Located some 140 km south west of Alice Springs and 20 km south of Hermannsburg is the Finke Gorge National Park. Covering an area of 46,000 hectares, the park was proclaimed as a flora and fauna reserve in the 1920s, then as a National Park in 1978.
The park has a myriad of gorges and gullies, which is home to a diverse range of rare and unique plant species. Most famous of the natural features and popular with many tour operators is Palm Valley, home to the Red Cabbage Palm, remnants of a tropical rainforest that covered this area 60 million years ago. There are about 12,000 in the park, the oldest being 300 years old. Huge red sandstone cliffs provide shelter for the palm trees.
There is more to the park than the ancient palms, with over 333 plant species having been recorded in the park, including the Wild Orange (Capparis mitchellii) and the Native Fig (Ficus brachypoda).
Although the park gorge usually appears dry, there are some small pockets of semi-permanent spring-fed pools. If you are lucky to be there during one of those wet periods, not only does it offer a wonderful sight to see the expanses of water flowing through the valley gorge, you also increase the chances of seeing some of the myriad aquatic life such as desert fish including the Spangled Grunter, shield shrimps (Triops australiensis), tadpoles and frogs.
The park also encompasses part of the Finke River system, that has carved a path southwards through the surrounding desert ranges. The Finke lays claim to being one of the oldest rivers in the world, with areas dating back 350 million years.
Many areas within the park region are culturally significant to the the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people. The park also include evidence of early European settlement of Central Australia.
The first white discoverer, J McDouall Stuart was so grateful to his generous supporter, William Finke, that he named the river and surrounding area after him.
There are some established tracks through the park for visitors that take you through the Finke Gorge National Park, to and through Palm Valley. As you drive through the Finke Gorge National Park there are two tracks:
- Kalarranga Lookout
1.5 km loop walk, takes approximately 40 minutes.
a short climb rewards you with magnificent panorama of the remarkable sculptures sandstones hills, that encircle part of the old bed of Palm Creek.
- Mpaara Track (pronouced M-pah-rah)
5 km loop walk, takes approximately 20 hours.
care required on steep sections. Take this walk into the Aboriginal ‘Dreamtime’ by following the absorbing story of Mpaara, the Tawny Frogmouth-man and the Pangkalanga Devil Man. There are great views of the Finke River and Kalarranga along this walk.
Although you can visit all year round, one of the best and most popular time to visit is April to September, when it is cooler and there are less files. During this period the campground on the river bank gets pretty busy. There is room for tents and campervans and facilities include solar (hot) showers, toilets and wood BBQs.
As you travel along the often dry river bed, you can see evidence of pass torrents having carved its way through the land, often taking debris that get caught up and trapped at the base and up in the branches of the many surviving River Red Gum and other eucalypts.
How to get there
The park is 138 km west of Alice Springs. You can turn south off Larapinta Drive just west of Hermannsburg. Access in the Finke Gorge National Park is along the last 16 km of track that follows the sandy bed of the Finke River, which is limited to high clearance 4WD vehicles only. Please note that heavy rains may cause this section of the road to be impassable.
The park offers a range of facilities from information signage, designated campsites (camping is only permitted in the designated camping areas at Palm Valley and along the Finke River at Boggy Hole), communal fire pits, public toilets, picnic tables, gas barbecues, showers, walking trails, scenic lookouts. (More information on the NT Parks and Wildlife Service.)
- Please Remember
- Please bring your own firewood before entering the park, fires are only permitted in designated fire pits at Palm Valley
- pets are not permitted in the National Park
- rubbish bins are not provided, so take your rubbish with you
- if travelling the Finke River 4WD route, stay on the marked track
- you need a permit to use a drone – you must get it before you arrive.
- Please be careful where you walk and stay on the marked tracks. The young palms can be destroyed by visitors not realising that they are walking on them. We need the regeneration of the palms for the survival of this population.
Source: NT Parks and Wildlife Service – Finke Gorge National Park