Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) Northern Territory, Australia

We left camp at 7:45 for Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park. It is often referred to as Australia’s Grand Canyon and is known for it’s soaring red sandstone walls and is part of the George Gill Range. The walls of Kings Canyon are over 100 meters high, with Kings Creek at the bottom. We intended to hike the King’s Canyon Rim Walk, a 6K (3.7 miles) with sweeping views of the gorge and surrounding landscape. The day was mild enough (it is closed if projected temperatures are 36 degrees) so we headed out on the walk around 8:30am.

There is a steep climb up at the beginning of the walk (the locals call it “Heartbreak Hill” or “Heart Attack Hill” due to its steepness) ascends to the top) treats one to spectacular views of the vivid orange-brown gorge below and of the surrounding landscape. We anticipated a 3-4 hour adventure. I was feeling quite challenged and felt winded about a third of the way up this first rock “staircase”. I realized I was trying to keep the brisk pace set by Nick and Luke – many years younger than this older adult. Settling into my own pace, I marveled at this impressive eye candy landscape. I keep thinking of how my definition of “eye candy” has evolved over time. At one point in life it was definitely handsome men but now it is breathtaking landscapes!

We opted for a 600 meter side trek to the Cotterills Lookout and it was well worth the challenge of negotiating the multilayered sandstone domes to get to the vantage point. I love the challenge of finding solid footing for my “safe” path up these adrenalin injecting rock outcrops! At times it was a bit frightful given the brisk wind and the crevices between the tiered sandstone “hills” thus requiring a bit of rock hopping. From this vantage point the cliff edges are spectacular.

 

About half way through the walk we descended down into the canyon via a staircase to a bridge across the canyon bottom. A permanent waterhole was visible but due to the arid conditions and lack of rainfall the amount of water was scant. Vegetation in the creek bottom is abundant and ancient ferns abound which are estimated to be over 400 years old.

 

We ascended up the staircase to the other side of the canyon. The last half of the walk passed through a large maze of weathered sandstone domes resemble ”beehives.” and often identified as the “Lost City.


The primary rock of Kings Canyon is formed of Mereenie Sandstone, a clean white sandstone. I was quite surprised to see broken sandstone almost white inside. The red exterior color is thought to be due to iron-rich dust blown onto the rock surface. It becomes chemically fixed to the sand grains by a form of fungi which thrive on iron, silica and rainwater.

 

After a brief rest we opted to take the two km out and back King Creeks walk tracing the bottom of the gorge. The entire creek bed up to the turn around point was a a completely dry bed with no waterholes. It was lined with tall trees and mostly shaded. Due to a rockfall the viewing platform was closed but having been able to hike the rim loop we were not too disappointed. Up until this hike I never felt through our travels that the flies were bad enough to warrant the fly net.  However I decided to get out the fly net as there was a very pesky constant annoyance. As on most of the hikes, since so much hiking earlier in the summer in Colorado with Tasia and Amara, one fun way to stay engaged in the surroundings is to find faces (and animals) in the rock formations, trees trunks and deadwood. I was psyched spotting a “skull” and “worm larva.”

 

 

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