Approximately 500 million years ago, the whole area was once the bottom of the ocean. The rock layers were lifted and water erosion formed the incredible gorges, these corridors through time.
There are information signs posted along the road, with the approximate ages of the area. To best understand the timeline, and to follow the dating in chronological order, it's recommended that you start on the east and drive heading west.
The road in starts from the sealed Hawker to Blinman Road. From there the road is 20 kilometres of dirt and, in places, very rocky. 4WD is recommended. If you don't have a 4WD, then a car with a reasonable clearance will be fine. Always check the travelling conditions with the park rangers before entering the gorge.
You'll first drive through the scenic Bunyeroo Valley road with its impressive views to Wilpena Pound's Razorback Ridge from the lookouts.
Next is Brachina Gorge. The road through the gorge cuts through a 130 million year old timeline. You can see the layers as you travel through.
Drive slowly through Brachina Gorge and keep a look out for the endangered Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby. You'll see them in the early morning and late afternoon as they soak up the warm sun. Once found in great numbers in the Flinders, it's now estimated that there is one rock wallaby per 1000 square kilometre.
This drive is not one to be rushed. Allow plenty of time to explore - at least half a day. Or, even better, camp overnight or for a couple of days and really absorb the magnificent environment.
Camping is allowed, it's cheap, and is a terrific experience for all ages. There are numerous camping grounds for tents and campervans. There are toilets and the payment can be made at the Wilpena Pound Information Centre or by self-registration. Bringing pets, the use of generators and the collection of firewood in the National Park are strictly forbidden.
If camping isn't your thing, you can stay at one of the many accommodation places in and around the Flinders; Wilpena Pound resort or an outback station for a different experience or a pub stay in a town with a population of just two people!
Everyone needs to experience the Flinders Ranges. It's the place that famous artist, Sir Hans Heysen returned to nine times - to paint what he saw as "the bones of nature laid bare".
How to get there
Wilpena Pound is located 430 kilometres from Adelaide in South Australia.
The most scenic route to Wilpena Pound from Adelaide is via the Clare Valley where you turn onto RM Williams Way and head through Jamestown and Orroroo. The more direct and possibly quicker route is on Highway 1 to Port Augusta, Quorn and then to Hawker. Either way, it's roughly four and a half hours to five hours to Wilpena from Adelaide.
Having done this drive several times over many years in various non 4wd vehicles and when Brachina has had running water,I have safely negotiated every part of the roads.It is truly one of the outstanding drives anywhere in Aust.The Bunyeroo Valley pic captures the essence of this region.For readers that have not yet ventured here,this article should indeed inspire them to go.I suggest they try to avoid the dry dusty hot fly infested summer months or crowded holiday periods.
If travelling on gravel / dirt roads up there I suggest you take some basic spare parts with you, including "hoses". RAA emergency services are a very long wait up there - if you have enough phone coverage to call them. If you have some makes of cars the parts may have to come from overseas. From personal experience take an extra wheel and tyre. We clipped a sharp stone stuck in the road that had some dirt on top of it. One tyre went flat immediately and other one was also damaged with a smaller cut in it. That meant 2 new tyres and we only had the normal 1 spare tyre and wheel. We were very lucky we made it into the next town and there was a service station there and they got extra tyres for us - via a train and a long drive for it to be collected. A lot of small towns in the Flinders Ranges no longer have service stations. e.g. The Blinman one closed many years ago. It was a really good one.