Flinders Ranges Today - Introduction
The Flinders Ranges are said to be the oldest ranges in the world
and they have been home to the Adnyamathanha people for thousands
of years. Their Dreaming stories tell of the creation of the Flinders
ranges and here is one of them.
"Akurra is a giant water snake who has a beard, mane creator and
keeper of all permanent water holes and springs (awi). Akurra lived
in the Gammon Ranges. One day he travelled to the plains looking
for water. When he came across Lake Frome and Lake Callabonna, he
drank them dry. Because the water was salty Akurra became bloated
and his trip back to the ranges was very slow. The heat from the
sun warmed his trip back to the ranges and made rumbling sounds
that can still be heard over a great distance. As he went Akurra
carved out the gorges in which creeks run and made water holes and
springs and finally Ikara (Wilpena Pound) and Ngarri." (Browne,
Flinders Ranges Today
The Flinders Ranges are South Australia's largest tourist attraction
and 120,000 people visit them annually. There are activities to
do everywhere and many places to stay. There are scenic views, sacred
trails and sites, bus, train and air tours and many wildlife parks
and sanctuaries to choose from. There are remains
of towns once inhabited by early settlers that are now sites
of historical interest. There are walks conducted by Adnyamathanha
people who help you understand their Dreaming.
The Flinders Ranges are full of the beauty of nature. The sun setting
over the beautiful landscape and the rustle of birds getting ready
for the night are sights and sounds not to be missed. The Flinders
Ranges contain some of Australia's most scenic views
which have attracted many painters over the years. The area is rich
in flora and fauna, which are protected by National Parks.
The Flinders Ranges attracts hundreds of bush walkers and campers
each year where they stay in hotels, motels, holiday cottages, units
or caravan parks. Travelling to the Flinders Ranges is very easy,
as there are a number of roads that ensure convenient driving, and
many buses, planes and trains. Camping is permitted only in or near
the National Parks. One of the great joys of the Flinders Ranges
is camping under a canopy of stars and watching them all night.
The bush walks in the Flinders Ranges are some of the best in Australia,
but maps are definitely needed since the trails are very dense and
getting lost in the land is easy. Walking trails vary from 1-2 hour
walks to 6-8 hour walks. Some of the trails lead to the highest
peaks in Flinders Ranges, the highest of which is Saint Mary's Peak,
1,166 metres above sea level.
One of the Flinders Ranges tourist attractions is Andamooka. In
1930, opals were discovered in that area and an opal of 34, 215
carats was found there in 1967. Another attraction is the Ettamoggah
Pub in Andamooka. This pub is well known throughout South Australia
because it is part of Ken Maynard's cartoon creation in the Australasian
Post. It is also a popular place for miners, outback workers and
tourists. Wilpena Pound is the most popular tourist attraction in
the Flinders Ranges. Another attraction is the Aroona Ruins which
are a reminder of the Australian pioneers who struggled for survival
in this region last century. The Paralana Hot Water Springs, situated
twenty-seven kilometres from Arkaroola, begin deep within the surface
of the ground. They are famous because they are the last sign of
active volcanoes left in the whole of Australia. The Sliding Rock
copper mine is also an attraction in the Flinders Ranges.
This mine was a very successful copper mine, which mined over 1,000
tonnes of copper, until 1877, when it flooded. It is situated twenty-two
kilometres from Beltana, a small town which was also ruined in the
flood. Both are now famous ruins. Just a few kilometres south of
Hawker, are the Yourambulla caves. These caves are filled with marvellous
ancient cave paintings. Outside the caves is a great view of the
Flinders Ranges. Other tourist attractions are the museums which
preserve the sacred artefacts of the Adnyamathanha people.
Adnyamathanha Sacred Sites
There are many sacred sites and objects around the Flinders Ranges
that are beautiful to look at but which need to be cared for because
they all have a special meaning to the Adnyamathanha people. They
provide Adnyamathanha people with a sense of their cultural heritage.
Cave paintings and carvings, some of which are thousands of years
old, are protected by law. Adnyamathanha people have worked co-operatively
with the National Parks and Wildlife Service in order to explain
and share the significance of their sacred sites.
The majority of sacred sites are open to the general public and
in the Northern Flinders Ranges, Adnyamathanha people have provided
interpretative signage for cultural tourists in order to promote
greater understanding among indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Visitors may also visit sites of historical significance to the
Adnyamathanha people since European settlement, such as old ruins
and graves. This will enable them to understand the Contact history
of the Adnyamathanha people and contemporary issues.
