Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Wilpena Pound - South Australia
Wilpena Pound, South Australia

Wilpena Pound is a large rock basin in the Flinders Ranges National Park. St. Mary's Peak (1170 m.) is the highest peak in the Pound walls. Rawnsley Bluff is another prominent landmark.

There is an historic homestead ruin in the pound; visitors can walk around the Pound floor or take one of the walking trails which provide treks of varying difficulty. Outside the Pound is an additional trail which climbs Mount Ohlssen Bagge, which is behind Wilpena Chalet. Other places of interest in the area are Sacred Canyon and Stokes Hill Lookout.

Aboriginal people have been in the area for at least 15,000 years, the date of ash excavated from cooking fires at Arkaroo Rock. Eight cultural groups of Aboriginal people have associations with the Flinders Ranges. The Adnyamathanha and Walypi lived exclusively in the hills. Others lived mainly on the plains. They spoke different dialects, but met for ceremonial purposes, intermarried and traded. They lived on a variety of plants gathered by the women and hunted animals, using non-returning boomerangs and nets.

Arkaroo Rock is a large rock shelter below the south-eastern rim of Wilpena Pound. Rock paintings and drawings, done in charcoal and ochre, are found in the shelter. The paintings are of reptiles and humans and also abstract designs.

The name Wilpena is from an Aboriginal word meaning bent fingers, which describes the shape of the range. The Aboriginal name for the pound was ikara, meaning initiation place. Pound is an English word meaning enclosure. A walk, through a narrow gorge and above Sliding Rock, is the only way to enter the Pound.

William Chance, a teamster, was the first European to enter Wilpena Pound. Brothers W.J. and J.H. Browne took up the pastoral leases of Wilpena, Arkaba and Aroona stations in 1851. They places a manager on each of the runs for a half share interest. Frederick Hayward, who was placed on the Aroona Station, in the Aroona Valley, soon became the sole owner. Wilpena Station originally included the Wilpena Pound, but its headquarters were outside the pound near Wilpena Creek. The original Wilpena run covered more than 2000 sq kms. Wilpena Pound ceased to be part of the Wilpena run in `888, when all pastoral leases ran out. The Brownes outbid their competitors to keep Wilpena station largely intact, but the Pound area passed to another bidder.

The Hill family homestead, a stone cottage, is within the Pound. They came here in 1899 from Hawker and attempted to grow wheat, which they had to cart it out via the narrow gorge. They were encouraged to plant wheat since the pound's rainfall is higher than the surrounding country. To the surprise of many their venture was successful. Their wheat was sent to Hawker. The cleared patches in the Pound where wheat was grown are still visible today. In 1914 heavy rains destroyed the road they had built and the damage was so great the Hill family abandoned the Pound.

Wilpena Pound then became a forest reserve of over 19,000 acres. It was then leased to Wilpena station for grazing of sheep. The lease on grazing expired in 1945 and the land was resumed by the government for tourist purposes. In 1970 the Flinders Ranges National Park was created from the former Oraparinna and Wilpena stations.

Rawnsley Bluff:
Rawnsley Bluff is the most southerly point of Wilpena Pound. It was named after H.C. Rawnsley, a surveyor who worked in the Flinders in the 1850s.

Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, Robin Road Software and its suppliers, 1996 - 2000


  1. Australian National Parks
  2. Australian National Parks - South Australia
  3. Flinders Ranges National Park
  4. Australia - The Geology, Climate & Ecology
  5. Photos of Australia

Sources & Further reading

All Over Australia REPORT, 08-08-2001


Wilpena Pound and St Mary's peak, South Australia

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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading