Parachilna Gorge

 

Parachilna Gorge is part of the Flinders Ranges, but lies outside of the National Park.  It lies on the Parachilna to Blinman Road. 

There are a few ways to get there.  The two most popular are taking the highway to Port Augusta, then through Quorn, up to Hawker and then on another 89 kilometres to Parachilna.  Turn right at Parachilna onto the Parachilna to Blinman Road.  You will cover about 11 k's of dirt road before reaching the scenic, hilly country around the gorge.  Then there is another 20 k's of dirt road before you reach Blinman.  However, the camping spots start well before you reach Blinman, and it's bush camping all the way through here.

The other way to travel to this spot is through the State's mid-north region - through Clare onto Jamestown and Orroroo and then onto Hawker.  This route is shorter than using the National Highway and the traffic is light, but it may take as long as the roads are not quite as good as the highway.  It is a more picturesque route though.  Once you reach Hawker, you can either follow the main road up to Parachilna (69 k's) or head to wilpena (50 k's) and then Blinman (60 k's from Wilpena).  Once at Blinman, turn left onto the Blinman to Parachilna Road.  Follow it for about 15 - 20 k's and you will reach Parachilna Gorge.

So to reach Parachilna or Blinman, you're looking at around 500 kilometres from Adelaide.  The roads are bitumen all the way, but the Blinman to Parachilna Road is dirt and it can be quite rough in places.  There are also numerous creek crossings to negotiate, which is fine when the creeks are not flowing (and they are very rarely flowing).  However, when the creeks do flow, they really flow and negotiating them would be impossible.  Even for a period after heavy rain, the creek crossings hold water.  A 4WD is recommended for this road, even in dry weather.  The crossings are rocky and the road can suffer from washouts and other damage caused by rain.  On a recent trip, I saw one 2WD travelling the road and he was doing about 25 km/hr and frequently stopping and starting.  All other travellers had 4WD's (with plenty of the so called "soft roaders" like Klugers and Territorys).

The gorge itself is quite spectacular, especially early and late in the day.  It is even more so after rain with rock pools and flowing water.  It's typical Flinders Ranges; red cliffs, pale trees and pale coloured creek beds all contrasting nicely.

 

Parachilna Gorge

The camping areas are all dotted along the gorge.  They start (if coming from Blinman) at the head of the Heysen Trail.  This is where that famous walking trail, over 1200 k's long, starts.  There is a carpark here, and a short walk will take you to the gorge.  Just west of this carpark are a couple of sites on the edge of the creek.  Once again, typical for the Flinders, the creek is very wide and almost always dry.  These sites have no facilities at all, but are quite large.  Shade is provided by some of the large gum trees. but be careful if camping near these trees.  They may drop their branches.

If you continue west along the road from this carpark, you will travel through some beautiful country.  The road winds through the gorge and there are numerous places to camp.  The areas are not marked, but are easy to spot.  Caravans and camper trailers were set up in a number of spots, along with tents.  Most of the areas are large and we spotted more than one caravan at several sites.  As you travel east, the gorges fade and the camping areas end.  The road then travels through sparse plains before reaching Parachilna.

Travelling along the Blinman to Parachilna Road.

If you are coming from Parachilna, the camping spots start to appear as the road enters the gorge country.

This area has been a popular camping area for years.  I can only assume that this area is free camping.  I can find nowhere that mentions a cost, nor have I been able to contact anyone who can verify a cost is involved.

Caravans and camper trailers should be 4WD rated if dragging them along this road, and some of the sites are plenty big enough to cater for them.  Tents are also popular, but choose your site carefully.  The ground can be rocky in places, but generally, you will have no problems pegging a tent. 

Summer here can be brutal.  All other seasons would be OK, with winter nights having the potential to be very cold indeed.  Spring is by the far the most popular time of the year.  The wildflowers are out and there is sometimes water in the creeks - if we have had a wet winter.  Campfires are allowed outside of Fire Danger Season. 

It is quite a remote area.  Fuel is available at Blinman and Parachilna and both towns have a pub (of course), with the Parachilna pub serving the infamous "Feral grill" - camel, emu and kangaroo.  There are no facilities at all in the camping areas and it is necessary to be totally self sufficient.  Groceries can be bought from Hawker if required.  Take plenty of water as there just isn't any out here normally.  You'll need to have sufficient for cooking, cleaning, washing and drinking.

It is a harsh but relaxing place to camp, with the large gum trees providing shade at most sites, and it should be possible to find an area all to yourself.  Kangaroos and emus, along with the rare Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby can all be found here, along with snakes and lizards.  All the attractions of the Flinders Ranges National Park, like Wilpena Pound, Brachina Gorge, Bunyeroo Gorge and Aroona Heritage Site (along with others) are all easily accessible, although a bit of travelling will be required.  Surprisingly, it does become quite busy here, with numerous vehicles travelling the road between Parachilna and Blinman. 

This is the type of country you could be camping in - nice.

Parachilna Gorge is a spectacular area and offers a remarkable camping experience.  As there are no camping grounds as such, just dispersed sites along the gorge, peace and quiet is almost guaranteed.