Kings Canyon (Northern Territory)

Kings Canyon is part and main attraction of Watarrka National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. It is located 245 km southwest of Alice Springs in a straight line in the Amadeus Basin and forms the westernmost part of the George Gill Range. His impressive rock walls of sometimes over 100 meters high and its thanks to a year-round water-bearing Billabongs high biodiversity make it a popular tourist destination in the Red Centre.

  • 7.1 Aboriginal
  • 7.2 European discovery
  • 7.3 development
  • 7.4 Today


The canyon is located in the southwestern part of the Northern Territory. Alice Springs is located 245 km as the crow flies south-west. The shortest way is 330 km long and runs through the Mereenie loop, which is not paved and also a license (permit ) requires. The only continuous paved access is via the Stuart and Lasseter Highways and then along the Luritja Road. Another route is the only passable with four-wheel vehicles Ernest Giles Road, which runs about 100 kilometers north parallel to the Lasseter Highway. In the area there are also some 4WD tracks.

The George Gill Range, and thus the Kings Canyon, located in the transition zone of three major regions:

Due to its location at the intersection of different landscapes range plants of all three areas are found in the George Gill, who normally do not grow in one place.


The canyon consists of impressive, often over 100 meters high rock walls ranging in colors from red and yellow to white. Through the canyon, the temporary water-bearing Kings Creek, which forms an ever wet water hole at its end draws. This Billabong is almost completely surrounded by high rock walls that provide shade, creating a micro- climate in which many green plants grow and so gave him the name of the Garden of Eden. The canyon is surrounded by a plateau, which is dominated by the cathedral and other interesting rock formations.


Three Kings Canyon Hiking trails lead from the parking area by the surrounding landscape. They have different lengths and different hard, but all well marked.

Kings Creek Walk

The shortest way is the Kings Creek Walk, which leads into the canyon at Kings Creek along into it. At the end there is a viewing platform that allows a good view of the steep rock walls. In the same way it goes back to the starting point. There and back the track is 2.6 km long, what one hours is estimated. The road ends at the platform because the underlying part of the local Aboriginal people is sacred; it is not allowed, and from there to go further along the creek to the pool at the end of the gorge or to climb up the top edge of the canyon.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk

The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a trail that leads to three to four hours to the canyon around. The 6- kilometer trail begins with a steep climb, then it leads to a relatively flat section between the Cathedral of the surrounding plateaus along. Halfway stairs lead down the canyon, where a bridge spans the gorge. After crossing an optional side trip to the Garden of Eden can be done. The main path then leads back through the plateau before it relatively shallow leading down to the parking lot.

This route offers many vantage points from which both the various shapes of the rocks of the plateau and the water hole and the steep rock walls of the canyon can be viewed. Although the path is a circular route, and could be done so in both directions, write the Ranger for safety clockwise before a circumnavigation.

Giles track

The Kings Canyon parking lot is also a starting point for the Giles Track, a 22- kilometer trail from Kings Canyon to Kathleen Springs. The item marked with orange arrows trail on the southern edge of the George Gill Range along, crossing a wide plateau, which is characterized by narrow gaps and gorges and sandstone domes. To the south, the vast plains of sand can be overlooked, extending up to 80 kilometers away Lake Amadeus.

Halfway the Aboriginal community Lilla can be reached via the Tjintjit - Tjintjit track, but this is not possible without permission. Along the route several streams ( creeks ) to cross, including Reedy Creek, Rocky Creek, Hill Mulga Creek, Waru Creek, Wanga Creek and Kathleen Creek. Camping is allowed anywhere between 3 kilometers and kilometers 20, but it is recommended to stay at Reedy Creek.


The climate of the surrounding region, such as Central Australia generally, mostly hot and dry; Summer temperatures are above 40 ° C are not uncommon. As is common in deserts, however, the landscape cools due to the lack of clouds overnight from strong, thus, the daily variation is characterized by large fluctuations in temperature. Within a day, the margin is often more than 15 degrees and in winter can certainly freezing temperatures occur.

Kings Canyon is located in the semi -arid climate. The average annual temperature is 15 ° C; the warmest month is January with an average of 31 ° C, the coldest June with 14 ° C on average. The highest temperature ever recorded was 45.3 ° C and was registered on 21 December 1990, the lowest -5.1 ° C on July 2, 2002.

