Innamincka Regional Reserve Park
With dramatic links to some of Australia's most famous explorers, diverse wildlife and extensive wetlands, Innamincka Regional Reserve Park offers visitors a unique and compelling experience of the Australian Outback. Surrounded by vast expanses of sandy desert and arid plains, it is an oasis of striking contrast where you can boat along a gum-shaded creek, explore historic sites or fish and swim in one of the area's many waterholes suitable for these activities.
Within its 13,800 km² the reserve includes Innamincka township, once a vital trading post for pastoral properties in the region, and now mainly serving the tourist trade. Among the must-see sites are the original graves of ill-fated explorers, Burke and Wills, Coongie Lakes, Cullyamurra waterhole, King's site and the Dig Tree historic site.
To camp in the Park you must be in possession of a current Desert Parks Pass or an Innamincka Regional Reserve camping permit.
Innamincka was geographically destined to play a major role in the early explorations of Australia's unknown interior to its north and west. Its central location and reliable water supply made it an ideal base camp or resting place for expeditions and cattle drives from the east and south. River beds, with their canopies of shade, offered mid-summer relief for travellers and stock alike, and there were plentiful supplies of fish and game most of the year.
The restored Australian Inland Mission - Hospital Building
Captain Charles Sturt became the first European to set eyes on the Innamincka wetlands in 1844-45. Only 15 years later Burke and Wills died here, tragically close to help. Their companion John King's life was saved by local Aborigines who discovered him in desperate plight and sustained him with their own survival skills.
Between 1870 and 1890 the north-east of South Australia saw the arrival of sheep and cattle, leading to the establishment of the pastoral industry at the turn of the century. Sidney Kidman (later Sir Sidney Kidman) bought Coongie Station in 1902 and Innamincka Station in 1908. The 2 properties were merged in 1930 under a pastoral lease which is still held by the Kidman Pastoral Company.
The stone-walled Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home, opened at Innamincka in 1928, was part of a network of outback hospitals providing medical services for people living in isolated areas. Today the restored building serves as the Innamincka Regional Reserve Park headquarters and information centre.
In 1988 Innamincka Regional Reserve made its own contribution to history when it was established to assure the integrity of the wetlands with both commercial and managed recreational use continuing side by side. It was the first reserve of its type in Australia.
Aboriginal Culture and Heritage
Cooper Creek was a major Aboriginal trade route, and the name Innamincka is believed to have derived from Aboriginal legend. Through their hunting and fishing skills, the four main groups of local Aborigines survived for thousands of years in a harsh environment where white men quickly perished. Ironically, it was the vulnerable newcomers who introduced disease, notably influenza, which decimated the native population in 1917. The last initiated elder of the area, died in 1958. Many remains of Aboriginal people may be seen in the area. Please exercise respect for them and leave them where they lie.
Throughout the reserve, particularly along the Cooper and on the shores of the lakes on the North West Branch, you may see evidence of occupation, including middens (camp sites), artifact scatters (tool-making sites), rock engravings, arrangements of stone, timber, earth and quarries.
A display giving an insight into the natural history of the area, the Aboriginal people and their culture, and European settlement is open daily at the Innamincka Regional Reserve Park headquarters.
Information on Innamincka Regional Reserve is available from the Desert Parks Hot Line at Port Augusta (08) 8648 5328 and the Innamincka Regional Reserve Park headquarters (61 8) 8675 9909.
Northern River Red Gums Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Coolibahs Eucalyptus microtheca cover the banks and floodout areas of Cooper Creek and the North West Branch, which flows into the Coongie Lakes system. Lignum Muehlenbeckia florulenta often forms dense thickets beneath the river gums.
The gibber country has sparse vegetation, except for Mitchell grass and some other grasses and herbs. The drainage lines are filled with Red Mulga and Gidgee Wattle. Dunes in this area can be as high as 15 metres and are 400 metres apart on average. Vegetation on the dunes varies, but you may see Whitewood, Narrow-leafed Hopbush, Sandhill Wattle and Sandhill Canegrass. Between the dunes, swales can be sandy, clayey or covered in small silcrete pebbles. Depending on soil type and how often the area is inundated, determines the vegetation type from grasses and herbs to low open woodlands of coolibah.
Many species of native animal are present within the reserve, but most are difficult to observe. Easily seen are Dingoes and Red Kangaroos. Water-rats can also be observed, usually at dawn and dusk, swimming beside the banks and diving for mussels and fish. They are a delight to watch, as are the Rainbow Bee-eater birds flitting across the water. Bats are rarely seen, but watch out for them at night near lights where moths gather, and keep your ears open too for Innamincka's fascinating Barking Owls.
The Western Brown Snake
Snakes are rarely seen on the reserve, especially during the cooler months of April to September, but all should be treated with respect and left alone. The area is home to the world's most venomous snake, the fierce snake or Inland Taipan. Other snakes you may see are the Woma Python, the King Brown and the Western Brown. The Bearded Dragon and Gould's Goanna are 2 species of reptile likely to be out during warm sunny weather.
Tortoises are commonly seen with their head just poking out of the water or sunning themselves on a convenient log or rock. Frogs are often heard along Cooper Creek but they are difficult to find. Most desert frogs are active only after rain.
There are many introduced species to be found, including Donkeys, Camels, wild horses and other feral animals. As well as being a multiple land use reserve, Innamincka is also a working cattle station so you will see cattle and horses. You may also see cattle mustering taking place in some areas of the station.
In recent times Feral Pigs have made an intrusion into the area and visitors should exercise some caution when camping around water courses.
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH)