A DESERT OASIS

Finke gorge National Park sits approximately 138kms west of Alice Springs and is like a hidden oasis in the middle of a desert. If you are after a beautiful respite from the desert packed with tough 4WDing adventures and stunning campgrounds this is one that’s not to be missed. Wild, rugged and stunning – the Finke Gorge is 4WD touring at its absolute best.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”The Finke Gorge is a hidden oasis packed with awesome 4WDing and breathtaking scenery”[/blockquote]

From Kings Canyon at the southern end, access is via Earnest Giles Road. Turn onto the Finke River 4WD route and it’s not long before the wide corrugated road narrows to not much more than a track of just two wheel ruts in the low lying grass. Driving amongst the large river gums with the contrast of rich red dirt gives you a feeling of wonderment at the landscapes natural beauty. And this is just a snippet of the unique and amazing landscape to come.

As the name suggests, this track follows the Finke River Valley and involves many soft sandy dry riverbed crossings. When you reach the first sandy river bed crossing it’s the time to stop and drop some more air out of the tyres. The sand is usually very soft so this is where a quality set of tyres will pay for themselves.

Typical of the Australian Outback the track conditions and terrain are constantly changing. It’s easy to sit back, take it all in and enjoy the ride. Much of the track is slow with some sections opening up and becoming quite corrugated. The welcome sight of some large, smooth open plains almost feels like a highway as you travel on the hard crust like surface. There is never a dull moment anticipating what will reveal itself over the next rise.

At the 30km mark is the track to Illamurta Springs Conservation Reserve. It’s a 10km detour to check it out, but it’s well worth the time. Illamurta Springs lies at the foothill of the rugged James Range with a permanent natural spring, which is a rare and valuable commodity in the outback. This made an important refuge for Aboriginal people past and present.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Wild, rugged and stunning – the finke gorge is 4WD touring at it’s absolute best.”[/blockquote]

In the 1880’s settlers claimed their pastoral land along the Finke River causing conflict when the Aboriginals speared their cattle for food. A police outpost was set up to arrest the cattle spearers, but was later turned into a food distribution centre for the Aboriginals in appreciation of their culture. The one kilometre walk around the ruins takes you through the history of the conflict and its resolution.

After exploring Illamurta Springs the track heads towards the Finke River where you will find more ruins such as stockyards. Finke Gorge National Park is approximately nine kilometres from the stockyards and after crossing the river a couple of times you will arrive at a gate which marks the boundary of the National Park. If you thought the scenery was awesome so far, it just gets better. The contrast of the colours is absolutely amazing. With the rich rustic colour of the ranges closing in on the river, it’s easy to fall in love with this piece of paradise.

Camping is permitted anywhere alongside the Finke River from the southern boundary to the Junction gate and no matter where you choose to camp, the views are absolutely breathtaking. We chose the first campsite because we could pitch the tent on the soft white sand and utilize some shade from the nearby River Red Gums.

There was a deep waterhole nearby with an amazing backdrop of the most amazing mountain range which glows in the late afternoon sun and is perfect for a swim. You’ll see a variety of wildlife during your stay taking advantage of the waterhole, especially water birds and Brumbies.

As you weave through Finke Gorge there are a number of crossings through the Finke River, these vary from sandy or river rock, to large rock platforms. The last twelve kilometres of this track travels away from the river but still hugs closely to the ranges until it finishes at the bitumen of Larapinta Drive and the Hermannsburg settlement. This settlement has a supermarket where you can stock up with supplies and also fill up with fuel and water.

[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”No matter where you choose to camp, the views are absolutely breathtaking.”[/blockquote]

Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission was established in 1877 and the historical precedent within the settlement is well worth checking out. The sixteen remaining whitewashed buildings will take you back in time to what life was like over one hundred years ago in this remote area. Also worth a look is the nearby ruin of Albert Namatjira’s home, a renowned Aboriginal landscape painter who was inspired by the amazing Finke Gorge area.

West of Hermannsburg settlement, the Finke River crosses Larapinta Drive where you turn southward into the Palm Valley section of Finke Gorge National Park. If there is a must visit section of this spectacular National Park, make it this one. Like a true oasis in the middle of the desert, Palm valley is a maze of sandstone amphitheatres, pinnacles, gorges; spring fed pools and it’s also home to many rare and unique plants including the Red Cabbage Palm which the valley is named after.

The track into palm valley travels along the Finke River, crossing the river seven times. Along the way is the Kalarranga Lookout walk, a one and a half kilometre loop which climbs up to provide spectacular views of the rugged sandstone cliffs surrounding the area.

From the campground outside of Palm Valley the track requires high clearance 4WD as is travels along many rock ledges and washouts. Several parts involve climbing over wide rock shelves with ledges and holes that need to be carefully negotiated.

Finke Gorge National Park is one part of Australia that will always be a favourite, with its rare beauty, rewarding 4WD adventures and unique campsites, it completes to whole package the whole family will fall in love with this hidden oasis.

FACT FILE

WHERE:
Finke Gorge National Park has two sections; Palm Valley and Finke River 4WD Route 186km west of Alice Springs along Larapinta Drive. The turnoff to both sections is at Hermannsberg.

INFORMATION:
Finke Gorge National Park spreads across 46 hectares taking in sections of the Finke River. The Palm Valley section is home to some amazing, rare and unique plant species which are seen nowhere else in the country. The Finke 4WD route follows the Finke River from Hermannsberg to Illamurta Springs and boasts some spectacular scenery and campsites along the track.

CAMPSITES:
Palm Valley has one campsite with green grass and great facilities. Camping is also permitted anywhere along the river bed from Ellery Creek/Finke River Junction to the southern boundary.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL:
Autumn through to spring are the best time to visit as the high summer temperatures can be hazardous. Tracks become extremely soft as the temperature rises and in the wet summer season the river crossings may rise.

FUEL & SUPPLIES:
There is no fuel or supplies available within the National Park. Hermannsberg has a supermarket, fuel and water.

TRIP STANDARD:
This trip requires a high clearance 4WD with low range. This is a remote area with infrequent traffic. Travelling with a second vehicle is highly recommended as are traction boards. Because of the soft sand this trip would be rated a C. With A meaning only suited to 4WDs with an extreme level of modification and E being suited to all types of 4WDs.

RESTRICTIONS AND PERMITS:
Firewood cannot be collected within the National Park.
Parks and Wildlife Commission advise that the Finke River 4WD route is not suitable for trailers.
Trailers may be taken into the Palm Valley section but only as far as the campsite.

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