There’s more to SA’s Flinders Ranges than Wilpena Pound and one of the best ways to discover this is on foot.
Story By Andrew Bain
The most remarkable thing about South Australia’s Mount Remarkable National Park is not its eponymous mountain but the colourful gorges to its west. Sliced into the dry slopes of the southern Flinders Ranges, the ochre-red cliffs of Alligator and Hidden gorges are the backdrop to some of the state’s finest bushwalking, and vivid proof that there’s a lot more to the Flinders Ranges than the ever-popular Wilpena Pound.
From either Alligator Gorge car park or the Mambray Creek camping ground, you can walk a circuit through the two gorges, splashing through Alligator Gorge and making a simple scramble through a rock fall inside Hidden Gorge. In between, the track climbs to traverse Battery Ridge, where a couple of lookouts offer vast views across Port Pirie, Port Augusta and the Spencer Gulf coast. The complete circuit is around 40 kilometres in length and will take most walkers two or three days.
The most rewarding way to walk the circuit is to begin at the Mambray Creek camping ground (signposted from Highway One near Port Germein), hiking for around four hours along Mambray and Alligator creeks to Longhill Camp, one of 11 bush camps in the national park.
From here, you have the opportunity to explore Alligator Gorge – the area’s standout feature – in both the evening and early morning. The gorge is around a 15-minute walk from Longhill Camp. Wading through the creek you’ll come to the appropriately named Narrows, where the quartzite rock walls almost close together. A short walk further upstream, at the point where the track begins its climb onto Battery Ridge, are the Terraces, where rippled slabs of rock remains from an era when this land was beneath a shallow ocean.
Longhill Camp has no facilities but it’s situated just 300 metres from the Blue Gum Flat picnic area, which has tap water, toilets and gas barbecues. Bush camping is prohibited in the national park from November 1 to April 30, so during these months you should begin your walk at Alligator Creek car park and camp the night at Mambray Creek, which remains open throughout summer.
Walkers who prefer not to camp also have a couple of accommodation options. If walking from Mambray Creek, you can continue around three kilometres past Alligator Gorge (along the Wilmington road) to Alligator Lodge. This three-bedroom self-contained house sleeps up to eight people and has solar power, a gas stove and hot water. If walking from Alligator Gorge, there’s a solar-lit cabin, sleeping up to four people, among the river red gums in the Mambray Creek camping ground. The cabin has a gas stove, and there are hot showers in the camping ground ablution block. Bookings are essential for both the lodge and the cabin.
This story excerpt is from Issue #54
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sept 2007