Chambers Gorge, Flinders Ranges – A Special Secret Place
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Somehow, Chambers Gorge in the Flinders Ranges has remained a secret to most travellers. We discovered a special place, virtually unknown by the thousands of travellers who pass by.
We drove in to have a quick look, not expecting much. Boy, did we get a pleasant surprise!
Where Is Chambers Gorge?
It’s about 100km south of Arkaroola Village and about an 8km drive in from North Flinders Road.
Chambers Creek has cut an enormous gorge through the ranges, all the way through to Lake Frome in the east. Access to Chambers Gorge is along the riverbed for much of the way. It’s an easy drive in a 4WD, with a few corrugations and rocks. Pretty typical fare for a Flinders Ranges track.
Wrens And Boomerangs
Approaching the gorge from the North Road, you’ll head east. A strange mountain dominates the view. It has a round mesa sitting on top of the range like a giant flat pimple. This is Mount Chambers or Wadna Yaldha.
The Adnyamathanha people have a creation story explaining how Wadna Yaldha came to be. A purple-backed wren threw a boomerang at the northern end of the mountain, creating a fracture. He wasn’t satisfied, so he threw it again. This time the boomerang cut a chasm through the mountain, circled back and formed a knob at the top of the mountain.
The chasm referred to above is explained in more detail here. I’m not sure I’d be keen to climb up that mountain, it looks like a difficult climb. The knob is a hard limestone mesa and certainly gives the mountain a distinctive appearance.
Not surprisingly, Wadna Yaldha features in numerous songlines and dreaming tracks running through this region.
Exploring The Gorge
There’s minimal signage, so you’ll have to use a bit of initiative. Once you reach the end of the driving track, follow the creek bed down towards the gorge on foot. You’ll come to a point where the main gorge curves right. To your left, you’ll see a couple of white signs at the junction of a small creek with the main creek.
The signs explain how this is an engraving site and give lots of interesting detail on how to interpret the meaning of these engravings. Most of the symbols were referring to initiation ceremonies.
Follow this small creek upstream and keep an eye out for the engravings. There’s a cliff wall on your left, running for a few hundred metres. You’ll start to see them here and there, then they increase in frequency.
The creek turns a sharp left as the cliff wall peters out. We decided to explore just a little bit further, see what was around the bend.
They say the grass is greener on the other side, and this time they were right!
For around the bend were hundreds of engravings. This was clearly an initiation ceremony site, given how the engravings matched the initiation symbols shown on the sign further down the Creek. They were situated in a perfect natural amphitheatre. They are extraordinary, so many and so much detail.
Engravings in the Flinders Ranges have been dated up to 80,000 years old. I couldn’t find any information on the engravings at Chambers Gorge. However, there’s no doubt they are ancient.
If you walk back down this small creek, you can then follow Chambers Creek as its cuts through the mountain range. We didn’t go far, as we had run out of time. We’ll certainly be exploring this further.
We discovered the Iga Warta community run cultural tours through Chambers Gorge. We’ll definitely be doing this at some stage.
Camping At Chambers Gorge
Chambers Gorge is actually on private property. However, there’s plenty of places to bush camp. You will have to be totally self-sufficient, there are no facilities.
Just remember though, if you want firewood then bring it with you. People have cut down trees and live branches. Before long, this area will be stripped bare.
Respect the country. Think before you decide that your need for a campfire is greater than the needs of this fragile country. I suspect this place will be closed to the public if this continues.
This place is spiritual. As the suns sets and the moon rises, the ancient Mount Chambers or Wadna Yaldha dominates the landscape. It sits like a wise old man, keeping a close watch over country… a country alive with ancestors and dreaming spirits.
A special place.
If you’re interested in an adventure tour or even a camel trek in the Flinders Ranges, you’ll find some good deals at TourRadar.
Chambers Gorge is on Adnyamathanha Country.
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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.