The Flinders Ranges has been home to the Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years. There are 15 National or Conservation Parks across the vast outback area, some of which formerly operated as sheep stations after white invasion.
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park alone covers 95,000 hectares of semi-arid land, and includes the geologically and visually stunning Wilpena Pound, which SA Parks service calls “a lost world located inside a giant stone crater,” and the Adnyamathanha say is formed by two glutton lizards. Some mining towns and pastoral stations are now geared to tourism. Others struggle on, or have been abandoned. A wealth of camping, hiking and wildlife opportunities can be found, arguably some of the best outback experiences accessible by 2WD.
Unable to do 1200km in a day from home, we stopped off en route at Gluepot Reserve, a former farm turned bird sanctuary.
3 days of walking the trails and sitting in the hides turned up a great number species, some in great numbers.
The main event, the Flinders Ranges was another 450km inland.
"The Flinders Ranges" area is vast and diverse, from Mount Brown and Quorn, 120km south of the actual park, and a further 200km north to Arkaroola.
Much of the land was or is still grazing land.
A few once prosperous towns like Beltana dot the landscape, with abandoned and restored historical buildings making for curious diversions.
The biggest town in the area, Quorn, pop' 1,200, is so well preserved it's often used as a movie set.
A sound and light show projected onto the town's silo, and two pubs provide plenty of entertainment.
Nearby Dutchman's Stern National Park has some excellent and easy hiking. Some rain had brought out the new growth just for us.
From Port Augusta to the south and the inland lakes to the north, views from the summit are superb- in the right weather!
Wilpena Pound, a former sheep station, is the admin centre for Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
Campgrounds, cabins, wifi, permits, an IGA, and a bistro can be found here, and many hiking trails begin here or nearby.
"Wilpena" is Adnyamathanha for "upturned hands", a shape clearly seen from the air. The name predates the Wright brothers by thousands of years.
The longest hike, Bridle Gap, takes you to the edge of the park, through varied but flat terrain, to the open views.
Other shorter hikes of 2-3 hours aren't bad either.
Mount Ohlssen Bagge hike is one of the shorter, but also among the steepest.
But it is well worth the effort for the views not just from the summit, but on the ascent.
It can be combined with the Boom & Bust nature walk, which shows the polar nature of the area. Here, trees weakened by drought were then washed away by floods.
Wildlife, like this euro, is reasonably easy to spot in this southern section of the park.
To appreciate the scale of the area, taking to the air is hard to beat. Rivers, usually dry, are green among the flat brown plain.
Indigenous creation stories tell of two lizards who ate all the participants in a great meeting.
Full, they fell asleep, and the mountain ridges are their spines.
The northern reaches of the park are of different character, and it is worth spending a few days camped up there.
The north is drier, and gorges cut their way through the mountain ranges.
The hiking is excellent and views first class. Famed artist Hans Heysen did much of his work around here.
Brachina East campground is just a stroll away from a rocky ridge where the elusive yellow-footed rock wallaby is often found.
SA National Parks do an excellent job of marking the trails and providing brochures at the trailheads in this area.
With good reason, Bunyeroo Gorge is one of the more popular hikes, although you are unlikely to see more than a handful of others.
Bunyeroo is a 3-4 hour wander through gum tree lined river beds and under red cliffs.
Views of the distant ranges come from time to time.
The geology of the Flinders Ranges is mind-blowing, with lands 5 or 600 million years old. Yet walking distance away, the land is shaped by "recent" events of just 100 millions years past.
The Trezona Hike is another 4 hour walk through open grassland and has views of the Heysen Range.
Several days will quickly pass on the various hikes in this area. The 1200km, 60+ day Heysen Trail passes through here from nearby Parachilna Gorge, to Wilpena and then the coast.
Between Ikara and Arkaroola, Wilkawillina Gorge begins at the top end of a challenging road, with a moonscape introduction.
Unfortunately, time and rain meant we only spent an hour or two on the 4 four one-way trail. What we saw was a teaser.
Arkaroola was also a sheep staion, but now a privately run wildlife conservation area. It seems to also be a crossroads for 4WD tourists criss-crossing the Australian centre.
Mountains and gorges dominate the agenda. A half-dozen or so 2-5 hour hikes begin from or near the park centre.
Bararranna Bush Walk gorge would probably be the pick of a really good bunch, where spectacular views are boosted by yellow-foot sightings.
Small but infrequent rains bring out the wildflowers, such as the Sturts Desert Rose and Pea.
The Flinders Ranges is a real outback destination, rugged, sunburnt, flood plains, wildlife and fauna, and most of it can be done in a 2WD. Enjoy!