World heritage bid flinders ranges large
World heritage bid flinders ranges large

15 fascinating facts about the Flinders Ranges

17 Apr. 2024 6 min read

This World Heritage Day (18 April), find out what make the Flinders Ranges such a fascinating region and the focus of SA's latest World Heritage bid.

The Flinders Ranges is a fascinating region in South Australia known for its rugged beauty, rich Aboriginal history and unique wildlife.

As South Australia continues to work on a World Heritage nomination for parts of the Flinders Ranges, here are 15 fascinating facts about this remarkable part of the world.

15 fascinating facts about the Flinders Ranges

1. Largest mountain ranges

The Flinders Ranges are the largest mountain ranges in South Australia. Starting about 200 km north of Adelaide, the ranges

stretch for over 430km, from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna, and include a natural amphitheatre of mountains, known as Wilpena Pound. Wilpena Pound was formed by a large syncline between two mountain ranges and is an iconic feature of the South Australian landscape.

2. Age

The Flinders Ranges are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, formed over 600 million years ago. The Flinders is the only place on Earth where 350 million years of near-continuous geological sequence can be seen, demonstrating the rise of a habitable planet and the dawn of animal life. There is nowhere else in the world where this is so clear, so connected and so well presented.

3. Geology

The Flinders Ranges are a folded mountain range which began forming about 800 million years ago, when an ancient sea deposited sediments in a basin known as the Adelaide Geosyncline. Around 300 million years later, the basin sediments were folded into mountains during a mountain-building period.

These mountains have since eroded. However, the folded and faulted rocks remained and in the last five million years, have created a rugged landscape filled with sandstone, mudstone, limestone, and quartzite.

4. Traditional owners

The Adnyamathanha people (meaning “hills or rock people”) are the traditional custodians of the Flinders Ranges. Evi­dence of ongo­ing occu­pa­tion by tra­di­tion­al own­ers, includ­ing ash and char­coal mid­dens, can be found across Nilpe­na Edi­acara Nation­al Park. The pound area was known as Ikara or “meeting place” to the Adnyamathanha people, and the park has many culturally significant sites.

15 fascinating facts about the Flinders Ranges

5. The oldest evidence of animal life

In 1946, some of the oldest fossil evidence of animal life was discovered, including the world’s finest example of the Ediacaran explosion of life, when the earliest forms of complex multicellular animal life evolved. Similar fossils have subsequently been found in the ranges, including at Nilpena. The State Government is currently working on an application for World Heritage listing to help protect these sites. Visitors to Nilpena Ediacara, South Australia’s newest bucket-list tourist attraction, can take an exclusive guided tour into the fossil field – and experience the rare privilege of walking through a working research site.

6. World heritage

If successful, the Flinders Ranges would become Australia’s 21st property on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites but only the second in SA, along with the Naracoorte Caves.

7. Astronomy

The clear, dark skies of the Flinders Ranges make it an excellent destination for stargazing and astrophotography. Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, located in the northern Flinders Ranges, has recently been designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, recognising this area as one of the best places in the world to see the night sky.

15 fascinating facts about the Flinders Ranges

8. Wildlife

The region is home to a diversity of wildlife, including kangaroos, emus, wallabies, and numerous bird species. Visitors may spot grey-fronted honeyeaters, the iconic wedge-tailed eagle soaring above the deep red Simpson Desert or the delicate Lake Eyre dragon, which can be found dancing across the hot salt lake. And thanks to conservation efforts, the rare yel­low-foot­ed rock-wal­la­by can be seen in Brachi­na and Wilka­w­il­l­i­na gorges.

9. Climate

The climate in the Flinders Ranges is typically arid, with hot summers and cool winters. Rainfall is relatively low and unpredictable. Summer temperatures usually exceed 38 °C, while winters have highs around 13–16 °C.

10. Flora

Despite its arid climate, the Flinders Ranges supports a variety of plant life, including native eucalyptus trees, spinifex grass, and colourful wildflowers that bloom in the spring, carpeting the plains and foothills.

11. National Parks

Much of the Flinders Ranges region is protected within national parks, including the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, Nilpena Ediacara National Park and Mount Remark­able Nation­al Park.

Ikara flinders national park was established on January 1st, 1945, making it one of the earliest national parks in South Australia. It was initially named after the explorer Matthew Filnders, who scaled Mount Broen in March 1802. In 2016, the park was renamed to include the Adnyamathanha word Ikara (meaning meeting place), in reference to the traditional name for Wilpena Pound.

15 fascinating facts about the Flinders Ranges
Nilpena Ediacara National Park

12. Hiking Trails

The region offers numerous hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging multi-day treks. Popular trails include the Heysen Trail and the St Mary Peak Summit Walk. The Flinders Ranges is also home to many ancient rock art sites. Many walks can take visitors to see examples of Aboriginal art dating back thousands of years. Adnyamathanha guided cultural tours can be booked at Wilpena Pound Resort.

13. History

William Pinkerton is credited as being the first European to find a route through the Flinders Ranges via Pichi Richi Pass. In 1853, he drove 7,000 sheep along the eastern plains of the range, to where Quorn would be built 25 years later.

15 fascinating facts about the Flinders Ranges

14. Pastoral past

There are records of European settlers living in the nearby Quorn District since at least 1845, with the first grazing licenses issued in 1851. Old Wilpena Station was a working station for 135 years, right up until 1985, and it is one of South Australia’s best preserved pastoral sites. The blacksmith’s cottage, stables, garage, homestead and cemetery in Quorn offer a fascinating insight into the lives of the region’s first European settlers.

15. Films

28 films have been made using the Flinders dramatic landscape as a backdrop. From salt lakes to moonscapes, rugged desert ranges to heritage buildings, the Flinders Ranges offer a huge variety of landscapes and it’s not surprising that many productions have chosen to film in the region. In fact, Australia’s first technicolour film Kangaroo was made in the Flinders Ranges.

Learn more about South Australia’s World Heritage bid here.

To plan your trip to the Flinders Ranges, check out our ranger tips for an unmissable adventure


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