in the late afternoon
One of Australia's most famous landmarks and
an area of excellent bushwalking
There's a postcard of Wilpena Pound, a
magnificent aerial view of this almost perfectly
formed geological bowl, which declares: 'Did you
know - An aerial view of Wilpena Pound, the
floor of which is 200 metres higher than the
surrounding country. The highest point is St
Mary's Peak which is 1188 metres above sea
level. The pound is 17 km long and 8 km wide and
contains 8960 hectares.'
Located 429 km north of Adelaide, Wilpena
Pound lies in the heart of the north Flinders
Ranges and is a remarkable natural amphitheatre
covering nearly 8000 hectares. It is a huge flat
plain covered in scrub and trees and totally
surrounded by jagged 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 you look across the plain
and can clearly see the hills around the edges.
From the air it is a remarkable sight. It is
claimed that the word 'wilpena' means 'place of
Wilpena Pound is basically for bushwalkers.
Certainly it is true that the road to the
'pound' traverses some of the most beautiful
country in the whole of the Flinders Ranges
(this was where Hans Heysen found the
inspiration for some of his most famous gum tree
paintings) but when the traveller arrives at
Wilpena Pound there is nothing to do but walk.
That is not a bad thing. But it is the reality
of the experience.
The Flinders Ranges, of which Wilpena Pound
is the emotional centre, were first sighted by
Matthew Flinders in 1802. He lent his name to
the low lying range of hills which starts south
of Port Augusta and stretches northward for some
In 1839 Edward John Eyre traversed the ranges
as he travelled north discovering the vast Lake
Eyre which lies to the north of the range. By
the 1850s, although the land was deemed to be
beyond the limits of cultivation, large tracts
of the land were being leased. Wilpena Pound was
leased in 1851 and, given its natural
protection, was first used as a large horse
breeding area. The horses were simply led into
the 'pound' and left to their own devices.
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.
If you come across old pieces of farm equipment
while walking in the pound it probably is left
from these days. By 1904 the Hills were doing
sufficiently well from their wheat that they
built a small stone house near the entrance to
the pound. They lived there until 1914.
|The gum tree
in front of the Wilpena Pound Motel
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 Commission and it has
remained under government control ever since.
In recent times Rawnsley Park Station, which
is located to the south of the pound, has
established itself as a modestly priced caravan
park with good quality apartments (taken from a
nearby mining site). It offers a range of
activities including scenic flights over the
Pound, horse riding and bicycling, as well as
interesting and unusual walks to the Pound. See
below for more details.
Things to see:
Walking at Wilpena Pound
There is an excellent brochure published by the
South Australian National Parks and Wildlife
Service which is available at the camping
ground/motel at the entrance to Wilpena Pound.
The booklet outlines some 13 walks in the pound.
The most popular ones include:
1. Old Homestead and Wangara Lookout
This takes between 1-2 hours and is a relatively
easy walk which goes through the Pound Gap, past
the old Hill homestead and up the easy edge of
the Pound so that, by the time the walker
reaches Wangara Lookout, they have good
panoramic views across the Pound.
in the late afternoon
2. The Drought Busters
This 1.5 kilometre walk takes about one hour and
is an introduction to the flora which survives
in this land where the rain and water supply is
both low and unreliable.
3. Mt Ohlssen Bagge
This is a 2-3 hour walk which is strenuous but
offers the walker a good view of the Pound floor
and the country which lies to the east of the
4. Arkaroo Rock
15 km from Wilpena there is a car park at the
foot of Arkaroo Rock. The walking trail from the
car park takes about 1-2 hours but the rock
walls have some very fine Aboriginal art
including red ochre images of emu and bird
tracks, snake lines, circles and leaves.
5. Edeowie Gorge
This is an 8-9 hour walk to the north west of
the Pound. It goes to Edeowie Creek and Malloga
Falls and enters and crosses a section of the
6. St Marys Peak
The highest peak (nearly 1200 metres) in the
Wilpena Pound area this is a challenge for
bushwalkers. The walk takes about 6-7 hours. It
is a difficult walk but the walker is rewarded
with an outstanding view of the whole of the
7. Black Gap - Heysen Trail
This is part of the Heysen Trail which runs from
Cape Jervis in the south to the northern end of
the Flinders Ranges. It takes about 6-7 hours,
crosses the Pound floor and passes over the
Pound's western flank at Bridal Gap.
Rawnsley Bluff, Wilpena Pound across
Rawnsley Park Station
In the Area
Rawnsley Park Station
Rawnsley Park Station, which is located on the
road south of Wilpena Pound and clearly
signposted, 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'.
It is a comment to the tenacity of the
farmers who settled Rawnsley Park that they
persisted where many of the others in the area
were defeated by droughts and government
In 1895 the section of Arkaba Station now
known as Rawnsley Park Station, a portion of
6253 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,
Mon tgomery Haeusler, in the 1920s. The lease
passed to a Neil Cutten in 1937 and in 1953 Clem
Smith, father of the present owner, acquired the
property. He added 1200 acres so the property is
now 7453 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
conducted horse riding treks, hired mountain
bikes, a range of 4WD tours, sheep shearing
demonstrations and flights over Wilpena Pound.
It also offers a variety of accommodation with a
strong camping, caravan, family and group
An impressive gorge which meanders between sharp
ridges. It is located north of Wilpena Pound off
the main road to Blinman and is characterised by
precambrian and cambrian rocks with extensive
fossils. It was once used as a pass by bullock
An excellent place to view fossils and to
explore the Mt Billy Creek. The walk takes about
4 hours. Look out for the small cone-shaped
fossils embedded in the walls of the gorge.
Located off the Blinman Road this is one of the
most famous trees in Australia. Photographed by
Harold Cazneaux in 1937 and called 'The Spirit
of Endurance' it was reproduced on calenders and
posters all over the world.
Flora and Fauna
This is an area where it is possible to see a
wide variety of flora and fauna in their natural
habitat. The pound is home to Sturt's desert
pea, river gums, mallee, acacia and casuarinas.
The wildlife includes 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.