MacDonnell RangesEast MacDonnell Ranges West MacDonnell Ranges Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park

The MacDonnell Ranges are a series of mountain ranges extending some 644 km, consisting of parallel ridges running east and west of Alice Springs. To the east are the East MacDonnell Ranges and to the west are the West MacDonnell Ranges (known colloquially as the “East Macs” and the “West Macs”).

The MacDonnell Ranges is home to some spectacular landforms, beautiful chasms, scenic gorges and waterholes, and providing home and refuge to some amazing natural flora and fauna.

View over Mount Sonder
View over Mount Sonder in the West MacDonnell Ranges.

There is the world famous Palm Valley, home to the remnants of a tropical rainforest of Red Cabbage Palm. Hermannsburg (known by its Aboriginal name ‘Ntaria’) and the Hermannsburg Heritage Precinct is about 130 kms west of Alice Springs, and is the birthplace of Albert Namatjira and the first mission to Aborigines in Central Australia.

The ranges are composed of many different rock types, of which the most obvious are the red quartzite. Quartzite is a hard metamorphic rock(1) that was once sandstone, which due to the geological processes of heating and pressure, often related to tectonic(2) compression within orogenic belts(3), converts the sandstone to quartzite.

Corroboree Rock
Corroboree Rock in the East MacDonnell Ranges.

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.

Some of the many great attractions to explore along MacDonnell Ranges include:

West MacDonnell Ranges
The Larapinta Drive, West MacDonnell Ranges.
View over the Finke River to West Macs
View over Fink River to the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Footnote:
1metamorphic 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.
2tectonic
— 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.
3orogenic 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.

MacDonnell RangesEast MacDonnell Ranges West MacDonnell Ranges Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park

MacDonnell RangesEast MacDonnell Ranges Trephina Gorge Nature Park Yeperenye / Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park West MacDonnell Ranges Birthday Waterhole Birthday Waterhole Fauna Birthday Waterhole Flora Ellery Creek Big Hole Ellery Creek Ellery Creek Big Hole Fauna A Dingo at the Waterhole A Dragon at the Creek Caper White Butterfly Megachile macularis Ellery Creek Big Hole Flora Caltrop Orange Spade Flower Tar Vine White Cypress Pine Finke Two Mile Silverton Daisy Glen Helen Gorge Jay Creek John Flynn’s Grave Historical Reserve Laura Creek Larapinta Drive Mount Sonder / Rwetyepme Namatjira Drive The Neil Hargrave Lookout Ochre Pits Ochre Pits – Central Australia Ormiston Gorge & Pound Ormiston Gorge Fauna Black-footed Rock Wallaby Cicada Nymph Shell Case Coenotes eremophilae Diamond Dove Long-nosed Dragon White-necked Heron Ormiston Gorge Flora Hill Sunray Native Fuchsia Pink Rock Wort Wandering Jew Ormiston Gorge Landscape Point Howard Lookout Redbank Gorge Simpsons Gap Fauna of Simpsons Gap Birds of Simpsons Gap Frogs of Simpsons Gap Flora of Simpsons Gap Landscape of Simpsons Gap Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park

Northern TerritoryCentral Australia Aileron Alice Springs Binns Track Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve Ernest Giles Road Finke Gorge National Park Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve Hermannsburg Historic Precinct Ilparpa Claypans Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve MacDonnell Ranges Owen Springs Reserve Red Centre Way Drive Standley Chasm Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Watarrka National Park & Kings Canyon Wurre / Rainbow Valley