Sturt Gorge: Keith walks this beautiful gorge in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia

The Sturt Gorge Recreation Park is just 13 kilometres from the city. The top of the gorge is protected by an impressive 40 metre high dam wall that was built in 1965 by SA Water to insure against the rare but potentially devastating floods that would reap havoc on everything below.

The park, declared in 1973 takes in more than 250 hectares above Flinders University. The protected bushland straddles the massive gorge carved by the river as it makes its way through the ranges to the gulf beyond.

If you want to trace the origins of the Sturt River you have to start in Upper Sturt. We stopped to look at Horner's Bridge - the first bridge across the Sturt River which was built for the Adelaide to Goolwa Road in 1866. Built with horse and bullock drawn wagons in mind it's still well used more than a century on and remains a pretty little slice of early colonial history.

To really get a sense of Sturt Gorge you need to hit the track and head down the steep tracks. National Parks Ranger, Jen Pitman tells us all this was once grazing lands but now it's an important slice of protected Aussie bush.

Jen Pitman, National Parks Ranger: "It's a very important area for the grey box, and grassy woodlands which is now a nationally threatened vegetation association. So the grey box trees and the casuarinas and a lot of the shrubs and herbs on the ground are conserved. There's not a lot of it left in Adelaide so it's a very special place for birds and animals in Adelaide."

It also helps to make the gorge a photographers dream with lots to snap at ground level and above.

Jen Pitman, National Parks Ranger: "In this park particularly you will see that a lot of the plant species are flowering at different times of the year. So especially now at the moment you'll have a lot of the pea flowers. Anytime from now until spring you'll also have the orchids coming up. They are not very big. They are quite small little plants but if you've got a keen eye and a good camera you can often catch quite a few of the orchids growing alongside the trail."

The going's easy in some places but pretty steep in others so be prepared for a workout but when you get to the bottom it's worthwhile.

Jen Pitman, National Parks Ranger: "People are rewarded for making the effort to come down here. You do have to be careful or adventurous on some of the trails in Sturt Gorge but once you get down to the gorge itself you are rewarded with beautiful views, flowing rivers and gorgeous vegetation."

Near the pretty junction of Magpie Creek and the Sturt River we find a link to the ice age. The shiny, flat rock is why the Sturt Gorge is an area of international geological significance.

Jen Pitman, National Parks Ranger: "It's called Sturt Tillite and it's a very important geological formation in the Adelaide Hills. And you won't see it in many places except in places like the Sturt Gorge."

When it was discovered in back in 1900 it was the first evidence of glacial activity in the Southern Hemisphere. Look closely and you can see smaller rocks embedded in the exposed strata. They were deposited by glaciers about 800 million years ago. Think about that long enough and it can make you feel pretty insignificant.

The river comes out of the gorge just below Flinders University at Warriparinga - a very important site for the original inhabitants of the Adelaide Plains, the Kaurna people.

The Sturt Gorge Recreation Park has a number of walks ranging from medium to difficult - check with the Department of Environment and Heritage for more details. More ?'s email

Sturt Gorge Recreation Park
Walking trails
Ph 8278 5477

Published 10th July 2011

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