The Flinders Ranges is situated approximately 481 kilometers north
of Adelaide. The Ranges run from the top of Spencer Gulf to 350km
of desert area up north. The area of the Flinders Ranges covers
500 square kilometers. (See map)
Land and Land Forms
It is believed that the Flinders Ranges was once covered by an inland
sea over 750 million years ago. All that are left today are rugged
valleys, gorges, peaks, mountains and rich vegetation. Wilpena Pound
is one of Flinders Ranges' most renowned places. It is surrounded
by a circle of mountains reaching over 1000 metres in height and
covering over 50 square kilometres of land. The site is in the shape
of an amphitheatre. The name, "Wilpena", is an Aboriginal word meaning
'place of bent fingers' that was probably given to it because of
its strong resemblance to a cupped hand. According to the Dreaming,
Wilpena Pound was made by two giant snakes as they stretched into
a giant circle to die after attacking a tribal ritual. Deep red
gorges, such as the Bunyeroo Gorge, run through the southern and
northern Flinders Ranges. Walking trails along the gorges give wonderful
views of the Flinders Ranges, including Wilpena Pound.
Another land form is the Brachina Gorge. This is an amazing gorge
which takes you through the sharp, pointy ridges of a limestone
The Flinders Ranges have a dry climate, especially those closest
to the deserts in the north. Rainfall is also very rare up there.
Towards the south of Flinders Ranges the creeks, dams and rivers
completely dry up in summer and overflow in winter. Days are usually
quite warm in the Flinders Ranges, but the nights get fairly cold.
Temperatures vary quite a lot, depending on the season.
In Spring (September- November) and Autumn (March- July), the temperatures
vary from 13- 25° C (55- 77° F). In summer (December- February)
temperatures range from 26- 38° C (79- 100° F) and in Winter (June-
August), temperatures drop and range from 8- 18° C (46- 64° F).
Lake Eyre is a salt lake, situated to the north-west of the Flinders
Ranges. It is usually dry but on occasions it receives water in
a cold, rainy, winter season. In the following Spring, the lake
is alive with millions of birds. It covers an area of 9,300 square
kilometres and is located 16 metres below sea level, which makes
it the lowest point in Australia. Lake Torrens is located on the
western border of the Flinders Ranges and Lake Frome is located
on the eastern border.
They are also salt water lakes. Lake Frome is connected to the
Siccus River that runs for about 130 kilometres. Lake Blanche, Lake
Callabonna, Stuart Creek and Frome River are a few of the smaller
bodies of water situated in Flinders Ranges. The water table in
the Flinders Ranges has dropped markedly since European settlement
and the introduction of sheep by pastoralists.
Vegetation and Wildlife
Vegetation and wildlife in the Flinders Ranges is quite varied depending
on the temperature at the time. The Sturt Desert Pea, which is South
Australia's floral emblem, is commonly found there, as are River
Red gums. Mallees, a type of eucalyptus plant, and casuarinas, a
type of tree with tiny, scale like leaves, are also common plants
found in the Flinders Ranges. Most of the Flinders Ranges contain
rolling hills which are home to many animals, birds and reptiles.
One of the most common animals found there are the Red Kangaroos.
The Euro, a common rock wallaby, and the echidna are also commonly
found in the area. The Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby is a rare sight
these days. The birds found there include the Wedge-Tailed Eagles,
Emus, Ringneck and Mulga Parrots, Little Corellas and the Peregrine
Falcon. Over 60 species of lizard and 18 species of snake have been
identified in the area. Along with these beautiful birds and animals
are feral goats and foxes introduced by Europeans. Fortunately today,
the feral animals are being successfully kept to a minimum in order
to protect native animals and birds.
Impact of European Settlement
Before European settlement, the Adnyamathanha People enjoyed rich
food resources and traded with neighbouring Aboriginal groups. When
the Europeans arrived and took over the area during the nineteenth
century, the land was used for grazing sheep and cattle. Serious
environmental degradation occurred, particularly in the southern
area of the Flinders Ranges. The Europeans were said to have discovered
minerals such as brown coal, copper, gold, uranium and talc, but
the Adnyamathanha people knew the location of these minerals through
their Dreaming stories long before the Europeans arrived. The Flinders
Ranges were named after explorer, Matthew Flinders, who first set
foot in the area in 1802. (More
Links with the Land
Aboriginal people are intensely aware of their links with the land.
Every physical feature of the land has meaning because it was created
by their Dreaming ancestors whose spirits still inhabit the land.
Every physical feature for example, valleys, rocks and trees is
a sign of their presence. Through caring for the land and the environment,
Aboriginal people are able to establish a strong link with their
Dreaming ancestors which is the basis of their spirituality. "Overall,
the earth is a 'Mother' in a real sense." (Education Department
of South Australia 1990: 17.) Every individual in an Aboriginal
group has an obligation to maintain and care for the land in order
to protect the spirits of their Dreaming ancestors for the generations
to come. This is the basis of land rights claims today and explains
the passion with which Aboriginal people advocate their rights to
The Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges have Dreaming stories
which explain the presence in their lands of resources such as gold,
uranium, copper coal and opals. The Dreaming is still vitally important
to the Adnyamathanha people today. "It provides them with a social
and spiritual base and links them to a cultural heritage of more
than forty thousand years." (Education Department of South Australia
To the Dreaming Stories section