Tiny wheatbelt town with easy access to the Gawler Ranges National Park
The appeal of Minnipa lies not in the town, which is a small wheatbelt town dominated by the grain silos, but in the extraordinary natural beauty of the area to the north of the town which is dominated by the Gawler Ranges National Park. The Gawler Ranges and the desert areas around them are one of the great hidden treasures of outback Australia with the impressive Organ Pipes formation, the wave-like Pildappa Rock and the truly remarkable pristine white salt Lake Gairdner.
Minnipa is located 601 km north-west of Adelaide via the Princes and Eyre Highways and 298 km west of Port Augusta.^ TOP
Origin of Name
It is believed that the word 'minnipa' was taken from the language of the local Nawu Aboriginal people but there is no evidence of what its original meaning might have been.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Tcharkulda Rock is located 5 km east of Minnipa via Bockelberg Road. Typical of wheatbelt granite formations the dome is surrounded by a channel which allowed the local farmers to "harvest" any rainwater that fell on the rock and to use the runoff. It is possible to climb to the top where there are impressive 360° views of the surrounding wheatbelt paddocks. Near Tcharkulda Rock are picnic, barbecue and toilet facilities. The area is home to colonies of euros and there is an historic hut nearby.
Other Attractions in the Area
Located 15 km north of the town Pildappa Rock is a unique pink inselberg. It is a huge rock in the shape of a wave and consequently Pildappa is often compared with "Wave Rock" at Hyden in Western Australia. Pildappa Rock was formed about 1500 million years ago as part of the Gawler Craton, a huge geological structure which spreads across the central part of the Eyre Peninsula, up into the Gawler Ranges and across into outback South Australia. Unlike the Gawler Ranges the inselberg's on the Eyre Peninsula were formed as granite domes 7 km below the earth's surface. They surrounding rock weathered very slowly - it has been estimated they were weathering at a rate of around 50 cm every million years - leaving low lying domes like the Pildappa Rock.
Pildappa Rock weathered in a highly unusual wave form which ran for about 100 metres. Geologists believe the wave formation is produced by water runoff seeping into the soil at the base of the rock face and that this moist soil eats away at the rock face so that when it is finally exposed it has the shape of a wave. The erosion on the top of the rock produces Gnamma rock holes where rainwater gathers. These holes were vital water sources for the local Aborigines. Visitors to Pildappa Rock who are interested in inselberg landforms should also note the decaying granite sheet structures, minor tafoni forms, and "water grooves" known as rillen. Arriving in an area of chronic low rainfall the early settlers constructed gutters on the rock which channeled the runoff. At Pildappa settlers constructed dam walls at the top of the rock to increase the rainfall catchment of the gnamma rockholes and, in 1928, gutters were constructed to channel water runoff into a huge underground water tank on the northern side of the rock.
Gawler Ranges National Park
Lying 38 km north of Wudinna is the southern border of the Gawler Ranges National Park which was proclaimed in 2002. It is an unusual and impressive outback park which combines history, Aboriginal culture and a commitment to environmental conservation. It protects rare and threatened plants and animals, including Crimson Mallee and the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby. As well the park has large communities of kangaroos and emus. The park is ideally traversed by 4WD vehicles but, when it has been dry, most of the roads are accessible to 2WD vehicles although they should have a decent level of clearance. For those wanting to go on an organised tour there are a number offered by Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris, tel: (08) 8680 2045 or check out http://www.gawlerrangessafaris.com.
The Organ Pipes, formed over 1500 million years ago as a result of volcanic eruptions, are the park's main attraction. They are actually basalt columns which have been formed by the cooling and cracking of molten lava. The Organ Pipes walk (it takes around 30 minutes each way) requires a reasonable level of fitness as there are some loose rocks and slippery sections. The walk passes through open eucalypt woodland to a natural amphitheatre surrounded by these ancient basalt rock formations. For more information and downloadable maps and brochures check out http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Eyre_Peninsula/Gawler_Ranges_National_Park.
The Barngarla, Kokatha and Wirangu Aboriginal people have lived in and around the Gawler Ranges for over 30,000 years and still have a strong connection with the land. It is significant that their traditional ceremonies and practices are still carried out in the park.
Flora and Fauna
The Gawler Ranges are located between mallee country to the south and an arid, desert zone to the north. There are over 400 different plant species in the park and many are located at the extremity of their geographical distribution. Other plants such as the Gawler Ranges Hop Bush and the Gawler Ranges Grevillea are unique to the area. The Gawler Ranges is home to a wonderland of wildlife including the Australian Ringneck Parrot, the Superb Fairy-wren and Australia’s only protected population of the Short-tailed Grasswren, a shy creature which relies on spiny shrubs and bushes for protection from predators. The park is also home to colonies of Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, the delightful Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat, the Central Long-eared Bat and flocks of Major Mitchell Cockatoos.
