Conservation Reserve is accessed just 75km south of Alice Springs from a turn-off along the Stuart Highway. A 22km access road that is unsealed with sandy patches leads to the reserve, which offers vehicle access, camping and walking.
The area gets it name from the scenic sandstone bluffs and cliffs that show rainbow-coloured bands. These are particularly striking at dawn/dusk when the colours are enhanced.
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The coloured rock bands in the sandstone cliffs were caused by water. In earlier, wetter times the red iron of the sandstone layers were dissolved and drawn to the surface during the dry season. The red minerals formed a dark, iron rich surface layer with the leached white layers below. This dark red capping is hard, and weathers slowly, whereas the softer white sandstone below weathers quickly into loose sand. Weathering and erosion have also produced the valley shape, where sandstone blocks have eroded into rock faces and squared towers.
Surrounding the James Range are spinifex dominated sand plains and claypans.
The traditional owners (Upper Southern Arrernte people) call the area Wurre. The Reserve has important archaelogical sites and artefacts which are evidence of ancient Aboriginal occupation in the area. A spread of black rocks at the northern base of the main rock formation is significant as is a large rock massif, known as 'Ewerre' which is a registered scared site.