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Wilpena Pound, SA

Dramatic geological feature in the Flinders Ranges

Wilpena Pound lies in the heart of the north Flinders Ranges and is a remarkable natural bowl-like amphitheatre which is 17 km long, 8 km wide and contains 8960 hectares. The centre of the bowl is a flat plain covered in scrub and trees and surrounded by a low lying ridge of hills which form a rim. From the ground it looks like a rugged low mountain range which can easily be traversed. When you reach the top of the ridge it is possible to look across the plain and to see the hills that form the edge of the bowl. From the air it is an oval-shaped ridge line, at the very western edge of the Flinders Ranges. 
The primary appeal of Wilpena Pound, apart from the intense beauty of the area, is bushwalking. The hills and countryside have been an inspiration for artists. Wilpena Pound was where the famous South Australian landscape artist, Hans Heysen, found the inspiration for his most famous gum tree paintings and it is where photographers have found unforgettable images of the Australian bush.


Wilpena Pound is located 456 km north of Adelaide via Port Augusta and 436 km north of Adelaide via Clare and Orroroo. It lies in the heart of the Ikara-Flinders National Park.


Origin of Name

It is believed that "wilpena" is a First Nations word meaning "place of bent fingers" although the local Adnyamathanha indigenous people call the pound "Ikara" meaning "meeting place" or "place for initiations". The term "pound" is an Old English term for an animal enclosure, usually made of stone.


Things to See and Do

Walking at Wilpena Pound
There is an excellent brochure published by National Parks South Australia titled Bushwalking in Flinders Ranges National Park which is available at Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre and can be downloaded under "Flinders Ranges Bushwalking" at https://www.wilpenapound.com.au/do/bushwalking. It includes an excellent map with all the walks depicted and described. The booklet outlines 18 walks in the area of which 9 can be commenced at the Visitor Centre. The ones from the Visitor Centre include:

Hills Homestead Walk
This is a 6.6 km return walk from the Wilpena Visitor Centre. It takes around 2 hours and crosses the creek, passes through the Pound Gap, stops at the Old Hill Homestead and heads up the edge of the ridge to views across the Pound. There is a shuttle bush which can make the walk shorter. 

Wangara Lookout
This walk, registered as "moderate" and taking 3 hours return, is 7.2 km or 7.8 km (depending on how far up the ridge you want to go) which makes its way to Wangara Lookout which offers outstanding panoramic views across the Pound. The lower lookout is 300 metres beyond Hills Homestead and the Upper Lookout is another 300 metres.

Living With The Land Walk
This is a one kilometres, two hour, easy walk which departs from the Old Wilpena Station Precinct and explores, through signage, self-sufficiency and survival in a remote pastoral settlement.

Boom and Bust Hike
Departing from the Wilpena Visitor Centre this 2 km walk (it will take around 90 minutes) focuses on the plants and wildflowers which survive in this harsh, desert environment.

Mt Ohlssen Bagge Hike
This is a 4 hour hike (6.4 km return) which is strenuous but offers the walker a superb view of the Pound floor and the country which lies to the east of the Pound. It begins at the Wilpena Visitor Centre but is closed in the summer months due to excessive heat.

Malloga Falls Hike
The walk leaves from the Wilpena Visitor Centre. It is an 8-9 hour walk which crosses the Pound and heads to the north west. It is a total of 23.2 km which goes to Edeowie Creek, Edeowie Gorge and Malloga Falls. Walkers have to notify the Visitor Centre before departure.

St Mary Peak Hike
This walk starts at the Wilpena Visitor Centre and heads in a huge loop from the Hills Homestead Walk. The direct route, known as the Outside Trail, takes 6 hours and is 14.6 km return. The loop route takes 9 hours and is 21.5 km return. St Mary Peak is the highest mountain (it is 1171 metres above sea level) in the Flinders Ranges. It is a challenge for enthusiastic bushwalkers. The walk takes about 6-7 hours. It is difficult but the walker is rewarded with an outstanding panoramic view of the whole of the Pound. It is closed in the summer months.

Heysen Trail
The Pound contains a section of the Heysen Trail which, in its totality, runs from Cape Jervis in the south to the northern end of the Flinders Ranges. The Heysen Trail in the area takes about 6-7 hours, crosses the Pound floor and passes over the Pound's western flank at Bridal Gap. It continues to Black Gap Lookout in the south and north along the ABC Range. 

Flora and Fauna around Wilpena Pound 
The flora in the Pound includes Sturt's desert pea, river gums, mallee, acacia and casuarinas. The careful walker may see the red kangaroo, the euro, the yellow-footed rock wallaby, 18 species of snakes, 60 species of lizard, dingos, emus, galahs and wedge-tailed eagles. 


