Wilpena takes a Pounding

Sep 16, 2002

The Bottom Line The popularity of Wilpena Pound as a tourist destination steadily grows!

Running in a continuous line from the mid north of the State of South Australia almost due south to a point just south of the State Capital Adelaide is an eight hundred kilometre long (500miles) band of hills.

The northern section is known as the Flinders Ranges and the southern the Mount Lofty Ranges. Peaking at little over one thousand two hundred metres (near four thousand feet) this band of hills hardly qualifies as a mountain range but nevertheless it is the highest and longest set of hills in the entire State.

The Flinders Ranges Section contains one of Australia's best known natural landmarks, the Wilpena Pound.

Wilpena Pound is a near perfectly shaped "bowl" jutting two hundred metres (over 600 feet) above the surrounding countryside making a most formidable and noticeable object indeed. The "pound" is seventeen kilometres long (11 m) and eight kilometres wide (5 miles) and within it's formation lies nearly nine thousand hectares or well over twenty thousand acres.

Effectively Wilpena Pound is a huge natural amphitheatre and is located about four hundred and thirty kilometres (260 miles) north of Adelaide making it a popular destination not only for the residents of Adelaide but from all over Australia and the world.

The base within the area of the pound is essentially flat and thickly covered with scrub and tall trees. The outer rim is steep and jagged and the whole monolith makes quite a sight from the air. Wilpena pound is a bushwalkers paradise but due care must be taken.

This incredible formation was first sighted by none other than Matthew Flinders when charting Australia for the first time in 1802. This whole section of the Ranges was named after Flinders, arguably the greatest chartist come map maker of all time. Flinders map making ability was always legendary but never more so when the first satellite images showed he had charted the Australian coast with a precision very difficult to surpass today.

This is an arid area and Wilpena Pound was first leased as a sheep station/ranch back in 1851. There is insufficient reliable rain for cultivating crops in the area.

The popularity of Wilpena Pound as a tourist destination steadily grew and in 1945 a resort was established near the only entrance.

There are many excellent bush-walking trails clearly marked so no one should get lost. These vary significantly in difficulty and the State National Parks and Wildlife Service produces a free brochure outlining the thirteen most popular ones. Some are quite short and take little effort while others can be quite a different matter. Probably the most arduous is the walk up St. Mary's Peak, the highest point in the whole area and this is really only for the physically fit. Even then expect a hike of about seven hours. The nine hour walk through Edowwie Gorge is a little less arduous despite thee greater time needed.

Brachina Gorge and Wilkawillana Gorge are both nearby and fossils are a feature. The
Flora and Fauna of the whole area is diverse and includes one of the most popular calendar photographs in the world, that of the Cazneaux Tree. Amongst the native wildlife and vegetation expect to see galahs and wedge-tailed eagles, the yellow-footed rock wallaby, Sturt's desert pea, river gums, acacias, casuarinas and mallee. There is also eighteen species of snakes, sixty species of lizard, emus, dingos, the euro and of course the big the red kangaroos.

There is ample accommodation of most types and information about where to go and what to see is plentiful.

Adding to thee unique eeriness of the region is the purple coloration around the ridges, the green tree canopy and the arid rock and sand protruding in many places. In spring, dependent on rain wildflowers bloom changing the scene to one of a myriad of brilliant colours.

Whether you drive, go by bus or fly your every whim is catered for including dining in a restaurant or eating at a campfire - the choice is yours and you won't be disappointed.

The resort area at Wilpena is an ideal base camp for exploring the whole Flinders Ranges and many points beyond are all within an easy days drive.

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