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Deadman's Pass

Home > Adelaide > Walks | Places of Interest | Picnic Spots
by Cecelia Hopkins (subscribe)
Cecelia's articles are illustrated by Allan who enjoys photography. Cecelia is also the author of: "Silver Springtime", "All for Love", "Mystic Evermore" and the new release: "Faith and Love".
Published July 16th 2016
Haunted or not? Decide for yourself
Dead man's Pass
Dead Man's Pass - Photo by Allan

Deadman's Pass is a popular spot for locals to pull off the road to eat their picnic lunches or consume take-away from nearby Adelaide Road and Murray Street delicatessens. The car park commands an attractive view of the historic river and "pass" which has been the site of accidents and is rumoured to haunted. Public toilets are provided.

After eating lunch, the energetic have a choice of climbing down one of several dirt and pine construction staircases or following the ramp down onto the bike track. The pass is also popular as a dog walk, as we walked we met a number of couples out exercising their dogs.

According to signage at the site, the nature reserve is built upon land the council purchased from the Riggs family. It is South East of the Murray Street – Adelaide Road bridge and covers a stretch of less manicured river than the park just below the town centre. It is a haven for native plants, birds and animals. At one stage it was the site for horseback river jumping competitions, and the remains of several jumps can be seen.

The "pass" fords the river very close to the Gawler Terrace – Riggs Hill Bridge. It was originally an Indigenous trading route. Colonel William Light visited the area in 1837 and camped there on his way to while explore the Barossa area. He also used the pass to try to find a way through the hills to the Murray River. It was also used by European settlers building the nearby town of Gawler. During flood times, the "pass" became impassable and a swinging footbridge was installed.

Dead Man's Pass has been the site of several accidents. It gained its name because Colonel Light's diary records the finding of an unidentified dead body at "para pass" as it was then known, on the 13th of January, 1839. (City of Gawler 2007). Since then, a man has fallen off the rope bridge and a bullock cart overturned. Several local boys have drowned in nearby waters. (Allen Tiller).

Ghost stories have grown up around this pass, which certainly would be spooky at night. A woman in period clothing has been seen and mysterious persons appear to watch visitors from the bush. (Allen Tiller). While standing on the bike track, I felt secure and safe.

However, when I left the bike track and crossed the dirt track, the grass was sodden and muddy. Water spread in pools across the greensward and the river itself was brown from the recent storms. Children were dragging fallen branches around and playing on the water's edge, closely supervised by parents. The sides of the embankment were steep in places and I thought that danger lurked not too far away for the unwary!

Dead Man's Pass
Dead Man's Pass walking - Photo by Allan

As we got into the car, I glanced back at the "pass". The sun and shadow played upon reeds down in the creek and a mysterious haze formed over a patch. I pointed the haze out to my photographer friend, who said he "could see nothing". It was not a person hiding in the bushes, but a smoke-like haze, where I knew a few moments ago, there had been no person or fire…


Town of Gawler, Signage on site
Town of Gawler, 2007, Dead Man's Pass, Gawler, Gawler Public Library
Allen Tiller, 2013,
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Where: Corner Gawler Tce and Riggs Hill Rd.
Your Comment
Although a good article overall, it did not say where Deadmans Pass was in the opening paragraph!
I found out it was near Gawler at the very end of the article.
by Philippa (score: 1|81) 1482 days ago
Interesting article although as mentioned, the reference to it's locality came a little late in the piece. A bit more proof reading wouldn't go astray either. There are a few grammatical errors.
by diana (score: 0|2) 797 days ago
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