Cleland Hills - NT

  Place Name


DEG: -23.76294 130.72091
DMS: 23º 45' 46.58" S 130º 43' 15.3" E
UTM: 52 K 7370957mN 675373mE
Altitude: 653.26m


Place Type

Population - Place Name


131.86kms South of Nirrippi
136.63kms SouthWest of Papunya
146.3kms East of Kintore
166.29kms North of Yulara

Address & Contact

Lake Mackay NT
Phone: N/A
Email: N/A
Web: N/A


The Cleland Hills are a low, western outlier of the George Gill Range and are surrounded by sandplains and dune fields in the predominantly flat landscape of the Great Sandy Desert. The Hills are mostly composed of the highly porous Merenee sandstone and hold water after infrequent rain. The hills support open-woodland with an understorey of spinifex grassland. The range was named named by W H Tietkens on 14 May 1889, "after Dr W L Cleland of Parkside."

Driving along the northern edge of this range, the geological history of the area is written deeply in the weathered sandstone strata. In this area, the sandstone takes a finely banded form in conical structures not dissimilar to that found in Purnululu (The Bungles) of WA. Weathering of the northern ridges has resulted in large caverns, many of which were used as a place of regular habitation by the nomadic desert people. The southern side of the range is rugged, wild and inhospitable and even today there is not much known of it. It was into this area that Maurice was now heading.

Although Ernest Giles had been within striking distance of the northern side of the range in 1873, the Cleland Hills and Gill Creek were first discovered during the Central Australian Exploring and Prospecting Association's Expedition of 1889 under command of William (Harry) Tietkens. Having left Bond Springs some 2 months earlier, Tietkens had been moving slowly westwards on a meandering course. He had been beset by nearly 10 days of constant rain, a rarity for these parts and on the 11th -12th May, was wandering slowly through the Watson Range some 13 miles to the East South East. From his vantage point in the Watson, Tietkens sighted an impressive range to the north west and departed to investigate on the 13th May, 1889. As his journal of the expedition recounts;

Monday, May 13th 1889 - Camp No. 27; “To examine a remarkable part of this range I turned upon a bearing of N. 37° W., travelled over open spinifex sandhills for ten miles, then turned northerly for half a mile when we came to a gum creek running south-westerly; I was in hopes of obtaining sufficient to fill my kegs, but was very agreeably surprised to find a stream of beautifully clear water coming from a glen in the hills. I have never seen such magnificent bean trees as those growing on the banks of this creek, besides gum trees of majestic proportions luxuriating in the richest brown loam imaginable. There were grasses, shrubs, and undergrowth of the most vigorous growth, low pine clad sandstone hills on either side, completing a landscape only too seldom, met with in Central Australia. We had travelled but a short distance it is true, but it was impossible to pass this spot without examining it in detail, besides my ailing camels would benefit by a day on such magnificent feed; so at the entrance to the glen we turned them out”.

Tuesday, May 14th 1889; “Went up the glen with Billy to explore its beauties and wonders, walked for three miles up the creek, for the last two miles we had walls of sandstone rock about 80 or 100 feet high on either side, the creek channel being about a chain wide, running water the whole way. The creek in many places formed into pools or rock ponds; these were two and three chains in length and ten and twelve feet deep, and so shaded by rocks on every side that they cannot be looked upon as otherwise than permanent for caravan purposes. I have called this "Gill's Creek", after Mr. Thos. Gill, of Glen Osmond, and hon. treasurer to the S.A. branch of the Royal Geographical Society, and the range from whence it takes its rise, the "Cleland Hills", after Dr. W.L. Cleland, of Parkside”.

Wednesday, May 15th 1889; “Altogether there is nearly twelve miles of running water in the different channels that empty themselves into Gill's Creek. The glen at the head of this creek I have named "Glen Emily", after my sister. I do not think this water is always running, but it will continue to do so for some months to come.”

W.H. Tietkens - Journal of the Central Australian Exploring and Prospecting Association's Expedition 1889.
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Closest Weather Station

Watarrka at 14/09:00am CST
Distance from Cleland Hills 102.51km SE
TemperatureFeels LikeRel. HumidityDew PointPressureRainfallWind DirectionWind SpeedGusts

Closest Climatic Station

Distance from Cleland Hills 102.51km SE
Mean Max. °C38.536.634.430.624.721.321.624.429.432.834.936.1
Mean Min. °C23.623.020.616.710.
Mean Rain mm34.847.135.513.921.416.115.95.711.228.448.537.2

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