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Palm Valley

Finke Gorge National Park

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Palm Valley
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Palm Valley / Finke Gorge National Park and West MacDonnell Range
Located within the Finke Gorge National Park is Palm Valley, a narrow gorge that is home to the Red Cabbage Palm (Livistona mariae), remnants of a tropical rainforest that covered this area 60 million years ago. There are about 12,000 palms in the park, the oldest being 300 years old and providing a unique attraction for visitors scientist alike.

Of course there is more to Palm Valley than the palms. In 1959 Chippendale listed 200 plants. Since then a total of 333 plant species have been recorded1.

The average rainfall for Palm Valley is only 200 mm per year. Although the gorge usually appears dry, there are some small pockets of semi-permanent spring-fed pools. During significant rainfall in the region, and if you are lucky to be there during one of those wet periods, it is a wonderful sight to see the expanses of water flowing through the valley gorge. Such event also provide the opportunity for visitors to witness a variety of aquatic life such as desert fish, shield shrimps (Triops australiensis), tadpoles and frogs.

Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National ParkA recent article on the ABC report that the Hydrogeologist John Wischusenhas has written a PhD thesis, about how the palms might have survived through the extreme temperatures of prehistoric times because of very old ground water, and that they continue to tap into this 300,000 year old water. This water is moving slowly enough through the underlying Hermannsburg sandstone that could probably sustain the palm population for hundreds of thousands of years without any further rainfall2, 3.

Access
Palm Valley is about 18 km south of Hermannsburg. Access is by 4WD vehicle that mainly follows the dry riverbed of the Finke River. There are campground facilities with toilets, hot showers, wood and gas BBQs and picnic areas. Please ensure you take your rubbish with you. During May to October, there are Ranger guided activities as part of the ‘Territory Parks Alive’. Check NRETAS for further information on park and camping fees.

Walks
There are two marked tracks, both designed to give visitors a first hand view of the exotic Palm Valley and the ‘normal’ arid country surrounding it. Both tracks are easy to medium walking over rocky escarpment.

  • Arankaia Walk (pronounced rung-kee-ah)
    Time: 1 hour — Distance: 2 km loop walk
    This short walk goes up the Valley, pass lush groves of palms and then up some stairs, and back along a dry sandstone plateau with superb views. Arankaia is the Arrernte name for the palm.
  • Mpulungkinya Track (pronounced mool-ung-kin-yah)
    Time: 2 hours — Distance: 5 km loop walk
    This longer track goes further up the Valley, where the palm groves are thicker, and then back along the arid sandstone plateau, re-joining the Arankaia Walk not long before the carpark.

Check out some of our images of Palm Valley.

Palm Valley is located about 124 km south-west of Alice Springs and about 18 km south of the Hermannsburg Mission. Check out the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Services For additional information:

Information Centre

Parks and Wildlife Service of the Northern Territory
- Regional Office Alice Springs

Central Australian Visitor Information Centre

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Palm Valley Aboriginal and European History

Dreamtime Stories
Palm Valley and the surrounding region has cultural significance to the indigenous Western Arrernte People, known to them as Pmolankinya. The story describe a disastrous bush fire, that occurred in the north during the Dreamtime. Many of the ancestors were burned during this catastrophe. The younger men were carried by the flames and strong winds, and dropped into Palm Valley, where they became the palms and cycads. According to the Arrernte tradition, the suffering of the fire ancestors is represented by the blackened trunks of the palms, whilst the palm leaves represent the long hair of the young men.

A recent news article confirms the discovery of a bowl-shaped crater in Palm Valley, the result of an ancient cosmic impact that created the meteorite crater. The discovery by Sydney-based scientist and astronomer Duane Hamacher was based on Aboriginal dreaming stories, in particular one story told by the Western Arrernte people of a star that fell into a waterhole called Puka in the valley, where Kulaia, the serpent lived.4, 5
European Discovery
The first European to see the palm trees was the explorer Ernest Giles, who in 1872 was following the course of the Finke River, on his first attempt to reach the Western Australia coast from South Australia. Giles did not follow the tributary into Palm Valley, because of threatening rain and fearing the Fink River's mighty floods, as was evident by the debris tangled high up in the River Red Gums. It wasn't until the settlement of the Hermannsburg Mission in 1877, that Palm Valley itself was discovered.
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Palm Valley Tours

NT ToursOutback  • EcoAdventureNational Tours
There are a number of tour operators to Palm Valley, commencing from other locations including Alice Springs. Also check out our Central Australia section.

 

Palm Valley Tours • Ph/Fax: 08 8952 0022 • Email
1 day 4WD tours. 2 day camping experience also available. Tours are by air-conditioned 4WD, equipped with satellite phone. All seats are forward facing. Includes lunch, morning and afternoon tea and entry to the historic mission and art gallery. Tour depart from Alice Springs accommodation. Check our website for more details.
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Palm Valley Other links

 

Source:
1 Palm & Cycad Societies of Australia Palms Livistona mariae
2 300,000 yr-old water sustains desert palm trees, (Thursday, May 17, 2007). ABC News Online. Retrieved Thursday, May 17, 2007. 7:36 am (AEST) from http://www.abc.net.au/news/items/200705/1925176.htm?nt
3 Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts
Palm Valley Spring - Hydrogeology
4 Mystery solved by Dream, (December 30th, 2009), ntnews.com.au
5 January 29th: The Dreamtime Meteor Crater, (January 29, 2010), 365 Days of Astronomy
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