Nick Heath – Senior Guide at Kelly Hill Conservation Park
What’s the biggest drawcard at Kelly Hill?
The caves here at Kelly Hill Conservation Park are a bit different because they’re relatively young caves, so they have lots of delicate formations compared to what you might see elsewhere. Lots of caves are hundreds of millions of years old whereas this one has a lot more of the smaller formations like straws and helicitites because it’s only a bit over half a million years old, so at the same time it’s got huge slabs of flowstone because the rock is so soft.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s great meeting different people from all around the world and getting to show them around a place like this. I like seeing their reactions – until you open the door to the Show Cave they have no idea what they’re in for.
Also for me, working underground means I get to stay out of the weather! The temperature in the cave is always a cool 16-degrees no matter what the weather is outside, which means it’s a cool place to be in summer and comfortable in the depths of winter.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen at Kelly Hill?
It’s interesting to learn about some of the fossils have been found here. The biggest surprise was about 10 or 11 years ago when a group of cavers were doing a trip out through the southern extension of the cave. There’s an area there where they found a short-faced kangaroo skull which was about 45,000 years old.
Since then we’ve had researchers from Flinders University excavating in part of the cave, and after digging through four metres of dirt they’ve uncovered approximately 130,000 years of animals falling into the cave.
What would visitors find surprising about Kelly Hill?
The biggest thing visitors are surprised by is how dry the caves are. Usually you go into a cave like this and it’s very active, dripping wet, but most of the caves in this network haven’t had any water get into them for 25 years or more.
Throughout the month of October, Kelly Hill Conservation Park is being celebrated as Park of Month – an initiative between Nature Play South Australia and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.