookings for powered sites or general enquiries can be directed to the Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre on (618) 8648 0048 or email email@example.com.
For those wanting a true bushcamping experience in peaceful settings there are designated camping sites within the park at Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges and Aroona Valley which have toilets and firepits with cooking grills. These campgrounds have limited water available and it is recommended that you carry your own water. The various camping sites have unique settings, are easily accessible to 2WD and 4WD vehicles and are well maintained. Camping permits are required and can be obtained from self-registration bays at each camp site, Department for Environment and Heritage offices or the Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre.
Camp fires are not permitted during the fire ban season, from 1 November to 31 March. At other times, small camp fires may be lit at designated fire pits using wood obtained from the Wilpena or Rawnsley Park stores or brought in from outside the park. The collection of firewood from within the park is prohibited. Gas fires are permitted except on days of extreme fire danger. Open fires are not permitted in Wilpena Pound at any time.
The Flinders Ranges supports an eccentric mix of moisture dependant and arid adapted plants. The specialised habitats of local endemics, (plants that occur only in the Flinders Ranges), are bound to the regions geology. Native vegetation is shaped by landform, soil, climate and fire. It is also influenced by human activity. Native plants sustained the cultural and economic lives of the Flinders Ranges Andyamathanha for thousands of years.
Land use changed with the arrival of Europeans in the 1850s. High stocking rates on early pastoral leases, land clearances for agriculture, a century of feral animals, competition from introduced plant species and fewer bushfires, have dramatically altered the ecology of many plant communities in the Flinders Ranges.
Much of the vegetation of the Flinders Ranges National Park is semi arid. Cypress Pines occur across much of the park thriving on shaly soils. Porcupine Grass is found on stony hills where it forms dense communities. Pure and mixed stands of mallee and Black Oak grow mainly on the deeper soils of the north-eastern portion of the park. Some plants are fussy and require specific soil chemistry. Leafless Ballart, Broom Emubush, Red Mallee and Pearl Bluebush are usually found on very alkaline soils.
Bush peas, Guinea Flowers, grevilleas, Shrub Violet, Native Cranberry and Fringe Myrtles hug the quartzite slopes of Wilpena Pound where rainfall is greater than in surrounding areas. Lilies, mat-rushes and ferns grow on sheltered rock-strewn slopes where soil moisture persists. Swamps, springs and waterholes are fringed by reeds, sedges rushes and Native Buttercups. At least 85 plant species in the park are of national, state or regional conservation significance.
Plant communities have sustained indigenous economies for thousands of years. Natural emporiums provided food items and source materials for tools, implements and weapons, nets and bags, shelters, games, musical instruments, adhesives, medicines, ornaments and ceremonial objects. The Flinders Ranges Adnyamathanha people used the language of smoke from green leaves to move messages between small groups over considerable distances.
The mammals of the Flinders Ranges have adapted to climatic extremes. Recurrent droughts persisting for several years followed by very wet years typify Australia's climate. Populations crash during prolonged drought and rebuild following wet years. Due to the establishment of permanent waterholes for stock and the removal of Dingos from the Flinders Ranges, the Red Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Euro have all increased their range and population. As a result of this, Flinders Ranges National Park is one of the best parks in Australia to view these unique animals.
Not so fortunate was the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, which was almost pushed to extinction. This beautifully marked wallaby was exploited for skins, bounties and faced competition from introduced stock and predation from foxes. Thanks to conservation programs such as Bounceback, the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby is now regularly seen in Brachina and Wilkawillina gorges.
Many of the nocturnal mammals such as the native rodents, dunnarts and planigales are rarely seen as they are very small and active during the night. Bats make up one-third of the native mammal fauna of Flinders Ranges National Park. Listen for the high pitched squeaks of bats hunting insects which are attracted to camp fire light. In early spring watch out for echidnas within the park.
It is estimated that two-thirds of land-dwelling mammals became totally extinct within 50 years of European settlement in the Flinders Ranges. Exploitation for skins, bounties, competition from introduced stock, predation by foxes and reduction in native animal habitat destroyed the delicate balance between stress and recovery for native animals.
Andu the vulnerable Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby is of great cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people. Traditional Law prevents the creation history for the Andu being widely shared. The Adnyamathanha Yura Muda (creation story) helps to explain why kangaroos are mostly found on wide-open plains and Euros are found in the hills.
Bird life is rich and varied in Flinders Ranges National Park, with more than 100 native bird species recorded. Different plant communities support different communities of birds. Generally, the more varied or diverse the plant community, the richer the bird life. Visitors to the Flinders may observe forest and woodland species with birds from mallee, spinifex, saltbush and bluebush communities in close or overlapping ranges. Springs, waterholes and spring-fed creeks support a low density waterbird population. Birds of prey range across most habitats. Some of the many birds that can be seen in Flinders Ranges National Park include brilliantly coloured Australian Ringneck Parrots, Pink and Grey galahs, the migratory Rainbow Bee-eater, the small and elegant Elegant Parrots and the Red-capped Robin.
Birds feature strongly in the traditional stories of the Adnyamathanha of the Flinders Ranges. Yurlu, (Red-backed Kingfisher) and Walha (the Australian Bustard) are central to the creation history for Wilpena Pound. Willie Wagtails, Crested Pigeons, hawks, Mistletoebirds, ducks, emus and crows define, through story, the relationship that the Adnymathanha people have with the land.
Geologists use science to explain how the Flinders Ranges were formed. The Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges have their own creation histories for the land and the life it supports. The creation histories and geology complement each other, enriching our knowledge of the landscape.
Scientists believe that the Flinders Ranges began to form about 800 million years ago when a great depression, known as the Adelaide Geosyncline, developed as the earth's crust stretched and thinned. The sea flooded in and, for 300 million years, huge amounts of rock debris, stripped from the land was deposited in the deepening depression to thicknesses of many kilometres.
About 500 million years ago the rock layers were squeezed and folded into a long mountain chain, much higher than today's ranges. The great bulk of the ancestral Flinders Ranges was then eroded over millions of years. Resistant quartzite now forms the highest peaks and ridges of the Flinders Ranges while the softer mudstone, siltstone and shale have been worn away to form valleys and gorges. Occasional earth tremors today indicate that the mountains continue to be uplifted.
In the Adnyamathanha Yura Muda, the unformed land was shaped by the Akurra, an immense maned and bearded water snake. Two Akurras, a male and a female, feature in the creation history for Wilpena Pound while the regions earth tremors are explained as rumblings from Akurra's water-filled belly. The activities of travelling ancestral spirits further shaped the land. The White-winged Fairy-wren threw a boomerang which created the cleft in Mount Chambers. An argument between a Euro and a Red Kangaroo led to the creation of the rocky northern Flinders Ranges, separated from Lake Frome by the sweep of the kangaroo's tail. Waterholes and springs along the eastern side of the ranges were created by the Thumping Kangaroo. Land, rocks and minerals are all manifestations of the Yura Muda.