Ranger tips: Sturt Gorge Recreation Park

Get insider tips on the best places to visit and must do activities from Ranger Kurtis Madigan.

Located just 13 kilometres south of Adelaide’s CBD, Sturt Gorge Recreation Park is a hidden gem.

It has a large network of shared-use mountain bike and walking trails, a spectacular rugged gorge with internationally recognised geological significance, cascading waterfalls, rockpools and creeks that flow during winter, and it’s an urban oasis for native wildlife and vegetation.

To help plan your next visit, here are some tips from Ranger Kurtis Madigan:

What’s your favourite walking trail in the Sturt Gorge Recreation Park?

There are so many trails in this park, it’s hard to narrow down a favourite.

If I’m going for a walk with some mates that aren’t keen on a long or challenging walk, I like the Lakeview Trail in the Craigburn Farm section of the park.

The trail loops around Craigburn Lake and is a good spot for birdwatching. The trail is great for a relaxing stroll and will only take about 30 minutes to complete the 1.5km distance.

I personally prefer a longer walking experience and the River Trail is great in that respect. I like to start the trail at the eastern end of the park and follow the Sturt River all the way to the western end.

The trail takes in the rugged beauty of Sturt Gorge while passing through a variety of vegetation communities along the way. The 8km trail is rated as a ‘hard hike’ and you should allow 4 hours (one-way) to complete it. However if you don’t have time you can complete shorter sections of the hike.

Be sure to check out the view from the lookouts at the top of the Sturt River dam wall, which you can access either from the River Trail, the Craigburn Road walk or the Wattle Trail.

There are some steep sections that you need to be wary of, so make sure you keep an eye out for the warning signs, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and take care in those areas.

Top tip: If you’re walking with a friend and you have access to two cars, it’s a good idea to park a car at either end to save the return walk. If you don’t have access to a car, public transport is available near both ends of the trail.

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River Trail

When is the best time to visit?

I love to watch the park transform from the browns and yellows of summer to the lush greens of winter and then back again.

Each season provides a different perspective of the park with different highlights to see. If you’re visiting in summer, I would choose a day with mild weather, while autumn and spring are probably the most ideal for longer walks and rides.

Here’s what I like about each season though:

  • The summer sunsets with views of the Adelaide Plains below are really special. There’s not too many things better than finding a quiet place to sit and watch nature’s palette go to work.
  • Autumn heralds the first rains after summer, and soon after native pink garland lilies start popping up in the park.
  • Winter transforms the park with water flowing down the waterfalls and gorge. I love walking in the rain and mist, which I think enhances the colours of the park as the moss and fungi come to life.
  • In spring, as the warm sunny days return, it’s a great time to see wildflowers, such as native orchids, and baby wildlife. The big bright blue skies and colours of the park are a highlight.

Top tip: During winter the Sturt River and the creeks are at peak flow, which can potentially affect accessibility to trails that follow the creeks and river. During this time it’s a good idea to choose a trail away from the creek, especially after heavy rain.

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Pink garland lilies (Calostema pupureum)

What native animals can be seen in the park?

Sturt Gorge Recreation Park provides an oasis for wildlife in an area surrounded by urban development. Koalas, kangaroos, short-beaked echidnas, kookaburras, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and Adelaide rosellas are some of the species often seen in the park.

You might also spot a variety of woodland bird species like golden whistlers, crescent honeyeaters and well as reptiles and amphibians.

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Striated pardolote (image courtesy of @nativeaustralia1, Instagram)

What’s the best mountain bike trail?        

I’m no mountain biking expert but I love it for the ability to cover a lot of ground while taking in the sights and sounds. The adventure is an added bonus.

I like the variety and taking in different aspects of the landscape. So for me, I like to ride along trails such as Tapa Turunka, de Rose, Lomandra or the Wattle and Lakeview.

The de Rose is a particular highlight, with views of the coast and city, and the Lomandra Trail allows you to explore through the nationally threatened grey box grassy woodland.

Top tip: Start with the Surf and Turf trail in the Craigburn Farm area to find your feet, then make your way to Gunners Run via Little River, a fun, flowing contour trail for more experienced riders. Continue down to Horner’s Corner if you’re game to attempt the full 25km loop. The cool shady areas of the Wattle Trail and the fun flow of the Lomandra and de Rose trails will make it worth your while.

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 What is the park’s best kept secret?

I would say the whole park itself. Sturt Gorge Recreation Park is just 13km south of the Adelaide CBD and nestled amongst the suburbs of Flagstaff Hill, Eden Hills, Bellevue Heights, Craigburn Farm and Coromandel Valley. A lot of people live all around it or drive past it as they travel along Flagstaff Hill Road, but not many people know it’s here!

Top tip: Before visiting the park download the park maps from the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA website or for a geo-enabled map, download the maps through the Avenza Maps app. The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. Once you’ve downloaded it, the app can be used without a network connection.

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Sturt Gorge Waterfall (image courtesy of @running__trails, Instagram)

Park of the Month – March 2020

Throughout the month of March, Sturt Gorge Recreation Park is being celebrated as Park of Month. There are heaps of events and activities to get involved in and explore the park.

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