Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Arkaroola, SA (the place of Arkaroo)

Mountain scenery at Arkaroola, northern Flinders Ranges       Sillars Lookout (left), Arkaroola, northern Flinders Ranges

Arkaroo was a great serpent from the Dreamtime who lived in the Gammon Ranges south of Arkaroola. According to the stories about him among the Adnyamathanha people, he felt very thirsty so slithered down to the plains and drank Lake Frome and Lake Callabonna dry. When he finished drinking he went back to the Gammon Ranges, his long body gouging out the bed of Arkaroola Creek and a number of waterholes at places he rested along the way as he moved. The large volume of salty water he drank gave him a terrible bellyache. The Aboriginal People believed that was the cause of the rumblings coming from beneath the ground in the Gammon Ranges, where he has slept in Yacki Waterhole since that time, every time he moves around in his restless sleep the water in his belly sloshing around rumbles. The water emerging from this spring is just below boiling point.

An alternative explanation is that the sounds result from minor tremors along fault lines produced by earth movements associated with readjustment of the crust after uplift of the area.

Paralana Hot Springs is one of the most important of the waterholes left by Arkaroo. The local Aboriginal People used it for cooking and bathing, especially as is was said to cure minor aches and pains. According to the dreamtime story it wasn't originally hot but in the Dreamtime 2 young men fought over a girl, the winner plunging the firestick he used to vanquish his rival into the spring where it heated the water, remaining hot to this day.

Tillite Gorge

Arkaroola is a small settlement located in the Northern Flinders Ranges adjacent to the Gammon Ranges. It is over 600 km north of Adelaide. The privately-owned Arkaroola Sanctuary was first established by Reg and Griselda Sprigg.

Things to do:
The Gammon Ranges National Park is nearby.
Many walks and drives are available through some of the most rugged and exciting country in the Ranges. The Ridgetop track runs past Mount Painter to Siller's Lookout. The track is not open to private vehicles, but 4WD tours regularly operate from Arkaroola. Roads in the area are narrow and rough.
The rare yellow-footed rock wallaby is found here.
There are several waterholes in the area, including Stubbs Waterhole and the Bolla Bollana Spring and Nooldoonooldoona Waterhole. The Echo Camp Waterhole is one of the most beautiful in the Northern Flinders.

The area is of great interest for people interested in geology and minerals. The Bolla Bollana Smelter is the site of copper smelting in the 1860s. Copper from up to thirty kilometres away was smelted here. 

Human History:
The Adnyamathanha Aboriginal people lived in the region before the arrival of Europeans.

The area was earmarked for pastoral development as early as 1857. After many chequered years, it settled down to serious progress in 1937, when two brothers named Greenwood took it over and named the property Arkaroola. They were offered the property in exchange for eradicating vermin. They did this by 1944, but the property did not prosper and instead, had a succession of owners. WB Greenwood had an eye for minerals, and found rubies, sapphires, garnets and amethysts in the region. In 1910 he discovered the Mount Painter uranium deposit.

The uranium was identified by Douglas Mawson, then reader in mineralogy at the University of Adelaide. For a brief time in the 1940s East Painter Camp was established to assist in the search for more uranium. Mawson brought students to the area, including Reg Sprigg, who later played a major role in the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the Cooper Basin. Reg Sprigg also found the first Ediacaran fossils, jellyfish-like, in the Ediacara Hills in 1946. They lived between 670 and 540 million years ago. They are now regarded as the step between single-celled algae and multi-celled plants and animals.

In 1968, the Arkaroola property was purchased by Reg and Griselda Sprigg. Reg Sprigg saw a unique opportunity to retain its unspoilt character as a privately owned sanctuary. The continuing eradication of stock and pests has brought improvements in the population of euros, wallabies, kangaroos and emu. 

Mount Painter was named by the Surveyor General, Goyder, after J.M. Painter, who was responsible for the trigonometrically survey in 1857. In 1944 the Joint Allied Atomic Commission re-opened the central Mount Painter uranium mine which had been discovered in 1910, but that is now closed.

ACTIVITIES: Bushwalking, Mt Painter Sanctuary, Historic Reserve. Arkaroola Observatory.

Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, Robin Road Software and its suppliers, 1996 - 2000

  1. Australian National Parks
  2. Australian National Parks - South Australia
  3. Flinders Ranges National Park
  4. Australia - The Geology, Climate & Ecology
  5. Photos of Australia

Sources & Further reading

    Helen Grasswill & Reg Morrison, Australia, a Timeless Grandeur, Lansdowne, 1981

Sources & Further reading

  1. Isaacs, Jennifer, 2005, Australia Dreaming: 40,000 years of Aboriginal History, New Holland Publishers. 
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 27/03/2011 



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