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Shell Hill Reserve

Home > Adelaide > Day Trips | Escape the City | Outdoor | Places of Interest | Walks
by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
Inspired by Australia's natural, developing and fun environments. Join me. Get some inspiration.
Published August 10th 2016
5,000,000 years old and still going strong
South Australia is unique in many ways, and Shell Hill Reserve is one of these. Believed to be the only shell deposit of its type in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere, it attracted my attention, and I thought I'd take a better look.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Shell Hill - Steve Hudson


Shell Hill Reserve is located between Walker Flat and Black Hill, sitting above the banks of the Marne River. Shell Hill is estimated to be over 5 million years old, and consists of a deposit of oyster shells that is up to 6 metres thick in some places. Shell Hill was originally part of a shallow sea that occupied the Murray Basin all those millions of years ago.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Unique - Steve Hudson


This deposit of oyster shells was discovered early in the 20th century, and soon thereafter a firm called Ellis & Clarke commenced mining the shells from 1931, converting them into lime and selling them to local farmers as fertiliser. The mine lasted only a few years, before becoming uneconomic due to the maintenance costs associated with grinding the tough oyster shells. A second attempt to mine the shells started in 1942 and lasted four years.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Oyster Shells - Steve Hudson


Over the years, souvenir hunters acquired some of the shells, and continued the process of demolishing this unique site. After several more years, the Mid Murray Council took control of the site, has fenced off the large central oyster shell deposit to prevent further degradation, and installed information boards, picnic seats and walking trails.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Picnic Facilities - Steve Hudson


There are four walking trails of varying distance with the longest being around 3km and encompassing the whole reserve. The walk encompasses magnificent vistas of the Marne River Valley and the surrounds, the Marne River itself and of course the oyster shells which are now wide spread following the past activities on the site.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Signposted Trails - Steve Hudson

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Information Boards - Steve Hudson


The shorter walks provide different perspectives of the site with wildflowers on display throughout late winter and spring, and wombats, echidnas and various birds active for most of the year. The walks are all well sign posted, and are defined as easy to moderate.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Colourful Plants - Steve Hudson
Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Wildflowers - Steve Hudson


Shell Hill Reserve is open all year round and is free to visit. There are no facilities or drinking water at the Reserve, but there are some picnic tables. The Reserve is approximately 10km northwest of Walker Flat. Further details are available at the Reserve or from the Mid Murray Council website with a small brochure also available from the Mannum Visitor Information Centre.

Shell Hill Reserve, Shell Hill, Black Hill, Wongulla, Walker Flat, Swan Reach, Mannum, Mid Murray
Shell Hill Reserve - Steve Hudson

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Why? A unique sight in SA
When: Any time
Where: Shell Hill Reserve, Wongulla
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Wow Steve - a brilliant discovery and must see/must do! Great article - thanks so much for sharing this and making us aware (I'm looking forward to a day trip and discovering Shell Hill)...
by Jenny Pickett (score: 3|1696) 1216 days ago
What an interesting place Steve. This is an area of Australia I am keen to visit.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7511) 1216 days ago
I never knew this existed and now I'm very keen to go and have a look! Thanks for the great article Steve :)
by Paula McManus (score: 3|3431) 1213 days ago
Very interesting read, Steve!
by Elaine (score: 3|6834) 1217 days ago
Hello Steve...there would not be too many people outside the area that would know about this.Went there many many years ago,before it was made into a nice area to park/picnic and go for walks.I have done a full day walk along the Marne River..down to a small weir..we began from a farm property in the hills...the name of which I have forgotten..perhaps you know where I l.mean.The river was flowing and had to cross it a few times and got our feet wet.Maybe you have done the walk...needed to get someone to drive our 4wd. to the small weir,so we did not need to walk back.It is a magnificent walk, along the river with it's high banks/cliffs and trees.One needs to be in good physical condition to do this walk..but it is not exhausting..just take some food and drink and perhaps carry a stick to help cross the river.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 1215 days ago
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