Flinders Ranges  2021  


Photographs and commentary: copyright Jonathan C Nevill,  2021, unless otherwise credited. Images of the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby belong to Adobe Stock Photos. Camera: Samsung Galaxy S7.

The Flinders Ranges lie in arid country north of Adelaide, South Australia.

A large part of the ranges are protected within the Flinders Ranges National Park.


The ranges were formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Crustal formations pulled away from each other, forming a long north-south depression, called the Adelaide Geosyncline. This gradually filled with sediments, several kilometres deep, which became sedimentary rocks, such as sandstone, siltstone and limestone. With the progression of continental drift, these rocks were squashed as the crustal formations pushed together after a long separation. The Flinders Ranges today rise abruptly from a generally flat surrounding landscape, but are a mere shadow of their original mountain range which rose 1 to 3 km above the surrounding plain.


The Flinders Ranges were long inhabited by Australia's indigenous people. Over the last two centuries Europeans moved into what seemed suitable country for grazing sheep, but over time became a harsh and forbidding landscape, as the land's native grasslands were over-grazed, and groundwater aquifers were over-drawn. Today, many of the original grazing stations still survive, but with greatly reduced stocks. Some are worked by the same families, now in their fourth or fifth generation.  Tourism, largely grey nomads, provides many stations with additional income.


Many of the area's small towns, like Hawker and Quorn, have dwindling populations, as the demand for agricultural support services declines. 

People move from small towns to larger regional cities, such as Port Augusta. Many houses stand empty. The house pictured above was bought by Mount Little Station to support its tourism development. Tourists on the way to and from the station have access to this house in Hawker. The station promotes hiking, mountain bike trips and nature photography, as well as providing food and accommodation.



Quorn's main street, looking rather empty. No people. No parked cars...

Hawker (20 km to the north) is also sleepy, but not as sleepy as Quorn.



The main features of this satellite image are large, flat salt lakes, the north end of Spencer Gulf, and the Flinders Ranges, which is the dark squiggly bit.

Reliable winter rains colour patches in the south green. Note the scale in the bottom right hand corner of the image.

The best known feature of the Flinders Ranges is Wilpena Pound, which is the dark tear-drop feature roughly in the centre of the image (also below).



Wilpena Pound. The name stems from the fact that sheep within the pound are effectively fenced in by very steep terrain.

This is spectacular country.




Wilpena Pound in the distance. From the south east.




Above and below: Wilpena Pound.








Stations identify themselves with name plates.

This station uses an inspired work of art: a wedge-tailed eagle in Core10 steel. 




Below, the Ranges north of Wilpena Pound, from the north west.  The best time to fly is around sunset.

A single-engine Cessna. Cost was $200 for 30 minutes. There were four other passengers. Chinta Air.









Wilpena Pound, from the north west.







Arid rivers on flat land. This view is from the edge of the ranges, looking towards the north west.



At this point the pilot turned the aircraft around, and started heading back to the home airstrip.




I love the long shadows of sunset.



Back on the ground. The sun sets on another day....






Driving across the ranges from east to west, you drive through time (as recorded by the sedimentary rocks), covering hundreds of millions of years.





The fossil stromatolite pictured in the panel two above. Unfortunately time, or tourists, or both, have chipped away at the rock, and the clarity of the fossil hemisphere is not so obvious now.








Above and below: typical landscapes, north of Wilpena Pound. 




Near-monocultures of native pine survive on poor, red rocky soils.




Tall eucalypts, in this country, are only found along river beds, which are dry almost all the time. An unseen 'river' of groundwater moves slowly below the surface.

The old gum (eucalypt) in the centre of the image has survived adversity. The upper branches are dead, from a prolonged drought. The tree has survived fire, perhaps many fires. You can see the base of the trunk is burnt out. The epicormic growth is also the result of a serious fire. The large broken branch on the left will, or already has, provided a nesting hollow for birds. These big old trees provide very important habitat. Brush-tailed possums, a nuisance in Australia's cities, have died out from this country. The Western Quoll, once widespread over much of arid southern Australia, has also died out. Attempts have been made to re-introduce these animals to the Flinders Ranges.




These fluffy pink flowers sometimes fill a whole hillside (well, almost).




'Dry' river beds provide essential habitat through Australia's arid interior. 



A closer look... debris piles up after floods.



Dry river beds also provide habitat for tourists... like me. 

Every evening I would look for a quiet, flat place to park my van and spend the night. I spent two nights on this river bed.

I would make dinner....


And watch the stars come out...


And of course, waking up the next morning, beauty is all around...


Sometimes, if there's a low point in the river bed, the underlying groundwater will appear.

This pool had aquatic plants and algae, water beetles (I love water beetles!) and dragonflies in both red and steel-blue.


The rocks beside this pool were particularly pretty.



Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies, once widespread over the rocky areas of arid South Australia, New South Wales and southern Queensland, have suffered a drastic decline in numbers. They are, I think, Australia's most beautiful wallaby. They live where there are small, permanent springs near rocky outcrops. Their main predators are foxes and wild dogs. Their main compeditors are goats. They are regarded as endangered, with their last major stronghold being the Flinders Ranges.


I was lucky enough to see one, as it approached a stream for its evening drink. I did not obtain a photo, so here I'm using two images borrowed from Adobe Stock Photos.








Most houses in the Flinders Ranges are made of stone or brick. 

This house in the tiny village of Blinman (once based around a now-closed copper mine) is made of vertical timber (probably native pine) held together with earth and cement.

The out-house on the right is panelled with flattened kerosene tins.


In this area you see ruins in all stages. First, the house is abandoned. With lack of maintenance, the roof (usually corrugated iron) rusts through, and water ingress brings rot to the internal wooden structure. After the roof has rotted and blown away, rain, wind and sun erode the stone structure, which gradually crumbles.


Judging by the stonework around the doors and windows, this was once a fine house, but now the roof has gone.



The walls are crumbling.




Eventually there's not much left other than a pile of rock and bits of roofing.




And a few gravestones...


Fifty-three seems too young to die...