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Where is Brachina Gorge?
Brachina Gorge is part of the Ikara – Flinders Ranges National Park. The turn off to Brachina Gorge Road is about 30 minutes from the Wilpena Pound Visitor Centre. Brachina Gorge road runs between the Flinders Ranges Way at one end and the Outback Highway at the other.
Speak to five people and you will hear the name ‘Brachina’ pronounced 5 different ways. There seems to be consensus on the sound of the letters at the start and end of the name but that is about it.
Whether you pronounce the ‘c-h’ as ‘ch’ as in cheese or ‘k’ as in echidna seems up for grabs. If we had to guess, we would come down on the side of ‘ch’ for cheese. Then there is the mystery of whether the emphasis is on the first or second part of the word…
Read More : Things to do in Wilpena Pound
Things to do in Brachina Gorge
The Brachina Gorge trail is a 20 km unsealed road. For our drive, the track was in good enough condition for 2WDs to make the journey. Best check at the visitor centre on the condition of the road. It wouldn’t take much water for it to be impassable for 2WDs. The eastern half of the trail is the best for 2WD access.
The main feature of the drive is the Brachina Gorge Geological Trail. The trail features the geological history of the region. There are signs and stops all along the track that point out various geological features.
Even if geology isn’t your thing, the scenery is spectacular. The colour and shapes of the rocks and ranges will have you taking lots of pictures.
The gorge at the western end of the drive is stunning. The towering orange rock walls will have you gazing skywards. They light up when the afternoon sun hits them. The giant river red gums in the dry creek beds are also a great sight.
Brachina Gorge is set up to be driven from east to west, starting at the Flinders Ranges Way end of the track. There are information boards at this end of the track that explain the Geological Trail,
The nature of the track changes as you make your way across. The area around Brachina Gap becomes quite rocky. It isn’t a problem for 4WDs. But if you are in a 2WD beware – the smooth dirt road at the start of the track doesn’t continue all the way through!
Another option is to get onto Brachina Gorge Road via Bunyeroo Gorge Road. Bunyeroo Gorge features some stunning scenery including the iconic view from Razorback Lookout. The scene graced the cover of the Hema Map road atlas for a few years. The Bunyeroo Valley Lookout is a cracker too.
The Bunyeroo Gorge Road intersects Brachina Gorge Road approximately halfway along. At the T-junction you can choose to go one way or the other or do some doubling back to see the full length of the Brachina Gorge Road.
Book A Tour : Take a half day tour of Brachina & Buneryoo Gorges
Bunyeroo Gorge – Razorback Lookout
How we did it
We decided to explore Bunyeroo Gorge – we couldn’t pass up the chance to see that view from Razorback Lookout. We then drove to the start of the Brachina Gorge Road, turned around, and drove the full length back. While back tracking might not be everyone’s idea of fun, we had an ulterior motive.
We also wanted to spot yellow footed rock wallabies. As they appear later in the day, we had plenty of time to do the extra kilometres. As a result, we drove back 11 kilometres and a few million years to the start of the geological trail.
Brachina Gorge Geological Trail
You don’t have to be a geologist to see that the gorges and ranges of the Finders tell a fascinating story. The trail covers a period of approximately 150 million years. It was a time of climate change, the formation of the Flinders Ranges and the start of primitive life.
The signage along the trail describes and illustrates various geological landmarks. The information is presented in an easy to understand style. So, whether you are trying keep the kids interested or find rocks a bit dull, you’ll still enjoy the trail.
It pays to get out of the car at most of the stops as walking around the sites is the best way to appreciate them. We never thought we’d be speaking about our favourite ‘formations’. But the Brachina and Trezona Formations were stand outs!
Our only disappointment was not being able to spot the fossils at the western end of the trail. Perhaps their location is not public knowledge or more likely, we didn’t know what to look for. It would have been cool to see some fossilised trilobites or brachiopods.
Where to find Yellow footed rock wallabies
The other significant thing to see in Brachina Gorge is yellow footed rock wallabies. We’d planned our drive to be in the gorge at late afternoon when the wallabies come out of their hides to feed.
As we made our way towards the gorge, Nat and I talked about where we should look to find them. Nat said she had read or heard that they come out on the sunny side of the gorge.
We drove through the high-walled gorge and saw nothing. It was around 3.30 in the afternoon. We weren’t sure if it was too early or we were looking in the wrong place. We were about to re-drive the same area when we came to an even taller section.
