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Wilpena Pound, SA

Wilpena Pound, one of Australia’s most famous natural landmarks and a major attraction of the Flinders Ranges, is an almost perfectly formed geological amphitheatre.

Location: 429 km north of Adelaide in the heart of the north Flinders Ranges.

Amidst the vibrant colours of the 800 million-year-old quartzite and limestone outcrop that is the Flinders Ranges lies Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre 17km long and 7km wide. Located 429 kilometres north of Adelaide in the heart of the Flinders Ranges National Park, the Pound is the most northern point with access via a sealed road in this part of the Flinders Ranges. The closest town to the north is Blinman and to the south, Hawker.

Wilpena Pound from Mt Ohlssen Bagge summit

Shaped by the weathering and uplifting of land over time, this place has strong significance to the indigenous Adnyamathanha people. it is a place of many sacred Aboriginal rituals, and their Dreamtime stories tell of its creation by huge serpents.

Although from the outside the Pound appears as a single range of mountains, it is actually two: one on the western edge, and one on the eastern, joined by the long Rawnsley’s Bluff at the south. A gorge called Wilpena Gap has been cut in the eastern range, and most of the inside of the Pound drains into Wilpena Creek which exits through the Gap. A small part of the high northern slopes of the Pound drains into Edeowie Creek, which drains in time of flood over steep cliffs and waterfalls in Edeowie Gorge to the north.

The wall of mountains almost completely encircles the gently-sloping interior of the Pound, with the only breaks being the gorge at Wilpena Gap and a high saddle in the south-western range over which the Heysen Trail passes. The interior of the Pound does not rise to a height at the northern edge, but instead simply drops off very steeply to the plain below in a series of steep gullies.

Wilpena Pound from Tanderra Saddle

Wilpena Pound is one of the most popular sites in the Flinders Ranges for international tourists to visit the outback because of the large development that has occurred at the Wilpena Pound Resort on the eastern side of Wilpena Pound and Rawnsley Park Station on the western side.

There are many modern facilities there that makes it appealing for people who are not familiar with the semi-arid conditions. Tourists can go on scenic flights from an unsealed airstrip at Wilpena Pound resort and Rawnsley Park 30 km north east of Hawker.

The Cazneaux Tree, off Blinman Road, is one of the most famous trees in Australia. In 1937 photographer Harold Cazneaux photographed it, calling it ‘The Spirit of Endurance’. The photo was reproduced on calendars and posters around the world.

Brief history: the Flinders Ranges, after whom they are named, were sighted by Matthew Flinders in 1802. Wilpena Pound was leased in 1851 as a large horse breeding area. In 1899 the Hill family leased the whole of the pound, cleared the land and began wheat farming. A resort was established near the only entrance to Wilpena Pound in 1945. In 1972 the pound came under the control of the National Parks Commission.

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