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Watarrka National Park

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Watarrka National Park
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Watarrka National Park - Cities, Towns and Localities
Located about 450 km southwest of Alice Springs and 280 km north of Uluru, Watarrka National Park encompasses the western end of the George Gill Range, including the well known natural attraction of Kings Canyon, featuring ancient sandstone walls, sculptured by the elements and rising up 100 m to a plateau of rocky domes.

The park is an important conservation area, with scenic landscape of rugged ranges, rockholes and gorges, a natural refuge for the flora and fauna.

The spectacular nature of the park has occupied the hearts and minds of the traditional ‘Luritja’ custodians for more than 20,000 years.

Located southwest of Alice Springs, the park can be reached via a number of routes:

— via the Stuart Highway, Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road (all are sealed roads).

— via the Stuart Highway, Ernest Giles Road (4WD essential) and Luritja Road.

— via Larapinta Drive through the West MacDonnell National Park. A Mereenie Loop pass is required to travel this route and is available from the Alice Springs Tourism Information Centre, Glen Helen Resort and Kings Canyon Resort.

The last route being incorporated in the ‘Red Centre Way’ as a unique way to experience Central Australia.

Accessible all year round, the park is popular in the cooler months of April to September. For those planning a visit, accommodation can be found within the park at the Kings Canyon Resort and Kings Creek Station.

Overnight camping in tents or campervans is not permitted in the National Park. There are commercial motel, resort and camping accommodation options. These are available at Watarrka Kings Canyon Resort and Kings Creek Station.

Source: Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory - Watarrka National Park

More information is available from the local tourist centres and Parks and Wildlife:

Information Centre

Parks and Wildlife Commission
of the Northern Territory

Alice Springs Office
Arid Zone Research Institute
Tom Hare Building
South Stuart Highway

Ph: 08 8951 8211
Web: Watarrka National Park

Central Australian Visitor Information Centre

In summer it pays to start your walks early in the morning, as the sun and heat can become unbearable for those not use to it, especially during the middle of the day. Ensure you take enough water for your walk! And be prepared for flies. During certain times of the year, the mosquitoes also play havoc.

For emergencies and safety information, visit the listed park website.

Watarrka National Park Attractions

Carmichael’s Crag
When Ernest Giles visited the area in 1872 he named a prominent peak (Carmichael’s Crag) after his companion Samuel Carmichael. Carmichael’s Crag is the highest point of the George Gill Range and sits over 900 m above sea level.

To the local Aborigines the site was a sacred women’s place and is meant to represent a dingo mother lying down with her pups suckling.

Between the months of August and November after spring rains, the desert can be carpeted with a vast array of native wildflowers.

These plants are prolific seeders, with seed stock laying on the ground for up to 10 years waiting for sufficient rainfall.

Once the rains have come the seeds germinate rapidly and can flower within a month, providing an array of colours.
King Canyon
Located within Watarrka National Park, this spectacular attraction of towering vertical walls and pockets of ‘lush’ vegetation that grow protected in the sheltered gullies, is what many visitors come to see. One of the best views that affords the visitor the opportunity to stare into the vastness of the canyon is seen on ‘the Canyon Walk’. The walk rises steeply to the Canyon top and follows the rim.

As you approach the rim, there is a narrow opening in the rocks. It is what lies beyond, that can take your breath away. Piled upon the baked surface of stone are clumps of crusted red rock, almost like they are domes spun by bees. This is known as ‘The Lost City’. Walking through the streets of ‘The Lost City’ is a step back into primeval time, marked by ancient marine fossil etched into the rock face.

It is at the edge of the great Canyon, that you can see the sheer magnificent of the gorge. Descending down wooden steps, you enter what is known as the ‘Garden of Eden’, a lush garden of cycad ferns that date back to the age of dinosaurs, river red gums and a variety of 600 different plant species.

At the head of the Canyon there is a plunge pool of water with its reflecting light striking the Canyon wall around it. You follow the path off the platform, relax by the waterhole, then move on across to the southern rim to continue up the steps and on to complete the rest of the walk.
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Watarrka National Park Walks

Walking Tracks
There are a number of walking tracks, most being well sign posted. Those considering the walks are advised to carefully read the information provided before commencing the walks.
  The Canyon Walk
• This 6 km loop, takes approximately 3-4 hours, beginning with a steep climb to the top of the Canyon. It then follows the Canyon rim before descending to the car park. About half way along the track is the ‘Garden of Eden’, a restful area of cooling waterholes and riverine vegetation communities. Extreme care should be taken during the hotter months of September to May. This walk has many steep sections and is only recommended for those who are reasonably fit and healthy.
  The Kings Creek Walk
• This 2.6 km return walk takes approximately 1 hour. The track meanders along Kings Creek, ending at a lookout point, before returning by the same route. Sturdy footwear is essential. This walk has wheelchair access for approximately half the walk, with the remainder of the walk still being suitable for families.
  Giles Track
• This 22 km overnight walk traverses the top of the range from Kathleen Springs to Kings Canyon with an entrance/exit point at Reedy Creek/Lilla.

Giles was the first white man to explore the country west of the Overland Telegraph Line. During his first expedition, Giles explored and named ‘The George Gill Range’. The abundant water along the range provided a valuable refuge for Giles and his companions, Carmichael and Robinson.

The Giles Track offers a glimpse of the conditions these early pioneers would have faced, while taking in the surrounds from the plateau of The ‘George Gill Range’.

The 22 km Giles Track provides a link between Kings Canyon, Lilla and Kathleen Springs. This is a relatively long day walk or an overnight trip with recommended camping at Reedy Creek. Alternatively, access from the Lilla carpark via Tjintjit Tjintjit Spur, allows for a day walk in either direction. The marked track follows the spectacular southern rim of the range and crosses an extensive plateau of sandstone domes dissected by narrow fissures and gorges.

Views to the south overlook vast sand plains which extend to the salty expanse of Lake Amadeus, 80 km away.

You can pick up the Giles Track at Kathleen Springs, 100 m along the Kings Creek walk or from the Kings Canyon Rim walk near Kestrel Falls.

Please contact the ranges before you start your walk for the latest information on the track conditions.

Walkers must register with the Overnight Walkers Registration Scheme.
  Kathleen Springs
• This 2.6 return walk takes about 1.5 hrs and is recommended for families and visitors with limited mobility. The walk along a sealed track to a tranquil spring-fed waterhole at the head of Kathleen Gorge offers a cool moist place to sit and enjoy the areas tranquillity. There track is signed, telling the story of centuries of Aboriginal culture and the recent cattle industry.

Ranger guided activities are also available, see the Watarrka National Park.

Larapinta Trail
This walking trail cover a total of 223 km, that runs along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges and through the spectacular MacDonnell Range National Park. Starting just west of Alice Springs, the trail runs through to Mount Sonder, allowing the opportunity to experience the beauty and vastness of the landscape along the way. Broken into a series of sections, visitors can experience anything from a one to a three day walk, or for the more adventurous to actually do the entire trail, billed as an energetic two-week adventure.
Walkers are advised to pick up the appropriate pamphlet prior to attempting any section of the Larapinta trail. For your own safety, you should register details of your walk by telephoning the Walker Registration Scheme.

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Watarrka National Park Other Links

• Watarrka National Park Community/Local Government Links
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