Once part of a vast sheep station, this locality is now a thriving centre for the beef, sheep and dairy industries of its surrounding region. It is the southern gateway to the Flinders Ranges. The charm of this sleepy township lies in the main street with its shady peppercorn trees and its feeling that time has stood still.
Where is it?: 25 km south east of Port Pirie; 198 km north of Adelaide; 111 metres above sea level.
Crystal Brook is situated on Goyder's Line - a geographical line marking the border of South Australia's semi-arid region - near the border of two climate systems. While apparently cold semi-arid, the town benefits from a temperate mediterranean climate zone near to the east, making possible slightly more intense farming in the region. To the west and north-west lies some marginal, semi-arid farmland. The local farming community still supports many small businesses in the town.
Crystal Brook (or creek) supplied water to the town until 1890 when the Beetaloo Reservoir was completed, which at the time was the largest concrete dam in the southern hemisphere.
Located 5 km east of Crystal Brook, Bowman Park Native Fauna Section is located on the Heysen Trail and offers visitors an opportunity to walk a short section of the trail at the southern end of the Flinders Ranges. The park has historic buildings which date back to 1847, an excellent Australian reptile collection, a wide variety of native animals which abound during the hours after dark. For details of accommodation and opening times contact (08) 8636 2116.
There is an excellent brochure which outlines three walking trails through Bowman Park.
Trail 1. Walking to Bowman Park (2.8km) is a pleasant 2 1/2 hour walk which focuses on the early European settlement of the Crystal Brook area including the historic Bowman cemetery.
Trail 2. Bowman Park (1.5km) is a 75 minute walk looking at the old homestead buildings at Bowman Park including the Station Infirmary (1852), the ruins of the original homestead (1850), the Smithys Shop (1850), the Hay loft and harness store (1852), the Stables (1850) and the Buggy Shed (1850).
Trail 3. Bowman Park to Hughes Gap, (4.5km) is a 3 hour walk through the bush.
National Trust Museum
Located on Brandis Street (just off the main street) it is notable for the huge Rosella Pickles sign on the side of the building. The building, the first two storey construction in the town, was originally owned by E. H. Hewett Baker and completed in 1875. The museum is a typical local museum with interesting displays of machinery and farming equipment. There is an impressive historic photograph exhibition. Because it was once a bakery it has a rare underground oven. For more details - (08) 8636 2396.
Memorial to Arthur Percy Sullivan VC
In the main street (in the centre median strip) is a small piece of rock celebrating Arthur Percy Sullivan, a local who won a VC in the post-World War I campaign against the Russians. It records that he was born in Crystal Brook on 27 November 1896. His Victoria Cross was awarded for conspicuous bravery at Sheika River, North Russia on 10 August 1919. An award for bravery in a forgotten war.
The Big Goanna, one of many "big things" built alongside Australia's highways. The sign reads 'Varanus varius, vulnerable species native to this area. This goanna is depicted in an aggressive pose. Goannas and other reptiles can be seen at Bowman Park which is located near Crystal Brook. Constructed and erected by local voluntary labour for the benefit of our district."
Built features: The Big Goanna; Bowman Park, of the Crystal Brook run (1847); Beetaloo Reservoir; Laura (32 km north east - the boyhood home of C.J. Dennis, author of The Songs of A Sentimental Bloke); National Trust Museum (1875)
Natural features: Native Fauna Zoo; Beetaloo Valley; Bowman Park Native Fauna Section (5 km east).
The Sydney’ÄìPerth and the Adelaide’ÄìDarwin railways share the same approximately 530 kilometres (329 mi) of track between Crystal Brook and Tarcoola. There is a triangular junction at Crystal Brook which joins Tarcoola, Adelaide and Sydney. Another triangular junction at Tarcoola joins Crystal Brook, Darwin and Perth.
The town lies on the Heysen Trail, a 1,200 kilometres (746 mi)-long walking trail from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge. Close to the north-south midpoint of the trail, Crystal Brook marks a change in climate. Hot, dry summers and mild winters lie to the north, and more temperate conditions to the south.
The area was first explored by Edward John Eyre who passed through the district in 1839 and,being a bad speller, recorded on the map 'Chrystal Brook'. This was Eyre's first attempt to penetrate into the interior of South Australia.
The spelling was corrected to Crystal Brook when William Younghusband and Peter Ferguson established a pastoral property by that name 'Crystal Brook Run', which extended across to Port Pirie and occupied 560 square miles (1450 square kilometres). Younghusband and Ferguson sold this holding to the Bowman Brothers in 1852. The main homestead, Bowman Park, is now part of the Bowman Park Native Fauna Section.
By 1873 the township of Crystal Brook had been surveyed and proclaimed. It grew slowly with many attractive buildings and a beautiful main street but it was never to become a major centre.
Origin of name: the name is taken from the watercourse which runs through the area. The name was given by explorer Edward John Eyre, though he misspelt it as 'Chrystal Brook'. The spelling was corrected when William Younghusband and Peter Ferguson established a pastoral property and named it 'Crystal Brook Run'.