Other Attractions in the Area

The Geology of Wilpena Pound
Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges was formed around 650 million years on the bed of an ancient sea. The mountains were pushed up around 500 million years ago and Wilpena Pound is part of a huge basin known as the Adelaide Geosyncline which includes all of the Flinders Ranges and stretches south through the Mount Lofty Ranges. The Pound is layered sedimentary rock (sandstone, mudstone, limestone, dolostone) in the form of a large syncline, with a fold which runs through Edeowie Gorge in the north and Rawnsley's Bluff at the south. 
The area's rocks are known as the Wilpena Group which comprises Rawnsley Quartzite, Bonney Sandstone, Wonoka Formation, Bunyeroo Formation, ABC Quartzite, Brachina Formation and Nucaleena Formation. These sedimentary rocks can be seen on the cliffs around the Pound. The Rawnsley Quartzite is the yellow sandstone and Bonney Sandstone is the red sandstone below the Rawnsley Quartzite. Both were laid down during the Ediacaran Period.
Although the Pound can look like a single range of mountains, it is actually two. There is a range on the western edge, and one on the eastern, joined by the long Rawnsley's Bluff at the south. A gorge called Wilpena Gap has been cut in the eastern range, and most of the inside of the Pound drains into Wilpena Creek which runs through the Gap. A small part of the high northern slopes of the Pound drains into Edeowie Creek. There is a useful Teacher Earth Science Education Program brochure with much greater detail which can be downloaded at http://tesep.org.au/images/casestudy/TESEP_Case_Study_1.001-Wilpena_Lithostratigraphy.pdf.

Walks beyond the Wilpena Visitor Centre
Sacred Canyon Walk
Although only 500 metres this walk takes around an hour return and includes the Adnyamathanha Aboriginal rock carvings which exist in Wilpena Pound. The walk can be accessed from the Sacred Canyon Car Park which is located 19 km south-east of Wilpena on the Wilpena - Blinman road. The carvings have been pecked into the sandstone walls and represent animal tracks, people and the location of waterholes. There is a short walk along a creek to the site.

Trezona Hike
Located 40 km north of Wilpena along the Brachina Gorge Road, this is an 8 km loop trail (it will take around 4 hours) which explores the ancient Trezona geological formations. 

Yuluna Hike
Located 50 km north of Wilpena and beginning at the Aroona car park, this 3 km loop trail (it will take around 2 hours) leaves from Aroona homestead and passes through the beautiful landscape which inspired the painter, Hans Heysen.

Arkaroo Rock Hike
Located 17 km south of Wilpena is the Arkaroo car park at the foot of Arkaroo Rock. The 3 km return walking trail from the car park takes about 2 hours and the rock walls have some very fine Aboriginal art including red ochre images of emu and bird tracks, snake lines, circles and leaves.

Red Hill Lookout Hike
Departing from the Aroona Car Park, which is 50 km north of Wilpena Pound, this walk, which is 9 km return and takes around 4 hours, provides panoramic views over the Aroona Valley and across to the Heysen Range.

Aroona to Youngoona Hike
Departing from the Aroona Car Park this 15.4 km (one way) hike takes around 7 hours and follows the route taken by shepherds. It passes old pastoral ruins and provides superb views of the Heysen, ABC and Trezona Ranges.

Wilkawillina Gorge Hike
The Wilkawillina Car Park is located 45 km north-east of Wilpena off the Oraparinna-Wirrealpa Road, the gorge, which is noted for its permanent water in a desert environment, is the home to a colony of yellow-footed rock wallabies. Look for the small cone-shaped fossils embedded in the walls of the gorge. The walk is 11.4 km one way and takes around 6 hours one way. 

Bunyeroo Gorge Hike
Located 18 km north of Wilpena Pound, the Bunyeroo Car Park is the starting point for this 7.5 km return (3.5 hour) walk through the Bunyeroo Gorge. Historically the gorge was used by bullock teams to transport produce and copper. Today it offers a quiet and beautiful walk.

Bunyeroo and Wilcolo Creek Hike
Located 18 km north of Wilpena Pound, the Bunyeroo Car Park is the starting point for this 9.2 km return (4 hour) walk through the Bunyeroo Gorge and on through native pine groves to the hilltops of the ABC Range.

Bridal Gap Hike
Located 18 km north of Wilpena Pound, the Bunyeroo Car Park is the starting point for this 18.8 km loop (6 hours return) walk which crosses the northern floor of Wilpena Pound. It is noted for its flora and fauna particularly the birds - parrots and raptors abound - that live in the area.

