Morialta Conservation Park
Morialta Conservation Park is located 10 km northeast of the Adelaide GPO in South Australia. The park covers an area of 533 ha and is joined to Black Hill Conservation Park to the north by Fifth Creek and Montacute Road.
The suburb of Rostrevor adjoins the western boundary of the park while agricultural and quarrying activity occurs along the eastern boundary. The southern boundary is partly defined by the ridge which carries the Norton Summit Road.
Morialta Conservation Park conserves spectacular rugged ridge, gully scenery and three waterfalls. The Morialta Gorge, including the Fourth Creek and its three waterfalls, has been a public reserve since 1915 and continues to delight visitors with its spectacular rugged vistas. The park offers superb bushwalking opportunities, just minutes from the urban fringe.
The waterfalls along Fourth Creek are perhaps the best known feature of the park. The first two falls are the grandest, each cascading over sheer quartzite cliffs (23 m, 15 m respectively) and Third Falls (13 m high). To see the Falls at their best, visit the park during spring or winter when the water flow is strongest. The rocky banks and pools provide habitat for small reptiles, frogs and birds. Away from the gorge, woodlands clothe the hills where honeyeaters, thornbills and many other bird species make their home, while spindly sheoaks and yaccas cling to the steepest slopes.
Morialta Conservation Park forms an integral part of The Greater Mount Lofty Parklands - Yurrebilla which links 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 is critical to the survival of many threatened plants, animals and ecological communities found nowhere else in the state. Additionally, dedicated networks of trails will directly link local areas to the Parklands network through key parks and reserves. These corridors will provide increased opportunities for the community to access a diverse range of recreational, educational, spiritual and cultural activities in different locations throughout the Parklands.
First Falls from Eagles Nest
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, whereas 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 plains during the summer months. These cooler late afternoon and evening winds are often quite strong and can provide relief after hot days.
Morialta 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 Morialta was their use of fire to encourage regrowth of landscape, 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), noted 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.
Old Morialta Kiosk, 1940s
(Photo: Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia
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, land was purchased in or near Morialta from 1839 by William Glegg Gover and then by Stradbroke. In 1850 John Baker purchased land on Fourth Creek, near the eastern boundary of the park. Baker, a pastoralist, became a Member of Parliament and then a Premier in 1857. He also built Morialta House. Sections of the park were purchased by Price Maurice (1877), Sir Richard Chaffey Baker (1907-11) and from 1901 John Smith Reid owned much land in the area.
The scenic values of Morialta had long been recognised and in 1911 John Smith Reid first offered to donate part of his land for a public reserve. The offer was conditional on the provision of a tramway extension by government to Morialta. Considerable discussion followed and finally Reid donated 218 ha in 1913. In 1915 Morialta was proclaimed a National Pleasure Resort!
Morialta, and particularly the walk to First Falls, remained a popular destination for Adelaide residents. Considerable construction works were carried out during the 1920s and 1930s. Path construction, stone walls and retainers, stone shelters, signs, landscaping, exotic woodland plantings and the provision of a kiosk and shelters occurred at different times. Severe floods and bushfires destroyed much of the construction work undertaken during this period. History repeated itself with the major Fourth Creek flood in the early 1980s, when massive reconstruction of access ways was again repeated.
In 1966/7, the Wallman property to the east of the then existing reserve was purchased and proclaimed a National park under the National Parks Act 1966. In 1968 land was acquired that added to the Morialta picnic ground. In 1972 all sections of Morialta including the Wallman purchase were re-proclaimed as the Morialta Conservation Park.
The Lofty/Barossa District of the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH), based at the Black Hill Administration Centre, now manages Morialta Conservation Park.
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.
There are picnic tables, barbecues, a small playground and a toilet block within the expansive grassed and well shaded picnic area adjacent to Stradbroke Road. At the First Falls car park, where most of the trails start, there are toilets, wooden tables and drinking water facilities. Permanent holdfasts are provided in the rock climbing area off Norton Summit Road.
Morialta resource centre is available for hire for conferences, meetings etc. Please contact the district office for further details.
There are no other facilities elsewhere within the park.
Parking at Morialta Conservation Park
The Morialta Precinct Redevelopment has included the substantial upgrade of visitor facilities. Part of this redevelopment includes the introduction of an automated parking fee station as part of a series of measures to manage vehicle congestion. Pedestrian safety has also been improved by installing traffic 'rumble strips' and lowering the speed limit to 25 km/hr
A fee now applies for vehicle entry into the Falls car park area at the end of Morialta Road. For frequent park visitors, an unlimited entry annual parking pass is available. Income generated from these fees will support the maintenance and upgrade of park facilities, enable extended daily opening hours to sunset, and help to conserve the unique biodiversity of the reserve.
