Arkaroola - Mount Painter Wildlife Sanctuary hosts many self drive tracks for 4WDs ranging from beginner to advanced in difficulty. The Echo Camp Waterhole track and the Echo Camp Backtrack are two tracks that are both popular and challenging. Beginning at the little township of Arkaroola in the Gammon Ranges area of South Australia
, these tracks provide some exciting 4WDriving through spectacular scenery. Visitors coming from the Strzelecki track
will be wide eyed at the steep terrain which is an amazing contrast to the wide open spaces of the Strzelecki track
. The steep terrain in the area means that many of the tracks follow creek beds in steep gorges, and many of these will be impassable in wet weather
The Echo camp track follows a creek bed for much of the way, before turning up a steep grade to a ridge offering spectacular views of the country to the north. Winding its way down a spectacularly steep descent it joins the gravel road from Arkaroola to Paralana Springs. The springs are an interesting distraction, being radioactive; they are not suitable for swimming in. Echo Camp Backtrack is very steep, rough and quite loose in places
, and should only be undertaken with a high clearance four-wheel drive with low-range capability. Trailers should not be towed on this track, as most sections of it are one-way and very steep in places
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The Arkaroola - Mount Painter Wildlife Sanctuary is abound with wildlife from wedge-tailed eagles and emus to colourful parrots, which are all indigenous to this area. In fact, the region is home to over 160 species of birds, the rare yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, the Red Kangaroo and the Western Grey
Kangaroo, all of which are not so commonly found elsewhere in Australia
The region is defined by towering granite peaks, mysterious waterholes, razor back ridges populated by rock wallabies, and deep sinuous gorges lined with ancient river red gums. The rocky terrain is very hard on 4WD tyres and it is highly recommended to carry two spare tyres (or one spare and a tyre repair kit). Tyre inflation should be at the lower end of the safe range (depending on load) to allow tyres to flex over the many sharp rocks.
The topography of the region is simply stunning with ancient sea beds holding fossils that are millions of years old. Both sunrises and sunsets are unforgettably spectacular in these mountains, with Arkaroola Village
providing a theatre like setting to the backdrop of the rugged and spectacular northern Flinders Ranges
The area around Arkaroola is the land of the Andjnamutana people, whose dreaming tells the story of Arkaroo the legendary serpent whose thirst was so great, that he drained Lake Frome in one great gulp. His belly full, he retreated to the Gammon Ranges where winding his way through the hills, he gouged out the sinuous Arkaroola Gorge. The story tells how he lives now in Mainwater pound, where his restless turning causes the many earthquakes in the region to this day.
was the first European to visit the area when he passed west of Mt Hopeless in 1840. He was soon followed by pastoralists and prospectors and so began Arkaroola’s amazing chequered history.
The area is rich in minerals. The first were discovered in 1856 by B.H. Babbage who discovered copper. The Yudnamutana copper fields were discovered in 1860 but copper mining and smelting had a difficult start in the region. The Yudnamutana smelters were completed in 1860 but were never fired. In 1903 rubies and sapphires were discovered by, W.B. Greenwood. The mineral riches of Arkaroola seemed endless. Radium and uranium were discovered in 1910.
Thirteen years later in 1923 radium prices reached the staggering price of one million pounds sterling per ounce. Perversely, just as a major uranium/radium field was discovered by Greenwood, the price tumbled.
Hydro electricity using hot springs heated by radioactive decay was another venture that began in 1923 and failed within a year.
The Wilderness sanctuary that exists today had as difficult a beginning as every other venture in the area. The area was first fenced off in 1935 in an effort to control vermin, and all were eradicated by 1945. Reg Sprigg purchased the property in 1968 and in 1969 requested it be gazetted as wildlife sanctuary. And in 1970 a further request was made, that the property be designated an historical reserve under the Aboriginal and Historical relics Preservation Act.
In 1972, without explanation, the South Australia
Government withdrew the official sanctuary and reserve status. By 1980 the area was once again reserved for wildlife under the Australian Heritage