Finke Gorge National Park
Finke Gorge National Park straddles the often-dry Finke River, the oldest watercourse in the world, which meanders 400 kilometres before it peters out in the Simpson Desert. In a hidden gorge in the park, rare Livistona palms ﬂourish, reminders of prehistoric times when this was a wetter landscape.
From Alice Springs via Larapinta Dr then turn off west of Hermannsburg along Finke River (for Palm Valley); alternatively turn off east of Hermannsburg and follow Ellery Creek to Boggy Hole; both tracks 4WD only
April to September; park open all year except if Finke River in ﬂood
138 km west of Alice Springs; 20 km south of Hermannsburg
- PWCNT Alice Springs (08) 8951 8250
- PWCNT Finke Gorge (08) 8956 7401
46 000 ha
Alice Springs (08) 8952 5800
Kings Canyon Resort (08) 8956 7442
Featured Activities in the National Park
Enjoy a 4WD trek along the world’s oldest river
Explore Palm Valley and walk past some of the world’s oldest trees
Climb to Kalarranga Lookout and gaze over the desert as Aboriginal people have done for generations
- Finke Gorge National Park, Eco-friendly activity
- Palm Valley – Finke Gorge National Park, Natural Wonders, Natural Wonders
A look at the past
Explorer Ernest Giles travelled through this area in 1872, describing the rare red cabbage palms at Palm Valley, which he named Glen of Palms. In 1877 German Lutheran missionaries established nearby Hermannsburg, the ﬁrst Aboriginal mission in the Northern Territory. From 1894 to 1922 the mission was run by Pastor Carl Strehlow, and his son, anthropologist T.G.H. Strehlow, gathered a vast collection of Aboriginal artefacts and sacred objects relating to Aboriginal culture. In 1982 the mission and its land were returned to the Arrernte people.
The area is home to the western Arrernte people. Renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira, the ﬁrst Aboriginal to paint landscapes in a European style, was born at Hermannsburg in 1902, and he painted scenes throughout this country. Some of his works are on display at Hermannsburg.
The park is a refuge for hundreds of species of animals and birds. Rock-wallabies are common but shy, preferring to spend their time high up in the sheltered crevices and caves. Smaller mammals tend to come out at night when temperatures are cooler to feast on insects and plants. More than 140 bird species have been recorded in the park, even those that would not be expected so far into the desert, such as pelicans, black swans and black-necked storks (also known as jabirus).
Natural features and native plants
Finke Gorge National Park lies to the south of the more often visited West MacDonnell National Park. The 250-million-year-old Finke River leads to Finke Gorge and the park’s most famous attraction, Palm Valley, where the graceful shapes of red cabbage palms (Livistona mariae) are silhouetted against the bright blue sky. The palms extend through gorges and valleys of the Finke and its tributary, Palm Creek, stretching as far south as Running Waters, outside the national park, where seeds have washed down the river and germinated. This species is found nowhere else in the world and survives here, in the arid landscape, due to a number of factors including the moisture retained in the sand and rock of the riverbed and the shade cast by the high walls of the surrounding gorge. The adult population numbers no more than 3000 – some 300 years old – and visitors are asked to stay on the tracks so as not to destroy young plants.
Finke Gorge is an oasis of life in the dry, sandy desert. The high gorge walls provide shade not only to the palms but also to river red gums and a variety of other plants. There are over 400 plant species in the gorge – the area is a giant soak where water seeps out from the rock strata to keep the ground moist.
Another plant in the park that dates back millions of years is the MacDonnell Ranges cycad (Macrozamia macdonnellii), a primitive species that is fern-like in appearance but not related to ferns or palms. It is found in abundance in Cycad Gorge on Palm Creek, where it grows amid the rocks of the riverbed and on rock ledges, and produces a cone with poisonous seeds.
The drive to Finke Gorge is a brief 4WD adventure in itself. Once in the park, there are some short walking trails that take in spectacular scenery and afford grand vistas for photography and sightseeing. Boggy Hole is one of six permanent waterholes along the Finke River, supporting ten native ﬁsh species. Fishing and swimming are possible here.
Kalarranga Lookout walk (1.5 km return, 20–30 minutes) is an easy climb to a beautiful view of a natural, rocky amphitheatre. Mpaara Walk (5 km) provides good views over Arrernte lands and information boards about the mythology of the western Arrernte people. Two trails, Arankaia and Mpulungkinya walks, lead from Palm Valley along the riverbed, among lush vegetation and past red cabbage palms. The longer Mpulungkinya Walk (5 km) goes as far as Cycad Gorge and both walks return across the plateau to the carpark.
A 4WD track down the Finke River to Illamurta Springs and on to Watarrka National Park begins just east of Hermannsburg, taking in Boggy Hole and exiting Finke Gorge National Park near its south-east corner. The Hermannsburg–Illamurta Springs leg is around 90 kilometres. Drivers are expected to seek advice from rangers before undertaking the drive.
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