Tag Archives: Flinders Ranges

Marree to Wilpena Pound

MapIt’s day 5 of our Lake Eyre adventure. If you’ve missed the previous episodes, here’s day 1, day 2, day 3, and day 4.

We landed back at Marree after our final flight over Lake Eyre and boarded the truck for the next part of our journey. But first we saw a couple of Marree landmarks. One of them is the MCG. It’s a little bit different to the one in Melbourne, but it has the same initials. (I mentioned the outback sense of humour, didn’t I?) Another is the start of the Birdsville track, but I showed you the other end last time.

Marree from the air

Marree from the air

The MCG (not the Melbourne Cricket Ground)

The MCG (not the Melbourne Cricket Ground)

We were off to Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheater in the Flinders Ranges and another of my bucket list items. Most of the ‘mountain’ ranges we saw on our travels were part of the Flinders Ranges, although some have local names. The formation of the ranges is fascinating. Unlike many other ranges like the Himalayas, the Flinders wasn’t formed by tectonic plates bumping into each other. Rather, a geosyncline was formed when two parts of a continent split apart. The resulting chasm was filled with debris, which was later thrust up, twisted and buckled. This article does a pretty good job of explaining the geology. It’s one of the planet’s oldest mountain ranges, and home to some of the oldest animal fossils ever discovered. Although the ranges aren’t very high, when they were formed 540 million years ago the mountains were the height of the Himalayas. Erosion is a powerful force.

On our way south we came across some amazing cloud formations. We could have been forgiven for mistaking them for space ships. Cue X Files music.

Alien invasion

Alien invasion. The flat-topped pile on the right is material from the Leigh Creek coal mine which is on the point of closure.

A close up of the space ships

A close up of the space ships

I loved the Flinders Range. Apart from the spectacular scenery, it’s full of river red gums and cypress pines, and home to lots of wildlife. Here you’ll find eastern grey kangaroos, the big red kangaroos, euros, and the lovely little yellow footed rock wallaby which has been rescued from near-extinction. If you’re not familiar with the many different species of ‘roos, this article will help. The big roos are in no danger of extinction. They have benefited from humans through pasture lands and water supplies such as dams. The smaller marsupials are in very great danger from loss of habitat, and predators such as feral cats. I like cats – but not in the bush.

Red kangaroo. They can be grey, as it happens. But reds have a different head to the eastern (or western) greys

Red kangaroo. They can be grey, as it happens. But reds have a different head to the eastern (or western) greys

This is a grey kangaroo sitting outside our room at the Wilpena resort.

This is a grey kangaroo sitting outside our room at the Wilpena resort.

That formation that looks a bit like a uterus is Wilpena Pound

That formation that looks a bit like a uterus is Wilpena Pound

We would spend two nights at Wilpena. But on this, our first evening, we drove to a lookout to see the walls of Wilpena Pound. The name ‘pound’ in this context means an area where animals are kept, as in ‘dog pound’. There’s only one way into the formation, so it’s a natural stock barrier. In fact, there was a station in there. But although it’s pretty, it’s harsh country, subject to the cycle of drought and flood so common in Australia, and after one flood too many, the property owners gave up. Read more here. There are grazing properties still in the Flinders Ranges, but they work in with the national parks people to try to preserve this natural wonderland.

The walls of Wilpena Pound

The walls of Wilpena Pound with grass trees in the foreground. (We used to call them blackboys, but that’s no longer politically correct)