Australia: The Land Where Time Began

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Gammon Ranges National Park, South Australia

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approximate Population: Nominal

The Gammon Ranges National Park is in isolated area in the northern part of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. It contains rugged ranges and deep gorges. The park, about 750 km north of Adelaide, was established in 1970, covers more than 128,000 hectares and is rich in wildlife.

The Arkaroola-Mt. Painter Wildlife Sanctuary is nearby. About 20,000 visitors are attracted to the park each year. The best time to visit is between May to September. Summers can be very hot here.
A camping permit fee applies. The main camping areas in the park are at Italowie Gorge, Wooturpa Spring, and Arcoona Well. Camping is also available at the nearby Arkaroola resort, 25 km north of the park headquarters.

Things to do and see:
The park includes many Aboriginal rock etchings, painting sites, and burial sites. The park's southern boundary is Aboriginal land. The Adnyamathanha community recently launched the first Indigenous Protected Area on Nantawarrina lands, to the south of the park.

Euros and yellow-footed rock wallabies can be observed around springs in Weetootla Gorge. The gorges with semi-permanent creeks have river gums and considerable numbers of birds.

Before any extensive activities in this park, visitors should contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service. 4WD vehicles are recommended when travelling off the main road. 
Bushwalking, especially in Weetootla Gorge, is spectacular. The gorge, which has a permanent spring, is rich in rare flora and fauna. The spring is home to a sub-species of the endangered purple-spotted gudgeon fish, not found anywhere else in the world. Yellow footed-rock wallabies are also found in the gorge. The Weetootla Trail is over 18 kms. long. Bunyip Chasm is a two hour walk up Weetootla Creek.
However, much of the bushwalking here is for experienced walkers only. There are few marked trails in this arid and isolated region. Take plenty of water with you. Some of the tracks are shorter ones, such as those in Weetootla Gorge.

Natural History:
The park protects the Gammon, Balcanoona and Yankainna Ranges, the Mainwater Pound (on the western edge of the park), and Illinawortina Pound.
The Gammon Ranges are quartzite. The highest point in the Gammon Ranges is Benbonyathe Hill, 1064 m. It was named from two Aboriginal words: Bimbanyerta and Abna, meaning native pine high ground.
Mount McKinlay (or Wayanha to the Adnyamathanha people) is 1050 m high. It was named McKinlay after the explorer John McKinlay, who came this way in 1851 while looking for pastoral leases to take up.

Italowie Gorge is a major feature of the park. It is on the road between Copley and Arkaroola. Tall river red gums line the creek against the red quartzite rock cliff faces.

Vegetation here includes Gum-barked coolibah woodlands along the lower slopes and valleys. River red gums, gum-barked coolibah, and northern cypress pines are found along the river courses. Grass trees are prolific in the Gorge. The park has several rare plants: rasp ferns (in Fern Chasm) and the Balcanoona wattle.

Forty different species of reptiles are found in the park, including snakes, dragons and skinks. The euro, western grey kangaroo and red kangaroo are found in large numbers here. The red kangaroo can be seen along Balcanoona Creek. The rare yellow-footed wallaby is found in the high rocky terrain here, including in Weetootla Gorge.

Echidnas and seven different species of bats are also found in the park.

Over 90 species of birds are found here. They include the Wedge-tailed eagle, Little Eagle, Spotted Nightjar, Bourke Parrot, Southern Scrub-wren, and brown-headed Honeyeater. Other birds seen here include the White faced heron and Little corella.

An attempt to open the park to magnesite mining in 2000 was defeated due to the presence of a small fish, the Flinders Ranges purple-spotted gudgeon, at Weetootla Spring. Weetootla Gorge is designated a 'special wildlife zone' in the park's management plan, acknowledging the diverse array of aquatic life found here.

The park has some important geological features, including important fossil deposits.
The high grade magnesite ore body is on the hills near Balcanoona Creek. Partial mining was carried out by BHP. The Balcanoona Station was acquired by the park in 1982.

Human History:
The Adnyamathanha Aboriginal people have lived here for at least 15,000 years. According to their stories Mandya the euro made the ranges when he blew on a stone he pulled from his hip after a fight with Urdlu, the red kangaroo, who created Lake Frome. They hunted the yellow-footed rock wallaby (which they knew as andu).

Explorer John McKinlay came this way looking for country to take up as pastoral leases in 1851. He was the leader of a South Australian expedition which tried to find the explorers Burke and Wills. McKinlay lost most of his leases by failing to stock them in accordance with government regulations.
The Balcanoona Station, now the headquarters for the park, was a sheep station from 1857 to 1982. The original homestead still stands. The main residence dates from the 1930s.

WB Greenwood, pastoralist and fossicker, made discoveries of uranium, saphires, rubies, amethyst, copper and gold in the area in the 1890s and 1900s.

John Grindell built a one room hut in Illinawortina Pound in 1910. In 1918 John Grindell was found guilty of murdering his son-in-law, George Snell and given the death sentence (later commuted to life). Snell ran Yankaninna Station (30 kms to the north) and they were arguing about their common boundary. Snell had once horse-whipped Grindell for cattle-duffing. Adnyamathanta trackers eventually found the remains of Snell's body and his pocket knife. When the area became part of Balcanoona Station in the 1950s a bigger hut was built.

During the depression of the 1930s bushman R.M. (Reginald Murray) Williams set up camp at Italowie Gorge with a friend, Dollar Mick, an Aboriginal stockman. They made leather goods for pastoralists. The business venture was successful and continues today. One of his customers was Sir Sidney Kidman, who bought his first handmade pack-saddle. His most famous item is the elastic sided riding boots. However, R.M.Williams was nearly sent blind by 'Sandy blight' (an eye infection made worse by flies and dust) and his son became dangerously ill, so he and his family moved to Adelaide. He set up a factory in a shed in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect.

Reg Sprigg took up Arkaroola station in 1968, developing the reserve and resort. The Gammon Ranges National Park was proclaimed in 1970. It took in only a part of the Yankaninna station at first. The park was extended in 1980 and 1985, when Balcanoona Station holdings were added to the park.

ACCESS: Car via the Hawker to Marree Rd, veer east at Parachilna or, Copley. Take the Barrier Hwy, turn north at Yunta. Roads, leading into the park are suitable for conventional vehicles,, however, care is required as they can be narrow and rough.
ACTIVITIES: Bush Walking.

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