The mean annual rainfall is 318 mm, most of which falls during the hot months between October and March. The wettest months are November and February each with 47.7 mm and the driest month is August with only 5.7 mm.

The following table shows the average climate values ​​for the years 1990 to 2011:

The extreme climatic conditions require caution when hiking. In summer ( January / February ), the temperatures at sunrise around 6:30 clock still at a comfortable 20 to 22 ° C, to 10 or 11 clock the 30 -degree mark but is often exceeded. From walks in the midday heat is discouraged strongly. Beginning of 2003, died two older visitors, as they did not comply with this recommendation.


Kings Canyon is one of the main tourist attractions of Australia's Red Centre. In 2008, approximately 215,000 visitors visited the Watarrka National Park. In most multi-day Uluru- Kings Canyon Tours is also the part of the program.

Development of visitor numbers:

Due to the extremely hot climate in the summer is the peak season in the Australian winter, from March to October. During this time the temperatures are bearable, which makes a pleasant especially the walks. From trips in the midday heat is not recommended throughout the year and signs expressly, clearly and repeatedly to the risks posed. Visitors are stopped per hour to drink at least a liter of water and to protect against the sunlight.


The Kings Canyon region consists of two different sandstones: the 400 million years old, very resistant to weathering Mereenie Sandstone and the underlying, 440 million years ago, much less resistant Carmichael Sandstone. 350 million years ago broke the Meerenie on Sandstone.

A particularly deep gap has been eroded deeper and wider by wind, rain and flooding. As this gap reached the softer Carmichael Sandstone, this has been eroded faster than the overlying Meerenie Sandstone what this robbed the support and formed by episodic collapse of the upper layers of rock over millions of years to Kings Canyon.

From the air, the running roughly north-south and east- west direction columns of the surrounding plateaus are good to see that form a grid consisting of cubical blocks. In the last 20 million years of wind and rain have eroded gradually the sides and corners of the cube. Thus, the plateau formative Domes originated.



The land surrounding the Kings Canyon is the home of the Aboriginal tribe of the Luritja. The water hole of the Kings Canyon offered them even in times of severe drought a reliable water source. On the site of today's national park there are sites Luritja - art, including petroglyphs and paintings. These are great for tourists but not accessible because the Luritja fear damage to this heritage.

In the National Park there are many places with high spiritual value for the Luritja, such as particularly the extraordinary rock formations fall. The local creation myth says that during the Dreamtime ( Tjukurpa ) adult and young men of Kuningka along the Kings Creek to the north traveled to the water hole with the local tribal family to hold a ceremony. In faith Luritja embody the domes on the plateau surrounding the young fellow.

Much of the Luritja now lives in the 190 km north-west settlement Papunya.

European discovery

On October 30, 1872, the two explorers Ernest Giles and Samuel Carmichael reached the first Europeans to the area and hiked at Kings Creek along down into the canyon. The local Aborigines had previously seen neither white people nor the horses used by them as a means of transport. Giles named the Canyon to an old friend, Fielder King. The mountain range, the westernmost end of the canyon, he named after his brother George Gill, who had helped in financing the expedition.

" The country round its foot is the best I have seen in this region; and could it be Transported to any civilized land, its springs, glens, ferns, and flowers zamias would charm the eyes and hearts of men who are condemned to toilworn and live in crowded towns. "

" The area around his foot is the best I 've seen in this region; and could transport them into some civilized country, their sources, valleys, ferns, Zamias ( a cycad genus ) and flowers would delight the eyes and hearts of those to abschuftenen people who are condemned to live in crowded cities and to die. "

A year later, in 1873, led an expedition under William Gosse in the region. The participants traveled with camels and camped at Kings Creek to break up then in a southerly direction. Later in her trip, she discovered the Ayers Rock and named him after the then Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers.

The next European visitors to the area were what is known as the Horn Expedition delegation of prominent scientists in 1894. Among them were experts in flora, fauna, geology and anthropology; and also they used camels for transportation. They were particularly impressed by the opulence of nature in the area.


