Covering an area of 1,780 square km, the Owen Springs Reserve was formerly the Owen Springs Cattle Station. The property was acquired by the Northern Territory Government in the year 2000 and opened to public access and enjoyment in 2003.
Steeped in Territory and pioneering history, the Owen Springs Reserve protects some important historical events. The main access track through the reserve closely follows the route that John McDouall Stuart took through the MacDonnell Ranges. His explorations between 1860 and 1862 help open up Central Australia to white settlement.
Together with William Kekwick and Benjamin Head, John Stuart became the first white men to travel through this region. Whilst making their way northwards along the Hugh River, on 11 April 1860, they discovered a large waterhole that Stuart named Ewart Springs1, later to be renamed Owen Springs2.
One of the immediate results of Stuart’s explorations was construction of the Overland Telegraph Line that originally followed the Hugh River through Lawrence Gorge in the Waterhouse Range. Even before the Line was completed in August 1872, cattleman William Gilbert was on his way from South Australia to establish a cattle station here. The Old Owen Springs Homestead was the first station homestead built in Central Australia.
Source: NT Government Parks & Reserves
The Hugh River has traverses almost its entire course through the reserve, and offers considerable scenic and recreational appeal. There are numerous stretches of river to enjoy with broad sandy banks that are lined with River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). A popular location, especially after rain, where large waterholes remain long after rain. The appeal of the Hugh River is enjoyed by photographers, especially with the scenic beauty of the adjoining rocky gorges and surrounding red sand country.
Located just a short drive southwest of Alice Springs, the Reserve is a favourite destination for 4WD visitors seeking quiet bush camping without facilities. The Reserve can be accessed via two routes:
- southward along the Hugh River from Larapinta Drive, 50 km from Alice Springs
- via the Stuart Highway, 66 km south of Alice Springs.
A four wheel drive is essential as some sections of the track follow the sandy river bed. In these instances, drivers should engage 4WD to minimise the risk of becoming bogged. Some sections of the track follow the sandy bed of the river and may be impassable after rain. Vehicles are required to keep to the main track except to access campsites along the river.
For road conditions and other information visit the NT Parks and Wildlife website or contact the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre.
Visit the NT Government – Owen Springs Reserve to view fact sheets and maps.
The Owen Springs Reserve offer some great outdoor experiences and activities, from camping, swimming in the waterhole (during the right climatic conditions), discovering wildflowers and other flora, a variety of creatures that live in the reserve and of course bird watching.
Dogs on leads are only permitted south of the Waterhouse Range. Please ensure your pet is kept under control for the safety of other people and fauna.
Footnote & References
- NT Government / NT Place Names Register – Ewarts Springs, Retrieved April 16, 2012
According to Theadgill ( South Australian Land Exploration 1856 to 1880 – Page 56 Footnote 39), Stuart originally named Owen Springs “Ewart’s Springs” as Stuart in his original journal wrote “This water I named Ewart’s Springs after Ewart for his care and attention to our provisions and the things connected with them.” (Journal is held by Royal Geographical Society of SA).
Joseph A Ewart, following John McDouall Stuart Expedition was a member of the Overland Telegraph Line construction teams and an axeman with one of Goyder’s 1869 survey parties in the Darwin area.
- NT Government / NT Place Names Register – Owen Springs, Retrieved April 16, 2012
Owen Springs is reportedly named by John McDould Stuart on 16 March 1861, “after William Owen, Esq, MP”. (South Australian Parliamentary Paper 169 of 1861 – Diary of J.M. Stuart’s Explorations, 1860-61).
According to Theadgill (South Australian Land Exploration 1856 to 1880 – Page 56 Footnote 39) , Stuart originally named the springs “Ewart’s Springs” as Stuart in his original journal wrote “This water I named Ewart’s Springs after Ewart for his care and attention to our provisions and the things connected with them.” (Journal is held by Royal Geographical Society of SA).