Black Hill Conservation Park

Black Hill Conservation Park is located 10 km northeast of the Adelaide GPO, in South Australia. The park covers an area of 684 ha and is bounded to the north by the valley of the River Torrens and Gorge Road. To the south it joins Morialta Conservation Park by Fifth Creek and Montacute Road. The suburb of Athelstone adjoins the western boundary of the park while agricultural and quarrying activity occurs along the eastern boundary.


Ambers Gully
Black Hill Conservation Park conserves spectacular rugged ridges and offers gully scenery. A comprehensive network of management tracks and walking trails exists in the park. A wide variety of native plant species inhabit the park, ranging from giant River Red Gums Eucalyptus camaldulensis var. camaldulensis in the valleys, to low heath plants on the ridge tops. Common amongst the heaths are the low sheoaks, which give Black Hill its name. The foliage of the sheoaks gradually matures to a dark rusty, almost black colour, as summer progresses. Looking from the Adelaide Plains, the hill appears to be black in colour.


Below Black Hill, on the flatter land, various developments have been established including the landscaped Wildflower Garden, and the Department for Environment and Heritage's Lofty/Barossa District Office, which administers a number of surrounding parks.


Black Hill Conservation Park is contained within the scope of The Greater Mount Lofty Parklands - Yurrebilla and forms an integral part of these parklands that link reserves across the Mount Lofty Ranges and Hills Face Zone. The Yurrebilla Parklands provide biodiversity and recreational links between a variety of land tenures to form a ‘second generation’ of parklands around the city of Adelaide complementing initiatives under the Parklands 21 initiative.


The land contained within The Greater Mount Lofty Parklands - Yurrebilla and parks like Black Hill is critical to the survival of many threatened plants, animals and ecological communities found nowhere else in the state. Additionally, a dedicated network of trails will directly link local areas to the Parklands network through key parks and reserves. These corridors will increase opportunities for the community to access a diverse range of recreational, educational, spiritual and cultural activities in different locations throughout the Parklands.



Ambers Gully woodland
The park is subject to cool wet winters with warm to hot dry summers. The average summer maximum temperature during January and February is 28 degrees Celsius. The winter average temperature is around 17 degrees Celsius.


The average annual rainfall ranges from 640 mm near Athelstone to 944 mm near Norton Summit where rain-bearing clouds, moving over the Adelaide Plains, are forced up by the Mt Lofty Ranges resulting in increased rainfall. Rainfall occurs mainly in the May to September winter period, although late spring and summer thunderstorms are not uncommon.


Wind direction differs from Adelaide, with the regular occurrence of gully winds from the top of the ranges to the plain during the summer months. These cooler late afternoon and evening winds are often quite strong and can provide relief after hot days.




Aboriginal History
Black Hill Conservation Park is part of the traditional lands of the Kaurna people. The intensive settlement of the Adelaide plains during the last century has had a devastating effect on the Kaurna people and their culture. Within 50 years of settlement they no longer lived a traditional life close to Adelaide (Tindale 1974).


Before colonial settlers understood and had an appreciation for Aboriginal culture, most of the Kaurna Elders had died. As a result little is known about past use of the area by the Kaurna people. One aspect of Aboriginal use of this area was apparently seasonal migration. Tindale (1974) suggests that the Kaurna peoples "most consistent movements were towards the seashore in summer and inland at the beginning of winter to find better shelter and better sources of firewood". The upper slopes were used for hunting Possums, Bandicoots and other small animals and particularly for supplies of the cossid larvae of the Large Moth Xylentes affinis found boring in the stems of the Golden Wattles Acacia pycnantha (Tindale 1974). They also hunted kangaroo, fish and lizards, and collected birds eggs (Ellis 1974)


Probably the most significant impact of Aboriginal occupation of Black Hill was their use of fire to encourage regrowth, as a hunting aid to flush out game, and to facilitate easier movement through the scrub. Descriptions at the time by settlers like Angas (1847), note the blackened trunks in the forest and the huge summer fires seen from the plains. Unfortunately we can only guess at the frequency, intensity and timing of Aboriginal use of fire, as this vital ecological information was never properly recorded.


European History


Historical ruins at Ambers Gully
Europeans first settled the Black Hill district in the 1840-50s. With the discovery of copper (1844) and gold (1846), a rapid expansion of mainly Cornish miners occurred. During this minor mining boom, members of the Field Naturalists' Society climbed to the summit of Black Hill. They were so impressed that they proposed land be set aside as a reserve. As a result a 4 ha reserve was proclaimed in 1860. Meanwhile, the alluvial flats associated with the River Torrens and Fifth Creek were slowly being developed as market gardens and Black Hill became the source of wood for the water pumps and building materials. Wattle bark was also collected for the supply of tannin to the leather goods industry.
From about 1900, quarrying occurred within Black Hill for road making material and also for barites, a mineral used as a pigment in paint production (Wills 1981). The northern areas of Black Hill were farmed and orchards were subsequently established in Ambers Gully.

