Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve

Toilets Wildflowers Information Picnic area Walking
Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve, Reg Morrison / Auscape International

Introduction

Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve is one of the most interesting places in central Australia, and of great significance to Western Arrernte people as well as the international scientific community. Remarkably, the theory of its origin is similar for both groups. According to Aboriginal belief, Tnorala was formed in the creation time, when a group of women danced across the sky as the Milky Way. During the dance, a wooden baby carrier (a turna) fell to earth forming the circular rock walls of Tnorala. The scientific interpretation suggests that more than 130 million years ago a comet, 600 metres across, crashed to earth, blasting a crater 20 kilometres in width. Today the land surface is about 2 kilometres lower.

Tnorala is one of the largest terrestrial impact sites on Earth. Scientists estimate the comet slammed into the ground with a force at least 200 000 times greater than the nuclear explosion that destroyed Hiroshima. The resultant detonation would have created a huge mushroom cloud that rose thousands of metres in the air and spread around the world. The crater was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, who unfortunately saw the area from ground level and did not realise its scientific importance. It was not until the mid-1960s, after aerial surveys from outer space, that Gosse Bluff was identified as a crater.

A 4WD track leads to the inner crater where visitors can stand or picnic on the spot where the massive terrestrial body crashed to earth. Interpretive signs give an excellent explanation of the phenomenon while a walking trail circuits Tnorala and a lookout on a ridge provides great viewing. A permit is required to access the park via Mereenie Loop Road.

Fact file

Camping

No camping; day use only

Location

175 km west of Alice Springs via Larapinta Dr or Namatjira Dr; 4WD recommended for last 10 km

Park information

PWCNT Alice Springs (08) 8951 8250

Size

4760 ha

Visitor information

Alice Springs (08) 8952 5800

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