In the late 1880s the canyon the Tempe Downs Cattle Station was built east. However, immediately followed some bad years, so that in 1896 hardly grass or water were gone and pulled the farm with 2500 cattle in the approximately 25 kilometers to the area around Reedy Skirt Hole and Kathleen Springs.

Also for the Luritja there were hard times: they had in this arid region is very precious waterholes against the new competitors to defend because, unlike the discoverer of the farmers had come to stay. Soon the Luritja began to hunt the cattle of white farmers with spears, to which the police responded with arrests.

Since there was no road to the Canyon, were so far had only been a handful of Europeans in the area. The scenic beauty was the vast majority of people unknown. When Arthur Little, the owner of the Angas Downs Station, in 1960, Jack Cotterill showed the canyon, this was very impressed by the beauty of the landscape. He wanted the region for tourism and open up the family built the first street in the southern hemisphere summer 1960-1961 for Canyon. Opened in 1961 Cotterill on Yowa Bore, 100 kilometers east of the canyon, the tourist lodge Wallara Ranch. To reward the pioneering Cotterills is located on the Canyon since 1982 a monument with the following inscription:

" In Memory of Jack Cotterill, whose vision and use it all made ​​it possible for us to share this wonderful place to visit. "


In 1983, the Tempe Downs Cattle Station was from 1059 square kilometers of land on which officially Watarrka National Park was established in 1989. Kings Canyon Resort, a kind of base for tourists and opened in 1992. Luritja The Road 1995 completely finished, which in past times significantly facilitated and led to a huge increase in visitor numbers.

To be returned (see also Aboriginal Land Rights ( Northern Territory ) Act 1976) - In Australia, are currently running programs through which stolen by European settlers land back to its rightful owner - ie the Aborigines. On July 25, 2012, the Government of the Northern Territorys handed over during a ceremony at Kings Canyon 1052 square kilometers of land of Watarrka National Park on the Luritja. Following transfer of this territory was immediately leased back for 99 years to the government; action has no real practical, but has thus "only" symbolic meaning.


25,000 years ago the area around Kings Canyon was much wetter, there existed large rivers and lakes. As these, however, shrank gradually to sandy creek beds and salt lakes, many of the then usual plants have disappeared from the region. In the more protected against drying gorges of Wattarka national parks, however, were able to maintain some plant species. Today, the National Park is home to more than fifty rare species normally not occur in this region; some are even endemic.

At the permanently water-bearing Billabongs the George Gill Range River Red Gums grow (Eucalyptus camaldulensis ).

The plateau surrounding the canyon provides for bush fires are a natural barrier, which is why many fire - sensitive plants have settled on him, including the white cypress ( Callitris glaucophylla ). These have come up with their small, scale-like, water loss -minimizing leaves adapted to life in dry conditions. Your termite- resistant wood was used for fences in the early days of European settlement in many cases.

Keep small groups of Hill Mulga (Acacia macdonneliensis ), which manage with the small amounts of liquid of small, temporary waterfalls on the steep and dry rock walls of the canyon.

To the Kings Canyon there are over 400 years old copies of the very slow-growing MacDonnell Ranges Cycad ( Macrozamia macdonnellii ).

The stunted trees of the surrounding plateaus grow mainly along the crevices, which leads to a linear distribution. Their long roots go deep into the sandstone to get there on the little water and the rare nutrients.


To the Kings Canyon there are mainly three habitats: the damp ravines, dry plateau and the sandy bed of the Kings Creek.

The most common mammal in the area of the canyon is the wallaroo ( Macropus robustus ). This type can get by with a little water and inhabited mostly rocky regions. Also commonly found is the slightly smaller black paws rock wallaby ( Petrogale lateralis).

The water hole in the Garden of Eden offers a year-round reliable water supply, which is essential for survival of many animal species of the region and attracts them from far away. Especially in the morning and evening hours can be observed often drinking animals.


  • Information boards at Kings Canyon parking lot and along the Kings Canyon Rim Walks
  • Leon Baga / Northern Territory Geological Survey: Geology of Kings Canyon National Park. Government Printer of the Northern Territory, Darwin, 1988, ISBN 0-7245-1315-9 ( Trove entry).