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Uncover Earth’s Secrets – Drive the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail

08 Nov. 2022 4 min read

Located within the stunning iconic and breathtaking Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail is a geologist’s dream comes to life.

Home to some of Australia’s most significant geological and palaeontological records, the 20km self-drive trail lets you discover million-year-old rocks, fossilised animal remains, sediment deposits and even debris from the impact of a large meteorite. Take a wander through and see if you can spot a fault line through the rocks or the shell-like remains of an animal that existed long ago.

There is plenty of signage along the way to provides an insight into past climates, the formation of the ranges and the evolution of early forms of life, and keep an eye out for the elusive Yellow-footed rock-wallabies who call the park home.

To trail follows the Brachina Gorge Road. Access is either from the park’s western entry point off the Outback Highway (road from Hawker to Blinman), or from the east along the Flinders Ranges Way between Wilpena and Blinman.

Why is it so significant?

The trail showcases an impressive geological record from period of geological time between about 800 million and 500 million years ago, essentially offering visitors an insight into 130 million years of Earth’s history. The sedimentary layers of the gorge are considered one of the best exposed sites detailing the planet’s evolution. In fact, the geological and palaeontological values are so important that the trail has been included in the World Heritage Nomination bid for the Flinders Rangers.

What is the Golden Spike?

A golden spike, technically known as a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP), is a reference point used to define the lower boundary of a stage on the geologic time scale.

The golden spike in Brachina Gorge is actually a plaque rather than a spike, and is a marker within the rock formation indicating the start of the Ediacaran Period (approximately 635 to 541 million years ago) – a time when the world transitioned from a planet that largely consisted of microscopic organism to one which was dominated with animals.

You’ll find the golden spike just next to the Trezona campground along the Brachina Gorge Road.

Visiting Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

Located about a 5 hours’ drive north of Adelaide, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is big, with plenty to see and do. It’s best to spend a few days at least.

The park can generally be explored with a two-wheel drive car, however visitors should be aware that most roads in the park are unsealed and, with sometimes rough surfaces, may be a concern for vehicles with low clearance.

At times, after rain, roads might only be suitable for 4WDs or might be temporarily closed. You can easily check online to see the local road conditions before you go.

Spring is a great time to visit the Flinders Ranges. Generally the days are warm and clear – perfect for bushwalking and exploring the park. Plus, wildflowers are likely to be in bloom, though the abundance and timing of wildflowers depends entirely on recent rainfall.

Once you’ve finished the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail, there are plenty of trails for bushwalkers and cyclists, spectacular drives through rugged gorges, and so much to explore and see for the wildlife enthusiast.

There are 10 campgrounds dotted around the park including some in the spectacular Brachina Gorge. All of the campgrounds have a toilet facility and are perfect for those wanting to connect with nature.

If you’re looking for a little more luxury, there are lots of accommodation options at Wilpena Pound Resort, including hotel style rooms, powered campsites and glamping tents.

Can I visit while the trail is being upgraded?

Planning for the redevelopment of the 20km self-guided trail is currently underway, aiming to enhance the visitor experience and refresh trail infrastructure. You can still visit the trail during this time, but be sure to check for any upcoming closures before you go.


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