Ochre Pits > Central Australia

Ochre is integral to the Dreamtime stories — stories of Creation and Law — of Aboriginal people throughout Australia. There are many ochre pits around Australia, of which the major ones include:

  • Central Australia, NT
    (near Alice Springs)
  • Campbell Ranges, NT
    (particular fine ochre comes from here)
  • Wilgamia, WA
    (ochre was carried as far as Queensland from this site)
  • Arnhem Land, NT
    (has many ochre mines)
  • Parachilna, SA
    (ochre from this mine could travel as far as 1,000 km)
  • Red Hill Ochre Quarry, ACT
    (high grade red and yellow ochres and white pipe clay is found here)
  • Tasmania
    (red ochre came from a site near Mount Roland – people would travel from the east and west coast of Tasmania to south of present day Ulverstone for a particularly fine source of ochre)

The Ochre Pits are one of the attractions along Namatjira Drive in the Burt Plain region of the Northern Territory. The recognised location of the Ochre Pits is about 65 km from the Larapinta Drive turnoff onto Namatjira Drive.

Colourful Curves and Swirls
As you approach the Ochre Pits on foot, ahead of you is one of the most dramatic formations, the swirling near-vertical curves of colour ‘painted’ on the 10 m high cliff face. Wind and rain have carved into the layers of the Ochre Pits to reveal dramatic designs.

The Colours
Yellow ochre, the dominant colour of these cliffs, is caused by a mixture of white clay and iron oxide (rust).

The red-brown colours are formed by high levels of oxidised iron in very fine-grain haematite or limonite.

White ochre has very little or no iron. The white colour comes from kaolin, a white clay mineral. Tiny fragments of mica and quartz give the ochre a shiny quality.

Source: Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission – park signage

Ochre Pits map - Source Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission - park signage
Ochre Pits map – Source Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission – park signage
Ochre Pits map - Source Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission - park signage
Ochre Pits map – Source Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission – park signage