Macdonnell Ranges Touring Information
(326 km west of Alice Springs)
Trip duration: 7 hours to overnight
On the road Take the Larapinta Drive west out of Alice Springs and join Namatjira Drive.
West MacDonnell National Park, have several scenic highlights. The town of Alice Springs lies in the MacDonnell Ranges, the land of the Aranda people and a paradise for photographers and artists. Cutting through the ranges are spectacular gorges offering some of the finest scenery in Australia. With crimson and ochre rock walls bordering deep blue pools and slopes covered with spring wildflowers.
Simpsons Gap National Park, Jagged cleft of rearing red walls between which runs the sandy bed of Roe Creek. Beyond the range gives way to a maze of winding valleys and ridges. Rock wallabies have made their home on a rockfall at the gap. Along the range their are other gaps, Wallaby, Spring and Bond, which can be reached along walking trails. The gaps and plain at the foot of the range are part of a 30,950ha national park whose inhabitants include euros and dingoes and a range of other wildlife. Standley Chasm, 32km further on, best known of the MacDonnell gaps, a narrow and overpoweringly spectacular crevice between sheer walls rising almost 100m which flames with colour when struck by the sun. Beyond the chasm the course of the creek rises steeply over large boulders. Continue on to Ellery Creek Big Hole, has the deepest water hole in the MacDonnells , descending to 30 metres even at its driest . This area attracts geologist's from around the world to see the extraordinary landscape with rocks folding onto themselves forming huge circles and caves.
Further west, standing at the base of towering hills with the Territory’s tallest mountains, Mt Zeil, Mt Sonder and Mt Razorback in the background.
Emily & Jessie Gaps
Emily Gap, 16km out of town, the next gap through the ranges east of Heavitree Gap, is narrow and often has water running through it. Jessie Gap is only 8km further on and, like the previous gap, is a popular picnic and barbecue spot.
Shortly after Jessie Gap there’s the Undoolya Gap, another pass through the range, and the road continues 43km to Corroboree Rock. There are many strangely shaped outcrops of rocks in the range and this one is said to have been used by Aborigines for their corroborees.
Passing through Serpentine Gorge Nature Park, a very small 517ha colourful national park, 105km west of Alice Springs. If there are sufficient winter rains the gorge will contain a pool of water. On the flats there are mulgas, and gums grow along the watercourse. The vegetation on the heights of the gorge is very sparse.
The best known is Ormiston Gorge and Pound National Park, in the MacDonnells Ranges, 132km west of Central Australia’s most spectacular canyons. Where fish bury themselves in the mud as a string of waterholes shrink to puddles, then wait for the rains to fill them again. The deepest part of Ormiston Creek is a magnificent permanent pool The Aranda, believed to be inhabited by a great water snake. The lower cliffs are deep reds and purples, in the riverbed white bars of rock, and on the high rim are ridges of quartzite which reflect a dozen different colours. Go down through the gorge and you come to Ormiston Pound, a basin valley 10km across, with a small stream meandering around the bed of the basin. There are also numerous picnic areas for you to choose from.
On Namatjira Drive, 136 km west of Alice Springs, is Glen Helen an excellent base for exploring the superb scenery. At Glen Helen Gorge, 300 m east, you can walk along the bed of the Finke River between towering, rugged red cliffs. Helicopter flights are available to surrounding areas, including Mt Sonder.
For further information, contact:
Central Australian Tourism Industry Association Ford Plaza Building,Todd Mall
ALICE SPRINGS NT 0870 Phone: (089) 52 5199
Images courtesy of Northern Territory Tourist Commission
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