Rawnsley Park Station
Rawnsley Park Station, which is located south of Wilpena Pound, has been a significant farm stay and ecotourism location since it was opened in 1968. The property was first settled by Europeans as part of Arkaba Station in 1851. Arkaba, Wilpena and Aroona were the first pastoral leases in the Central Flinders Ranges. The leases were granted for 14 years on what was described as "unoccupied waste land". 
In 1895 the section of Arkaba Station now known as Rawnsley Park Station, a portion of 6,253 acres, was separated off and leased to a Mrs Fahey of Carrieton. The lease passed to a Mr Nugent in 1905. He built the simple stone house which still stands on the property near the old wagon. The Nugents started the present homestead in 1915 and it was completed by  the next owner, Montgomery Haeusler, in the 1920s. The lease passed to a Neil Cutten in 1937 and in 1953 Clem Smith acquired the property. He added 1,200 acres so the property is now 7,453 acres.  In 1968 Clem Smith started the Rawnsley Park Station accommodation with a single self-contained cabin. Since then the destination has grown so that it now includes three and five day guided walks of the Flinders Ranges; 4WD tours; conducted horse riding treks, hired mountain bikes, a range of 4WD tours, sheep shearing demonstrations (during the school holidays) and helicopter flights and fixed wing flights over Wilpena Pound. It also offers a variety of accommodation from a caravan park through holiday units to "eco-villa luxury". For more information check out https://www.rawnsleypark.com.au or tel: (08) 8648 0700.

Cazneaux Tree
Located off the Flinders Ranges Highway about 1 km north of Wilpena Pound turnoff, the Casneaux Tree is one of the most famous trees in Australia. Photographed by Harold Cazneaux in 1937 and called 'The Spirit of Endurance' this particularly beautiful red river gum was reproduced on calenders and posters all over the world. It is now listed by the National Trust. Check out https://web.archive.org/web/20130906122751/http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/sa/significant-tree-239-cazneauxs-tree-flinders-ranges.

Scenic Flights
One of the most impressive ways to see Wilpena Pound is from the air. It is quite difficult to get a feeling for the size and scale of the basin by going on walks around the ridge (they are more interesting for the pleasure of walking in the Australian bush and experiencing the views, the flora and fauna) so give careful thought to a scenic flight over the Pound. There are three options - a 20 minute flight (see the Pound as well as the Elder Range, Edeowie Gorge, Lake Torrens, the Heysen Range and St. Mary Peak), a 30 minute flight (a circuit of Wilpena Pound where your pilot will point out the Elder Range, Edeowie Gorge, Heysen Range, Lake Torrens, Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge, St Mary Peak and the Pound Gap) and a one hour scenic flight (includes the Pound as well as the Western Plains, Parachilna township, Parachilna Gorge, Blinman township and Copper Mine, the Bunkers Range and Skytrek 4WD track). Details and bookings - check out https://www.wilpenapound.com.au/do/flights).



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Wilpena Pound was home to the Adnyamathanha First Nations people.

* The first European to sight the Flinders Ranges was Matthew Flinders in 1802. The ranges were named after him.

* In 1839 Edward John Eyre traversed the ranges as he travelled north. 

* In 1850 William Chace was probably the first European to enter the Pound.

* In 1851 a pastoralist, C.N. Bagot, claimed that he was the first European to see the Pound. This has since been discredited.

* By the 1850s, although the land was deemed to be beyond the limits of cultivation, large tracts were being leased. 

* Wilpena Pound was leased in 1851 and was initially used as a large horse breeding area. 

* By 1861 the Pound was owned by Henry Strong Price who included it as part of his 40,000 ha Wilpena Station.

* In 1899 the Hill family who lived at Hawker took out a lease over the whole of the Pound. They cleared the land and started wheat farming. 

* By 1904 the Hills had built a small stone house near the entrance to the Pound. 

* The Hills left the area in 1914. 

* A resort was established near the only entrance to Wilpena Pound in 1945. It was administered by the South Australian Tourist Bureau. 

* By 1972 the Pound was under the control of the National Parks. 

* In 1968 Rawnsley Park Station, south of the Pound, established itself as an accommodation alternative in the area.


Visitor Information

Wilpena Pound Resort, Wilpena Pound, tel: 1800 805 802 and Natural Resource Centre, Port Augusta, tel: (08) 8648 5300.


Useful Websites

There is a useful website. Check out https://www.wilpenapound.com.au and a map of the walks in the area can be downloaded at https://www.wilpenapound.com.au/do/bushwalking.

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