Kingsmill Creek + Tillite Gorge

Day 6 involved driving up the road to Paralana Hot Springs, a walk along Kingsmill Creek, Arkaroola Creek and Tillite Gorge. It was a long day as left the shearer’s quarters at 8.30 am and returned late in the afternoon. We arrived back too late for the planned 5×4 session — moreover it was too dark and windy and I was tired from the days walk.

There was no water in Kingsmill Creek as we walked downstream past the the Sturt Desert Pea on the side of the boulder-strewn creek, the red river gums and over a mix of colourful and heavily marked stones and rocks. The bright yellow-brown and iron rich boulders stood out. They looked old and seemed to indicate the presence of the Paralana fault.

I was starting to think in terms of the geological history of the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges.  No doubt a geologist would be able to read the various rock strata that I was seeing as if it were pages in an ancient archival book.

Kingsmill Creek, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary

I had a sense that we were walking over glacial deposits that reached back to the Sturt glaciation, an intensely cold period of immense glaciation, which extended from the north pole to the south pole that has been described by some as ‘Snowball Earth’. 

Prior to this was a significant event in South Australia, namely the formation of a giant rift valley to the east of Arkaroola some 850 million years ago. At this time, this was the east coast of Australia – there were no “eastern states” – and the Australian continent was found very close to the equator within a super-continent known to geologists as “Rodinia”. The rift valley, known as the Adelaide Geosyncline, occurred when the valley sides slowly “pulled-apart” along fault lines and the valley floor descended. This created, in a marine environment, a “geosyncline” into which eroding streams from adjacent mountains deposited their sediments.

Italowie Gap

Day 5 at Balcanoona was a rest day. I wanted to use it to both explore locations beyond the planned RASA walks and to scope for subject matter that would be suitable for a planned 5×4 photo session.

I photographed the rock walls of Echo Cliffs in the Balcanoona Creek plus some tree trunks and stones in the creek bed before breakfast. I was scoping possibilities for a 5×4 photo session. I decided that the wall of Echo Cliffs looked to be the more promising possibility for the 5×4.

wall, Balcanoona Creek

Breakfast was in the sun on the veranda of the shearers quarters at Balcanoona In the late morning Suzanne and I drove 20 kilometres to Italowie Gap on the road to Copley. We had morning coffee in the Italowie camp ground, drove a kilometre or so into the Gap, and then briefly walked around the bed of the Italowie Creek.

The Mawson-Spriggina walk

The second walk was an easy one. It started from the Arkaroola Village complex. It follows the Mawson Valley and returns along the Spriggina ridge. The walk is named after two geologists  who had a long association with the northern Flinders Ranges — Douglas Mawson and  Reg Sprig. Or more accurately, Spriggina refers to a fossil from the late Ediacaran period in what is now South Australia that was found by Sprig. It is the oldest fossil organism to be described with a “head”. 

rock abstract, Mawson Valley

We walked along the Mawson Valley towards a large, pinkish granitic rock known as Sitting Bull. Why did Mawson in 1945 name this rock complex in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges  after an American Indian? Why didn’t he give it an Adnyamathanha name? They are the people who historically lived in and belong to these Ranges, not the American Indians who lived on another continent across the Pacific.

Weetoolta Gorge

The first days C grade walk on the RASA Bushwalkers camp was in the Balcanoona Range. It was overcast as we walked along Worturpa Creek to Weetoolta Spring had morning coffee at the junction of the Balcanoona and Worturpa creeks, then walked along Belcanoona Creek to Grindells Hut. We had lunch at the hut, which is a stone cottage with a  wrap-around verandah. We then returned along Belcanoona Creek to the carpark near the Weetoolta camp ground. It was warm, sunny day around 28 degrees, after the morning clouds had vanished.

near Weetootla Gorge

We did not walk to Bunyip Chasm that day. It would have been more interesting than Grindells Hut and I’m not sure why we didn’t. Probably because it was too far away. It really requires 4WD to access Grindells Hut and then the Loch Ness Well campsite further on, which is one starting point for the Weetootla Hike Network. I gather that it is then a long walk up a creek bed to Bunyip Chasm.

Balcanoona shearing shed

My time in the early morning before breakfast at Balcanonna was spent wandering around and inside the old shearing shed. I didn’t have that much time in the morning to wander too far between sunrise and breakfast as we had to be ready to meetup for the daily walks between 8.30-9am.

The shearing shed was ideal. So I potted around exploring its various spaces inside and out with a hand held digital camera.

shearing shed, Balcanoona

This central aspect of the pastoral world of yesteryear in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges was now a kind of museum. You could wander around it trying to imagine what the life on this station was like with the Afghan camel trains passing through.

Balcanoona

The drive on the Outback Highway from Hawker to the  National Park Head Quarters at Balcanonna in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges  went north to Parachilna and Copley, and then north east via Nepabunna and Italowie Gorge. The highway to Copley followed the old Central Australia Railway, which closed in 1980 when the standard gauge Tarcoola–Alice Springs Railway that went west of Lake Torrens was opened. It was an uneventful drive.

Both the surveyed hundreds in the arid lands in the 1870s and the development of the old central railway north in the 1880s were done in anticipation of the continuing northward advance of cropping. ‘Rain would follow the plough’. The droughts of the early 1900s saw the retreat of agricultural and today many of the sections of these far northern hundreds are parts of large grazing properties (stations).

Balcanoona Creek + Arkaroola Rd

We were to stay at the Shearers Quarters during our 6 days of walking in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park. The first walk the following day (31 July) would be in  Weetootla Gorge and to Grindals Hut and return. In the early morning prior to this walk I wandered around an overcast Balcanoona taking a few photos.