There are only a few marked walking trails in the Park but the land is sufficiently open that experienced bushwalkers can carve their own routes through the area. There is a trail from the Waganny campground (defined as an easy to moderate walk) which passes through woodlands and grasslands to a dramatic rocky outcrop which offers magnificent 180° views. It takes around 90 minutes for the round trip. There is an excellent and detailed brochure on the Gawler Ranges National Park. Check out http://www.wudinna.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/gawler-ranges-bro.pdf.
Lake Gairdner is a huge salt lake located approximately 130 km north of Minnipa via the Gawler Ranges National Park and mostly on dirt roads. Lake Gairdner is a spectacular site with a glistening white salt pan surrounded by the blood red foothills of the Gawler Ranges. Lake Gairdner, Lake Everard and Lake Harris form the Lake Gairdner National Park which was proclaimed in 1991 to protect the unique flora, fauna and the scenic features of the area. The park covers a total of 5,507 square kilometres. Lake Gairdner is about 160 km long and it covers an area of roughly 4,300 square kilometres. It is Australia's fourth largest salt lake,. It is usually dry. There are also several small islands within the lake. The salt is over 1 m thick in some parts, mostly in the southern area. There are six creeks and rivers which, when it rains, feed the lake: Garden Well Creek, Gorge Creek, Yeltabinna Creek are the most substantial. It is worth noting that the annual rainfall across Lake Gairdner ranges from 190 mm per annum near the northern shoreline to 270 mm near the southern boundary.
Lake Gairdner is acknowledged, by the sport, as the best site in Australia and one of the best in the world for land speed record attempts and has therefore attracted considerable international interest. The depth of salt, its stability and lack of surface irregularities over considerable distances, make it a highly sought-after location for this specialised activity.
The Geology of Lake Gairdner
The Lake Gairdner Management Plan (2004) explains: "Lake Gairdner National Park is located on the Gawler Craton, an ancient and stable landmass that has not been subject to major tectonic activity for over 1000 million years. The Gawler Craton stretches from near Tarcoola in the north, to the tip of Eyre Peninsula in the south, and was formed as a result of volcanism and igneous activity over a period of 1100 million years. The orogenic (mountain-building) activity had ceased approximately 1580 million years ago but was followed by a period of vulcanism and ash and lava flows. These extrusions, now called the Gawler Ranges Volcanics, occurred over an area of 25,000 square kilometres about 1525 million years ago. The Gawler Ranges Volcanics underlie and form the elevated southern and western boundaries of the park. A later extrusion of Hiltaba Granite took place about 1480 million years ago.
The rocks are acidic, often fine grained and classified as rhyolite to dacite. The cooling history of some of the lava flows is complex, with both fast and slow periods of cooling giving rise to both large and small crystal sizes in the porphyritic dacites and rhyodacites. The thickness of the extruded Gawler Ranges Volcanics was estimated by Blissett (1975) at 1500 m ... Today, the drainage pattern is localised, with intermittent streams carrying relatively small amounts of rainfall to the lake. It should be noted that the lake does not receive its salt inflow from surface drainage but from saline groundwater which, through evaporation, deposits sodium chloride (salt) and calcium sulphate (gypsum) at the lake surface. The surface composition of Lake Gairdner varies considerably. Generally, the lake bed is made up of gypsiferous muds, clays and silts with some gypsum crystals. A layer of salt crust, mostly from 30 mm to 75 mm thick covers this. This crust, however, can range in thickness from a few centimetres to over one metre, although in the northern third of Lake Gairdner and also in parts of Lakes Everard and Harris, there is in fact no identifiable salt crust, the lake surface in most years comprising merely saline clays.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was settled by the Nawu Aboriginal people who occupied most of the Eyre Peninsula.
* In 1841 Edward John Eyre passed through the area on his ill-fated journey to King George's Sound in Western Australia.
* The area around the town was first settled in 1878.
* The railway line reached the town in 1913. The area received so little rain that water for cattle was shipped to the district by rail.
* In 1914 the South Australian Railways established a water tank on Minnipa Hill.
* The town was proclaimed in 1915. Grain handling facilities were established to Thevenard and Port Lincoln.
* In 1915 the Minnipa Experimental Farm was established.
* A water pipe line from the Tod River Scheme reached the town in 1925.
* By 1960 the town had major grain handling facilities.
* Today Minnipa is a small township with access to the Gawler Ranges which lie to the north.^ TOP
There is a Tourist Information Bay in the Minnipa Apex Park which is located on the Eyre Highway.^ TOP
There is a useful website with information about accommodation and eating in the town. Check out http://www.nullarbornet.com.au/towns/minnipa.html. Also check the town's official site http://www.wudinna.sa.gov.au/minnipa.^ TOP