To create more parking spaces a new car park has been built next to the picnic ground off Morialta Road (available to visitors at no charge). Visitors taking advantage of free car parking at this point can enjoy a 15 minute walk along Fourth Creek to the Falls visitor information area.
Pleasant Short Stroll to First Falls
Looking back over Morialta from one of the many walking trails
For a leisurely stroll, wander beside the creek along the Valley Walk, past Giants Cave and on to the base of First Falls. There is access for wheelchairs along this relatively flat and well surfaced track which criss-crosses Fourth Creek. The deep valley is well shaded and is probably the coolest area of the park. There are tables, relaxing creekside and shady areas at the car park.
A steep climb to Deep View Lookout rewards walkers with an amazing view down through the valley to the city and metropolitan coastline. Further on from the lookout the track meets the top of First Falls and Second Falls and eventually the base of the secluded Third Falls. The trail loop network travels through diverse native scrub on the drier slopes and the wetter area creekline vegetation. Watch out for lizards sunning on the trails and the occasional echidna searching for ant nests in the evening. Please remember, park gates close nightly. The park is open to walkers after this time but not vehicle traffic.
Picnic area at Morialta
Rock Climbing off Norton Summit Road
Near the entrance to Morialta Conservation Park (beside Stradbroke Road) there is car park access to an expansive open grassed area beside the creekline. This area is well shaded by large gums and has barbecues, tables, and toilets. It is an ideal area for families and friends to have a picnic, play games, or just relax. This popular area links with the road and trail access to the First Falls car park and walking trails area.
The rock faces in the Morialta Gorge provide some of the best local areas for rock climbing and abseiling. Please observe the conditions for use of these areas which are described on signs provided on site. Commercial groups that wish to operate in Morialta must be recognised by the South Australian Rock Climbing Association (SAREA) and obtain a permit from a Ranger at the Lofty/Barossa District Office. To ensure that visitors using the walking trails are not endangered by rock falls, rock climbing is only permitted between Second and Third Falls, where no walking tracks exist below. This area has scenic views of the Gorge area and a range of climbs of varying difficulty. Best access to the rock climbing area is off Norton Summit Road.
Phytophthora cinnamomi (Pc)
This 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 in the park.
If you are not sure about what you can and can't do in the Morialta Conservation Park, contact us before your visit.
For a legislative overview concerning rules and regulations in Department for Environment and Heritage reserves, visit the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and Regulations.
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 Morialta, to quartzite, shale and phyllites with generally only mild evidence of folding.
Cliff face in Morialta Gorge
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 Morialta 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 in Morialta.
Overlying the Undalya Quartzite are the phyllitic siltstones of the Saddleworth Formation, including the black carbonaceous shales (in Morialta) and the Beaumont Dolomite (in the northeast of Black Hill).
Morialta Conservation Park abounds with wildflowers every winter and spring
Morialta Conservation Park conserves important and comparatively large areas of native vegetation of the Mt Lofty Ranges, including 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.
The vegetation of Morialta represents a diverse range of associations with structure and understorey influenced by former land management practices and fire regimes as well as the underlying geology.
The diversity of vegetation within the park is high, notwithstanding high levels of introduced species. Morialta has 339 native and 187 introduced known plant species.
The vegetation represents both savannah type woodlands with herbaceous understoreys and sclerophyllous open forest, dominated by the canopy species Stringybark Eucalyptus baxteriand E.obliqua, Pink Gum E. fasciculosa, Blue Gum E. leucoxoylon, Red Gum E. camaldulensis and Manna Gum Eucalyptus viminalis ssp. cygnetensis.
Morialta Conservation Park continues to sustain a diverse range of native fauna. The fauna present within the park includes an extensive variety of birds (74 species have been recorded for the park), a restricted number of small mammals and a few species of important amphibians. Certain reptile species are also common.
The existing diversity of landform and vegetation provides habitat for a number of 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, Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula and species of small bats (belonging to the Microchiroptera group).
Reptiles and Amphibians
The moist, rocky and confined banks and pools of Fourth Creek provide habitat for many species of reptiles and amphibians. Another special feature of Morialta is the higher slopes of the Gorge which provide good reptile habitat. Five species of frogs and 15 species of reptile, including geckos, dragons, skinks, snakes and lizards are found in Morialta Conservation Park.
The birds of the park are typical of the Mt Lofty Ranges. Some 74 species are recorded for Morialta, including species usually associated with the higher rainfall areas of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula.
Some migratory birds have been recorded in the park, as have a number of bird species that typically move widely within the Mt Lofty Ranges. These latter species, eg honeyeaters, follow the changing supply of food sources such as honey and nectar throughout the season.
The more pristine and least disturbed areas of the park (east) provide a secure and relatively large habitat for sedentary bird species such as thornbills, wattlebirds, treecreepers, finches, pardalotes, robins and wrens. Many of the smaller bird species require the dense, 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)