Ambers Quarry
In the late 1940s Mr F C Payne who owned property on Addison Avenue Athelstone, at the foot of Black Hill, established a garden of 250 native plants from all over Australia. This grew and became known as the Athelstone Wildflower Garden. In 1963 it was bought by the City of Cambelltown and in 1973 was sold to the then Department of Environment and Conservation.


In 1962 the Metropolitan Adelaide Development Plan had proposed the creation of a regional park in the vicinity to cater for the open space requirements of the expanding north east suburbs. Between 1970 and 1975 the State Government progressively acquired the parcels of land that were proclaimed Black Hill Conservation Park in 1975.

Black Hill Woodland
In 1977 the Black Hill Trust was formed to initiate the development of the Black Hill Native Flora Park and its associated Conservation Park. In 1979 the new plant nursery opened at Maryvale Road, Athelstone, and in 1980 the Administrative Centre was opened at the same site. Extensive landscaping, walking trail construction and interpretive services transformed the Black Hill area.


With the major development and construction work completed, the State Government dissolved the Black Hill Trust and Black Hill Conservation Park returned to the then National Parks and Wildlife Service.


The Lofty/Barossa District of the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH), based at the Black Hill Administration Centre, now manages Black Hill Conservation Park.
Visiting the Park


Park visitor information can be obtained from the Black Hill Office, 115 Maryvale Road, Athelstone, telephone (61 8) 8336 0901.


There is a large car park and mains water taps located around the Black Hill administration building. Car access and picnic tables are confined to this area of the park, although walking trails with small car parking areas can be accessed off Montacute Road. Montacute Road divides Black Hill and Morialta Conservation Parks. Convenient park entrances are accessible from Addison Avenue and Gorge Road. There are no toilets available in Black Hill, but toilets are still available at the Wildflower garden.


The Addison Avenue Wildflower Garden entrance, provides you with a place to park your car and toilet facilities in the nearby administrative building. The administrative building is also used by the Friends Group. Picnic tables are located off the Orchard Track, Montacute Road and near the Winter Waterfall, Ambers Gully.


There are no other facilities within the park.



There is a network of fire vehicle access tracks and walking trails within the park. The Black Hill Summit walking trail is accessed from Addison Avenue. The Summit trail traverses through undisturbed native scrub up to the top of the ranges. After a fairly steep climb, walkers are rewarded with inspiring panoramic views of Adelaide City from the top of the rugged bushland ranges. The climb will take around 3-4 hours and is about a 5 km round trip.


While walking in the park, particularly in the early morning and at dusk, you may see echidnas searching for ants, Common Brushtail Possums Trichosurus vulpecula in the tree tops and possibly the occasional Southern Brown Bandicoot Isoodon obesulus in the thick undergrowth along waterways. There are also many reptiles that live within the park including the Tawny Dragon Ctenophorus decresii, Skinks, Sleepy Lizards and Geckos. Watch out for snakes in the summer time!


Wildflower Garden
Explore the maze of shady paths and the gently flowing creek, amongst the planted and native gardens. The area is due for upgrading and re-landscaping over the coming years but still contains many unusual native plant species from around Australia. Walkers can take the Buffer Zone Track from the Administration Centre, on Maryvale Road, out to the Nursery area via the arid zone garden and around the lake. This track highlights the contrast between the native scrub of the park and the neighbouring suburbs. This walk offers excellent views of the Barker Inlet and the Adelaide Plains.


The park also contains a wide variety of native plant species that provide a stunning display of flowers in the springtime including many delicate and colourful species of flowering native orchids.


New Holland Honeyeaters Phylidonyris novaehollandiae


Many native bird species inhabit the park including Thornbills, Wattlebirds, Treecreepers, Finches, Lorikeets, Pardalotes, Robins, Wrens, Rosellas, many Honeyeaters and several birds of prey. Be sure to bring binoculars and a bird identification field guide when walking in the park, you will be amazed by how many different species you can discover.


Many of the native plant species along the secluded paths are identified with a small plaque noting the common and botanical names of numerous species.


