- The Flinders Ranges National Park covers an area of 95,000 ha (950 km2) and is located 450 kilometres north of Adelaide.
- The Oraparinna National Park was dedicated in 1970. In 1972, the park was renamed the Flinders Ranges National Park and its boundaries were extended to include Wilpena Pound.
- The Heysen Trail is one of South Australia’s longest walks. It crosses the Flinders Ranges National Park, extending 1,200 kilometres from Cape Jervis in the south to Parachilna in the north.
- More than 100 native bird species live in the Flinders Ranges National Park.
- Wilpena Pound is approximately 17 kilometres long by 8 kilometres wide. It covers an area of more than 100 kilometres.
To explore this magnificent landscape is to journey into the essence of Australia. The story of the Flinders Ranges began 800 million years ago when natural forces stretched and thinned the earth's crust creating a deep hollow. The sea flooded in, and for 300 million years huge amounts of rock and debris were deposited, leaving a multitude of different environments in their wake.
The ancient seabed was sculpted into a fractured, furrowed landscape of rugged mountain ranges and spectacular gorges, where deep valleys covered with twisted cypress pines drop away into sheltered creeks lined with river red gums.
The area is world-renowned for geological history. The discovery of early fossils led scientists to name a new ‘time slice’ in earth’s history called the Ediacaran period, which is today recognised by the ‘golden spike’ found in Brachina Gorge.
Each part of the Flinders Ranges possesses its own unique features.
In the south there are gorges to explore, unique wildlife to encounter and amazing views from the peak of Mount Remarkable.
In the heart of the Flinders Ranges is the awesome amphitheatre of Wilpena Pound - its saw-toothed peaks steeped in local legend.
In the north Aboriginal culture, starry skies, bounding kangaroos and rugged peaks at sunset define the terrain.
In the Flinders Ranges National Park lives the yellow-footed rock-wallaby, once exploited for its skin and almost pushed to extinction. Conservation programs have brought this beautiful creature back from the brink, and it can now regularly be seen in the Brachina and Wilkawillina gorges.
While geologists use science to explain the formation of the Flinders, the local Adnyamathanha (meaning ‘Rock people’) people understand the land through their Yura Muda stories, which give the physical features of the ranges spiritual meaning. For tens of thousands of years their stories have been passed from generation to generation. The whole area is criss-crossed by mythological tracks and song lines that tell how the land, plants and animals were formed, and numerous cave paintings and sacred sites give testament to the rich cultural heritage that exists here.
Wilpena Pound, for example, is said to be formed by the bodies of two giant Akurra (serpents) that could not move after eating the people who had gathered there for a ceremony. St Mary Peak forms the head of the female serpent, while Beatrice Hill forms the head of the male. According to another legend, an argument between two kangaroos led to the creation of the rocky northern Flinders Ranges, separated from Lake Frome by the sweep of a kangaroo's tail.
The plants of the region sustained the Aboriginal economies for thousands of years, providing food, tools, shelter, medicines, ornaments and ceremonial objects. At least 85 plant species in the park are of national, state or regional conservation significance.
The animals of the Flinders Ranges have also adapted to climatic extremes. The creation of permanent waterholes for stock and the removal of dingoes from the park have led to a huge increase in native animals including kangaroos and echidnas, and it is now one of the best places in Australia to view these unique animals. Bird life is also rich and varied, with more than 100 native bird species recorded.
Each season has its own charm. In summer, locals take restful shade under a river red gum tree or at the many pubs around the region. Autumn brings warm, mild days and cool nights. Wildlife is more readily seen in winter, but spring erupts in a carnival of colour, with many flowering plants and birds celebrating another breeding season.
The Flinders Ranges are well recorded in the journal entries of the forefathers of Australian coastal and inland exploration. The newcomer’s first impressions of the area were summed up by the Surveyor General, Colonel Edward Charles Frome, who in the 1840s said: “a more barren sterile country could not be imagined”. However, pastoralists soon discovered the value of these 'worthless' saltbush plains for fattening stock, and the industry continues today, albeit with greatly improved sustainable faming methods.
Standing on a dirt road on the fringe of South Australia's Outback, you might get the impression that this is a desolate place. But if there is one thing that surprises every visitor to the region, it is that this timeless land is very much alive.
Things to see and do
- Take a scenic plane or balloon flight over the rugged landscape for the best views of Wilpena Pound and the vast scale of this stunning landscape.
- Get close to nature on one of the many walking and cycling trails in the southern part of the Flinders Ranges.
- The Wadlata Outback Interpretive Centre in Port Augusta is a must for every visitor to South Australia's big backyard.
- Stroll through Port Augusta's award-winning Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden to see amazing flora that grows nowhere else in the world.
- Climb to the peak of Mount Remarkable, trek through Wirrabara and Bundaleer forests, or discover the homegrown flavours of the region on the Delicious Southern Flinders Ranges Trail.
- Cycle the 900 kilometre Mawson mountain biking trail.
- Delve into caves and gorges and see the awesome amphitheatre that is Wilpena Pound.
- Take a 4WD tour across the rugged peaks of the northern part of the Flinders Ranges, complete with the sight of kangaroos bounding over the red earth
- Head to Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and unravel the mysteries of the night sky from the astronomical observatory.
- Drive the Aboriginal Dreaming Trail and learn more about the traditional lore of the Nepabunna Aboriginal community.
- Take a ride on the Pichi Richi Railway for a heartwarming journey through gorges, gum trees, and charming historical towns.
- Experience the Peterborough Steamtown Heritage Sound and Light Show and the Blinman Mine Sound and Light Show for an insight into the history of white settlement in the region
- Follow the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail and discover 600 million years of history and evolution.
- The Flinders Ranges stretch from Crystal Brook near Port Pirie in southern South Australia to Arkaroola in the north, a distance of more than 400 kilometres. Port Pirie is just over 200 kilometres from Adelaide.
- Visitors can take one of the daily coach services that depart from Adelaide to Port Augusta, or fly to Coober Pedy, Port Augusta or Whyalla.
- A luxurious way to travel through this remote landscape is onboard the legendary Ghan or Indian Pacific trains.
- The Indian Pacific departs from Sydney or Perth via Adelaide, and The Ghan leaves from Adelaide and travels through Alice Springs to Australia’s top end at Darwin. The Ghan’s 2,979-kilometre journey includes opportunities to tour in Port Augusta and Coober Pedy.