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MacDonnell Ranges

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MacDonnell Ranges
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Central Australia is much more than just ‘The Rock’ and Alice Springs. It’s spectacular landforms and beauty is found everywhere, especially throughout the MacDonnell Ranges. These ranges, both east and west of Alice Springs, encompasses many natural landforms, some world famous such as Palm Valley, home to remnants of a tropical rainforest of Red Cabbage Palm and a must see on any tour of the region.

The MacDonnell Ranges are a series of mountain ranges extending some 644 km, consisting of parallel ridges running east and west of Alice Springs. The ranges are composed of many different rock types, of which the most obvious are the red quartzite.

Quartzite is a hard metamorphic rock1 that was once sandstone, which due to the geological processes of heating and pressure, often related to tectonic3 compression within orogenic belts2, converts the sandstone to quartzite.

The ranges were named after Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, an Anglo-Irish lawyer, judge and colonial governor of South Australia.

The Arrernte people, the traditional owners of the Alice Springs area have stories of their dreamtime telling of the beginning when Altyerrenge, ancestral figures created the landscape, its features and Arrernte Law.

There are storyboard signage throughout the region, with more information available from the local visitor centre. Even better, book yourself onto a local cultural tour.

Check out what to see and do by following the East and West MacDonnell links above. For tours and other accommodation in the region, check out Alice Springs and Central Australia. For more attractions, tours and other information contact the local tourism visitor centre.

Dressed to thrill...
Dressed to thrill...

Information Centre

Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory - Alice Springs Region

Central Australian Visitor Information Centre

MacDonnell Ranges Other links

This site includes a Geology section that looks at why the land looks as it does - MacDonnell Ranges.
Find and book our Northern Territory’s most popular sights, tours, and attractions. Booking ahead with Viator means you won’t miss out on popular tours and attractions.

Start your Alice Springs, Ayers Rock / Uluru and Darwin tours.

Many tours to nearby popular destinations start from Alice Springs and Darwin, taking you to places including Adelaide River, Katherine, Kakadu, Kings Canyon, Litchfield National Park, and West MacDonnell Range.
Alice Springs | Ayers Rock / Uluru | Darwin
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1 metamorphic rock
— Describes rock that is altered by pressure and heat. Quartzite being a metamorphic rock consisting entirely of quartz that is formed when quartz sandstone is heated during metamorphism.
2 orogenic belt
— A linear or arcuate zone, on a regional scale, which has undergone compressional tectonics. Taken from the word 'orogeny' also orogenesis, it is the process of how mountains are formed, usually that of the intense upward displacement or folding and faulting of the Earth's crust, along with other compressional processes.
3 tectonic
— A word in geology that relates to the structure of the earth's crust, often referring to the forces within the earth that causes the movement of the crust, as well used to described the result of such movements. The tectonic plate are any one of the internally rigid crustal blocks of the lithosphere that move horizontally across the earth's surface relative to one another, a concept that is studied in the field of plate tectonics.
Water in the claypans on the south side of the West MacDonnell Ranges.
After recent rains, the claypans filled with water...
on the south side of the West MacDonnell Range
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