|Location||700 km (435 mi) from Adelaide|
The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is located 700 km north of Adelaide in South Australia. The most common way to get there is by car, but a plane can be chartered from Parafield Airport in northern Adelaide. The sanctuary is the atmospheric backdrop to the 2002 film The Tracker.
The area's first people are the Adnyamathanha. One of their dreamtime or creation stories says that Arkaroo, a mythical monster, drank Lake Frome dry. He then crawled up into the mountains. When he urinated he created the waterholes that are a feature of the area. His movement over the land created Arkaroola Creek.
The first Anglo-Europeans to visit the area was explorer Edward Eyre in 1840 and the surveyor George Goyder in 1857. There was a small failed settlement nearby, at the Yudnamutana copper mine, from 1860 to 1863. The drought of 1863 drove the miners away. Settlement didn't occur again until 1903, when rubies and sapphires were discovered. By 1910 a copper smelter was built at Yudnamutana and uranium was also discovered nearby by Douglas Mawson, famous Antarctic explorer.
The land was always marginal and projects failed quickly. Uranium exploration persisted sporadically and led to the development of good roads by optimistic companies. The Arkaroola property was fenced by 1935 and a process of eradication of pests started. The land was covered with donkeys and camels. There was a failed health project in 1948.
Arkaroola was established by geologist Reg Sprigg in 1968 after he purchased the pastoral lease. He had been involved in surveys in the area before that. He purchased the 610 km² pastoral lease and began the conversion to a wildlife sanctuary. It was established on condition by the state government that the feral rabbits, goats and camels would be controlled in the rough terrain. In 1979 he was a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund due to his work in the protection of the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby.
In July 2011 SA Premier Mike Rann announced a ban on mining in the Arkaroola wilderness area. This was followed in October 2011 by special purpose legislation prohibiting mining, mining exploration and grazing in the ranges. The SA government has moved to nominate the Arkaroola area for listing on the National Heritage list, and to secure its nomination for World Heritage listing.
Until mid-2011, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary was under threat from uranium mining; the Adelaide-based mining company Marathon Resources had been prospecting and damaging the area around Mount Gee. In 2008, Marathon was found guilty of illegally dumping radioactive waste in a variety of locations throughout the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, and were ordered to suspend drilling operations. In early 2011, the company was allowed to resume exploration in Arkaroola after 'promising to clean up'. On 7 February 2011, the website for South Australian newspaper The Advertiser, AdelaideNow, published an article regarding Marathon Resources being given the green light to recommence exploratory drilling.
The move to allow Marathon to resume exploration resulted in a public outcry. A poll taken in February 2011 showed that 72 per cent of South Australians, and 79 per cent of Labor voters, were opposed to mining in Arkaroola. Following unprecedented public pressure, the South Australian government announced on 22 July 2011 that mining would be banned forever in Arkaroola, with the aim of national and World Heritage listing. Mining companies have since threatened legal action against the government.
Protection of the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary from mining, including Mt.Gee and the Mt.Painter inlier, is provided by the South Australian Arkaroola Protection Act (2012), which created the Arkaroola Protection Zone.
The sanctuary is part of the 1890 km2 Gammon Ranges and Arkaroola Important Bird Area (IBA), identified as such by BirdLife International because it supports a population of the restricted-range Short-tailed Grasswren as well as populations of the Pied Honeyeater, Chirruping Wedgebill and Cinnamon Quail-thrush.
Road loops and 4WD tracks
There are many self-drive tracks for 2-wheel drives and 4-wheel drives, ranging from beginner to advanced in difficulty. A popular attraction of Arkaroola is the organised Ridge Top Tour, which is a four-hour trip along the ridge top track with three lookouts that end at Siller's Lookout, providing a panoramic view across the plains towards Lake Frome and the Beverley Uranium Mine. Siller's Lookout is named after Bill Siller MBE, whose uranium exploration companies constructed the Ridge Top Tour track in the late 1960s; Beverley Uranium Mine, also discovered by Bill Siller's companies, is named after his wife, Beverley. The track was put in by Mr Jim Hodgekinson, an expatriate Canadian.
The Echo Camp Backtrack is also popular and is a very challenging drive. It leads through some wonderful country and then over the hills (rough) and down onto the plains east of the Flinders Ranges. This joins another track back to Arkaroola via Claude’s Pass, Stubb’s Waterhole (including aboriginal cave paintings), Bararranna Gorge (a popular spot for yellow-footed rock wallabies), Welcome Pound and back to main road to the Arkaroola Village.
Arkaroola has two 14-inch telescopes. Since the weather is usually fine and there is little light pollution, observers can see literally millions of stars with the telescopes.
Paralana radioactive springs
The waters of Paralana geothermal springs, located at Wooltana, north of Arkaroola, issue from geological faults that date back one billion years. These waters are heated by rich veins of radioactive uranium ore in the faults. Carbon dioxide, nitrogen, radon and helium bubble forth continuously. Because the Paralana springs contain small amounts of uranium and radon, staying near the springs for a prolonged period constitutes a health hazard. Living on the floor of the springs is an extremophile algal mat that survives the warm temperatures of 62 °C and high radioactivity.
The mountain summit in the area under this name is of volcanic origin and is popular for rock climbing. The solid basalt rock means that climbing is relatively easy.
Available accommodation ranges from motel-style rooms to budget accommodation, self-contained cottages, caravan park and camp sites. Facilities include a licenced restaurant and bar, swimming pool, shop with souvenirs and basic suppliers, service station (petrol and diesel), workshop for basic vehicle repairs and tyre repairs.
The climate of the area is arid, summers are hot with occasional storms, while winters are cold and dry. Arkaroola holds the record for the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in Australia, an overnight low of 35.5 °C (95.9 °F) occurred on the 24 January 1982.
|Climate data for Arkaroola|
|Record high °C (°F)||45.3
|Average high °C (°F)||34.3
|Average low °C (°F)||20.1
|Record low °C (°F)||10.4
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||32.9
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.2mm)||3.0||2.9||2.3||2.3||2.9||3.1||3.5||3.2||2.9||3.2||3.0||3.0||35.3|
|Source: Bureau of Meteorology|
- Daily Telegraph, 22 July 2011
- Arkaroola's savior Premier Mike Rann to visit area, Sunday Mail, 15 October 2011
- "InDaily : May 01, 2013, Page 1". Independentweekly.com.au. Retrieved 2013-05-01.
- [dead link]
- "SA govt to ban Arkaroola mining". Bigpond News. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "Premier Mike Rann announces permanent protection for Arkaroola". The Advertiser. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "Arkaroola Protection Act 2012" (PDF). Government of South Australia. 26 Apr 2012. Retrieved 25 Aug 2013.
- "IBA: Gammon Ranges and Arkaroola". Birdata. Birds Australia. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-23.
- "Extreme Slime". Catalyst. 03/10/2002. ABC. Check date values in:
- "Official records for Australia in January". Daily Extremes. Bureau of Meteorology. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
- "Arkaroola". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 25 March 2014.