If you are into walking and exploring the the Ormiston Gorge and Pound is a place you will enjoy – but not during summer!! It will get very hot and you need plenty of drinking water. There are some great walking trails and if you happen to be there just after some major rains, it is even more spectacular.
This has to be one of the most memorable places in the MacDonnell Ranges and one of our favorites.
The Gorge is a relatively easy and fairly short walk from the car park. The cliffs rose up steeply and protrude above a cool, peaceful looking waterhole. There is a large sandy beach along one side of the water, with fascinating gum trees scattered around.
The swimming hole is cold and refreshing, but not so cold that you can ‘t stay in for a good while. There was plenty of sun on the water for most of the afternoon. Opposite the beach the water went right up to the cliff face so it was possible to swim over and look straight up at the rocks. It is incredibly beautiful and incredibly peaceful. Younger kids will enjoy exploring the rocks around the edge of the water rather than going for a swim. The rocks were patterned and of interesting shapes.
After a swim have a walk up to the lookout above the waterhole. The views across the MacDonnell ranges are interesting as you gain height. There are again interesting rocks and plants to look at as we walked. There are a lot of stairs, but it isn’t a long walk to the lookout. From here you can see along the gorge and really see the layers of rocks that made up the cliff walls. The waterhole looks amazing from this view as well. There were a couple of ghost gums up near the lookout that added something really special to the view.
There is also longer walk through the gorge if you decide to do that. The water level was high when we were there and at times the walk would have involved wading through water – this varies depending on how much rain there has been. That walk is a lot harder than simply going up to the lookout, but it sounded fantastic.
There is a kiosk near the carpark which serves food during the day and there is lots of information available about the area. There is a camping ground there – if we’d realised how great the gorge was we would have camped here and spent much more time exploring the gorge. The kiosk sometimes serves pizza at night for those in the campground.
We found it hard to leave this place, it was magical and one of our absolute highlights.
The 3-4 hour Ormiston Pound walk completes a full circuit from the Visitor Centre, meandering around scenic slopes, dropping into the mind-boggling expanse of the Ormiston Pound and returning along Ormiston Gorge via the main waterhole. The walk is best done in an anti clockwise direction – the impact of the coming into the pound is heightened. The walk cuts through a diverse geology from limestone, to quartzite and granite. This diversity of geology also mean that you travel through a diverse range of habitats from rocky, Spinifex covered hills to tree lined, rich creeklines.
As you walk keep in mind you are covering some of the territory of the elusive, rare Central Rock-rat. The name conjures up images of a typical rat but this species is a unique Australia Rock-rat and is only vaguely similar to true rats. Thought to be extinct, this small rodent suddenly reappeared after a 50 year absence only a few years ago. During the first decade of the twenty first century, it once again disappeared only to reappear in fauna surveys in mid 2010. This continual disappearance during low rainfall years illustrates the dramatic rise and fall of small mammal populations across inland Australia. When the country experiences abundant summer rainfall these species can also become common but plummet once again after typical rainfall patterns return. Much of the Pound Walk is prime Central Rock-rat habitat but because the animal is nocturnal your chances of spotting one is limited.
Keep a lookout for waterbirds along the scattered waterholes inside Ormiston Gorge. The rocky, granite area in the middle of the Pound is a great spot to see the Spinifex Pigeon and the small Military Dragon. Wedge-tailed Eagles (Australia’s largest flying bird – the Emu is our largest but he only manages to walk!) is often spotted flying high along the edges of the surround ranges.
Remember that much of this walk is unshaded so wear a shady hat, sunscreen and suitable clothing and footwear. This walk is best done in the early morning.
Remember that after high rainfall there can be extensive waterholes throughout the Ormiston Gorge that may require you to swim or wade through.
Mount Zeil NT 0872