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Finke Gorge National Park 2008 Photo Gallery
Finke Gorge is a large park in central Australia. One tiny part of the park, Palm Valley, is relatively well known. The rest of the park remains a mystery to all but a few keen four wheel drivers. (No part of the park is accesible without a four wheel drive.) Some of the magnificent places we walk probably receive an average of less than 20 visitors per year.
Back in the 1990s, our Finke Gorge trips went nearly every year. Then, for some unknown reason, people stopped coming, preferring to concentrate on better known places like the Macdonnell Ranges and Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park. The photos below were taken on a trip in August 2008, our first trip to the park since 1997. Even in this exceptionally dry year, there was plenty of water to be found. Scroll down and see the kind of things you might enjoy if you came to see this wonderful place for yourself.
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We left Alice Springs fairly late in the afternoon so we decided to stop and camp in the dry bed of the Finke River just on the edge of the park. The next morning we decided to explore a small dry creek near our campsite. The photo at left below shows a view up the valley. The photo at right shows a small stand of Palms up next to a small pool near the head of the valley. Contrary to popular belief, the palms are not restricted to Palm Valley, but are found in a number of small gorges and valleys.
Palm Valley is justly famous. A unique combination of geological features has allowed the palms to thrive long after their relatives which once populated the whole of central Australia had disappeared. Rather than restricting ourselves to a couple of hours, we put on packs and head out for a few days. The two photos below show us walking through valley and our first camp site, well beyond the day trippers' marked trail. Concern about the water supply had caused us to camp somewhat sooner than we would normally have done. We needn't have worried. We found pool after pool as we continued up Palm Creek. The photo at left below shows one of the pools. The one at right shows a rest stop near another. As we continued up the valley, Palm Creek broke into a number of channels and the walk got a bit scrubbier. Eventually, we decided it was time to go up and over a ridge to another creek. Although this area had had almost no rain over the past two or more years, we still found flowers in bloom. The photos below show a grevillea and an acacia. The descent into the next valley is a bit scrubbier and steeper, but not much so. You do have to work a little to get to the best places. Not far from where we made our camp, we found a large rock shelter with a number of hand paintings. The photo at left below shows the shelter. The one at right is a closeup of some of the paintings. We camped on a tributary of a tributary of Palm Creek. In a normal year, we would have had a pool. Fortunately, we knew it was exceptionally dry so we'd carried water for the night. The photo at right shows the camp fire. The two photos below show tha group at the camp site. If you come in the middle of the year, you have to be prepared for cold nights. The next morning we set off down the main creek. The walking was easy with a variety of vegetation. The two photos below show the creek. The one at right shows a cypress. The one at left shows several cycads. Just as we got back to Palm Creek, we encountered a dingo up close. He wasn't very concerned and allowed us to take some good photos. We were doubly lucky as the black dingo is much less common than the tan one. The photo right below shows us walking down Palm Creek toward the cars. This walk was over. Still better was to come.
The Boggy Hole Track: Start to Boggy Hole
You can walk from Palm Valley to the Boggy Hole track, a walk we've done in the past. We didn't have time on this trip so we drove back out to the main road and then down the track. Collecting firewood is not permitted along the track once you re-enter the park so we stocked up beforehand. Boggy Hole is one of the few large permanent water holes in the Centre. The two photos below give you some idea of the size. The one at left is looking down from the top (north) end. The one at right is our camp site, about two thirds of the way along, beyond the bend in the first photo. Boggy Hole is the start of the Deep Canyon walk. The first part of the walk sees you scramble over huge boulders, after which you climb up a dry waterfall and begin the easy part of the walk in the small gorge above the falls. The photos below give you an idea what it's like, not easy, but not all that hard either.
Further up the gorge, it flattens out. From there you walk up to the top of a ridge where you get some amazing views out over another valley. The photo at right below doesn't do it justice. The only way to appreciate a view like that is to go there yourself. From the top of the ridge, it's a relatively easy walk back to Boggy Hole via the ruins of an old police station. The photo at right shows the group walking along the south end of Boggy Hole at the end of the Deep Gorge walk. The two photos below are of some of the information signs there. You'll have to click the photos to enlarge them to be able to read what they say. They're worth reading as they show why Boggy Hole is such an important place.
Boggy Hole Track: Circular Gully to the End
The Deep Gorge walk only took a morning, so, after lunch, we packed up and headed down the track. We pulled off the track and set up camp. Our campsite was about 200 m downstream of where we had camped in 1997. That campsite is shown at right, very different to what we found in a much drier year. The photo at left below was when we arrived. The one at right was the next morning. Note how much more the people are wearing. Desert nights and early mornings are cold at this time of year. The water containers were necessary as there was no water here, a far cry from our last trip in the 1990's.
Our day walk began with a stroll across the flat, then up the small creek shown at right. Even in a very dry year, we found water. A small flock of finches took off at our approach. Near permanent small waterholes like the one shown at far right are essential for their survival.
The gorge opened up and became less steep the further we went. We found a couple of art sites. The one at left below contined boomerang stencils as well as hand stencils and hand prints. Eventually, we left the creek and headed up the slope shown below right. It wasn't long after we began the climb above that we got to the edge of Circular Gully. This is one of the most spectacular views in the region, totally unknown to the general public as it takes an all day walk off the track to get there. The two photos below give you a hint as to what it is like.
We returned to camp as the sun was setting and the moon rising. It was a perfect desert night.
The next morning we got into the cars. After a brief stop at Running Waters (shown at left) we drove out to the main road and on to Watarrka. Our visit to Finke River was over.
Want more info?
- The NT Parks & Wildlife Finke Gorge National Park page has some good general information including links to some park information sheets.
- The Parks & Wildlife Finke Gorge information sheet is two A4 printable pages.
- Travel Outback Australia has a good Palm Valley page.
- You can download an NT Parks PDF brochure about the Finke River 4WD route here.
- Interested in birds? See a bird list from one of our Finke - Watarraka trips. While the list is an old one, we still see most or all of the same species on our trips.
- We offer two trips which visit the park.