Picnics and Recreation
Around the District Office there are many wooden tables and grassy areas, shaded by large gum trees, suitable for a peaceful picnic and leisure activities. There are water taps near picnicking areas. Picnic tables are also located along Ambers Gully Trail and Orchard Trail.


Phytophthora cinnamomi (Pc)
Phytophthora (pronounced fy-toff-thora) is a root rot fungus that is killing our native plants. Native plant and animal habitats in this area are threatened by this fungus. Once infected, the damage to natural ecosystems is forever. Please help stop the spread by staying on the trails and complying with all root-rot signs and foot cleaning stations within the park.


If you are not sure about what you can and can't do in the Black Hill Conservation Park, contact us before your visit at telephone (61 8) 8336 0901.


For a legislative overview concerning rules and regulations in Department for Environment and Heritage reserves, click here to view the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and Regulations.


Lofty/Barossa District Office
Black Hill Conservation Park
115 Maryvale Road
Athelstone SA 5076


Phone: (61 8) 8336 0901
Fax: (61 8) 8336 0900
Email: Lofty Barossa


In case of after hours emergency call the duty officer pager 1300 650 411 and quote pager number 465281 or during business hours the Department for Environment and Heritage on (61 8) 8204 9000.

Sediments laid down within the Adelaide Geosyncline were uplifted along fault lines and folded about 470 million years ago. This laid the foundation of today's Mt Lofty Ranges. The sediments during this mountain building period were converted, in the vicinity of Black Hill, to quartzite, shale and phyllites with generally only mild evidence of folding.


Ambers Gully waterfall cave
About two million years ago, mountain building occurred again, and in association with fault lines, caused renewed uplift of the Mt Lofty Ranges. The fault blocks east of the Eden-Burnside Fault rose and started the process of stream erosion that shapes the modern landscape.


The Undalya Quartzite present in Black Hill is a medium grained Feldspathic Quartzite interbedded with minor siltstones. This strata has proved to be resistant to erosion and is responsible for the rugged slopes and cliff faces along the Sugarloaves and range summit within Black Hill Conservation Park.


Overlying the Undalya Quartzite are the phyllitic siltstones of the Saddleworth Formation, including the black carbonaceous shales and the Beaumont Dolomite in the north-east of Black Hill.


Black Hill Conservation Park conserves important and a comparatively large area of native vegetation in the Mt Lofty Ranges. The park contains vegetation associations that are characterised by a high level of biodiversity. The park also contains a number of plants of conservation significance, including rare and vulnerable species.


Greenhood Orchid
The vegetation of Black Hill represents a diverse range of associations with structure and understorey influenced by former land management practices, fire regimes and underlying geology.


The diversity of vegetation within the park is high, not withstanding high levels of introduced species. 302 native and 73 introduced plant species have been recorded within the park.


The vegetation represents both savannah type woodlands with herbaceous understoreys and sclerophyllous open forest, dominated by the canopy species Stringybarks Eucalyptus baxteriand E. obliqua, Pink Gum E. fasciculosa, Blue Gum E. leucoxoylon, Red Gum E. camaldulensis and Manna Gum Eucalyptus viminalis ssp. cygnetensis.




Dragon Lizard
Black Hill Conservation Park continues to sustain a diversity of native fauna. The fauna present within the park includes an extensive range of birds (93 species have been recorded for the park), a restricted number of small mammals and amphibians. Certain reptile species are also common.


The existing diversity of landform and vegetation provides habitats for native mammals. The park supports populations of Western Grey Kangaroo Macropus fuliginosus, Short Beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus, koala Phascolarctos cinereus, Yellow-footed Antechinus Antechinus flavipes, Bush Rat Rattus fuscipes, Common Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus, and Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula.


Reptiles and Amphibians
Black Hill supports a wide variety of reptile species. The park has 21 species of reptile including three Geckos; in particular the rare Adelaide Hills Southern Spiny-tailed Gecko Strophurus intermedius, two Dragon Lizards, three Legless Lizards, ten Skinks, and three Snakes. Black Hill Conservation Park is home to the rare Adelaide Hills Southern Spiny-tailed Gecko. The creek tributaries support several species of frogs.


Various migratory birds have been recorded in the park, as have a number of bird species that typically move widely within the Mt Lofty Ranges. Common bird species, eg honeyeaters, follow the changing supply of food sources such as honey and nectar throughout the seasons.


The more pristine and least disturbed areas of the park (in the south and Southeast) provide a secure and relatively large habitat for a number of sedentary birds as well including Thornbills, Wattlebirds, Treecreepers, Finches, Pardalotes, Robins and Wrens. Some of the smaller bird species require the dense and closed vegetation offered within the park to survive.


Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH)



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