The near vertical hill face must have been a couple of hundred metres high. In some areas long piles of small rocks spilled down to the ground, but most of the wall was craggy orange rock. There was a fence running along the road. Attached to the fence were signs saying this was a rock wallaby habitat.
Yellow footed rock…goats
It was a striking landscape, one of the best of the drive. It looked like the perfect place to find a yellow footed rock wallaby. There were small caves and hollows everywhere for the wallabies to shelter in. There was plenty of room to pull over. We got out of the car and looked and listened.
It wasn’t long before we heard something on the slope. There was some rustling from behind a bush and then they appeared. Goats. High on the hill was a lonely goat herd making its way down the slope. A dozen of them nimbly made their way down to the road.
We stayed in the area for the best part of an hour but saw nothing else. Yellow footed rock wallabies are classified as ‘near threatened’. It was disappointing but not surprising that they are hard to find.
Yellow footed rock wallabies!
We decided to do one more lap of the gorge area. We got back in the car, drove 100 metres up the road to do a u-turn and Nat let out a yell. There on the other side of the fence, were two of them. We couldn’t believe it. They were more spectacular looking than we could have imagined.
We pulled over and watched them and three or four others that appeared. We soon realised why they are so hard to find. When the two we first saw moved back towards the rocks, unless you know where to look, they are impossible to see.
You’d think their yellow feet and paws, banded tails and the white on their face would give them away. But no. If you take your eyes off them for a moment, it’s quite tricky finding them again. You realise how well adapted they are to their environment.
We watched half a dozen of them, effortlessly hop up and down the sheer gorge face and feed on the grass lower down. It was brilliant, one of the highlights of our trip to the Flinders Ranges.
The end of the drive
We left the yellow footed rock wallabies and finished the Brachina Gorge Drive. It was near dusk and we saw kangaroos everywhere. The scenery around the Teamsters campground and Illina Creek is spectacular.
The drive ends with wonderful views from the Brachina Gorge Lookout. The warm glow of the late afternoon sun made it that much better. While a low sun is great for lighting up the hills, it’s not so great for driving.
Once you leave the gorge it is a straight drive west along a wide smooth dirt road back to the Outback Highway. If you are leaving the gorge late in the day, you’ll be driving straight into the sun. The glare was terrible. If there’s dust in the air from another car it is almost impossible to see.
It was a relief to turn south and get back onto the bitumen. Bunyeroo Gorge and Brachina Gorge are spectacular and are sure to be a highlight of your Flinders Ranges trip.
We stayed on a powered site at Rawnsley Park Station, about 15-20 minutes South of Wilpena Pound. The Station has generous sites, good amenities and a good camp kitchen. The fire pits are on each site but it’s BYO firewood or you can purchase from the onsite shop.
Bush Camping is also available. There are several well maintained campsites along the track. The Youngoona, Trezona, and Brachina East camp sites are all on the eastern half of the track. The Teamsters Camp site in the gorge area is spectacular. You have to book a site. Check the National Parks site for details.
Brachina and Buneryoo Gorge is located inside the Flinders Ranges National Park so to explore the area you will need a Park Pass. A Daily Park Pass ($11 per vehicle) can be purchased at the Wilpena Pound Visitor’s Centre.
Kangaroos, Euros (wallaroos) and emus; we saw plenty of them. It was a bit cool for lizards and snakes to be out but keep an eye out for them in warmer months. You can see Yellow footed rock wallabies in the late afternoon in the gorge.
Aroona Ruins is another camp site but there are some interesting ruins here too. From the main carpark, walk up the hill and you’ll see the remains of some buildings. There is also a nice view from the top of the hill.
Brachina Gorge Lookout. There are lots of great views in the Flinders and this lookout at the western end of Brachina Gorge Road is no exception. Assuming you start your drive from the east, the lookout is a great way to finish your Brachina Gorge drive.
Walking Trails. There are walks from many of the campsites. At the Aroona Ruins is the trailhead for the Trezona and Aroona to Youngoona trails. Australia’s longest walk – the Heyson Trail – passes through Aroona too. The full trail is 1200 kilometres long, but you can do a little bit of it from Brachina Gorge!
Emma Smith Grave. Found near the start of Brachina Gorge Road, this might be a marker you drive past. We almost did but were glad we took the couple of minutes to have a look. The gravestone and plaque give a brief but telling insight into the harsh conditions faced by the early settlers.