Watarrka National Park

Overview

Watarrka National Park contains the western end of the George Gill Range. This scenic landscape of rugged ranges, rockholes and gorges acts as a refuge for many plants and animals, making the Park an important conservation area and major attraction of central Australia.

Kings Canyon features ancient sandstone walls, sculptured by the elements, rising up 100m to a plateau of rocky domes.

 

 

How to Get There

The Park is located about 450km southwest of Alice Springs and can be reached by 2WD vehicle via Luritja Road from Yulara and Lasseters Highway (sealed road). It can also be reached: via Larapinta Drive, through the West MacDonnell National Park, linking into the new gravel Mereenie Loop Road (4WD recommended); or via Ernest Giles Road (4WD essential) and Luritja Road. Careful driving techniques should be applied at all times to accommodate changing road conditions.

When to Visit

The Park is accessible all year round. The cooler months (April to September) are the most pleasant.

What to See and Do

Watarrka National Park offers multiple options for things to see and do. Just click the links below to see what they are.

Visitor Facilities

There is no accommodation within the Park and camping is not permitted, however commercial accommodation can be found at nearby Kings Canyon Resort, Kings Creek Station and Kings Creek Wilderness Lodge.

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Please Remember

Access to the Kings Canyon Rim Walk will be restricted during periods of hot weather.

On days when the temperature is forecast to be 36 degrees Celsius or above, visitors wishing to undertake the Rim Walk need to start their walk before 9.00 am.

Between November 2013 and March 2014, on days when the temperature is forecast to be 36 degrees Celsius or above, visitors wishing to undertake the South Wall Return need to start their walk before 11.00 am.

Temperatures relating to these restrictions are based on Bureau of Meteorology forecasts for Yulara (not Alice Springs). The forecasts are publicly accessible at; http://www.bom.gov.au/nt/forecasts/precis.shtml
 
On days forecast at 35 degrees Celsius or less no access restrictions are in place. However, we encourage people at all times to start the walk early to avoid the heat as much as possible and to be well prepared; 3+ litres of water per person, hat, sturdy shoes, sunscreen and snacks.

Emergency Radios can be found along the Kings Canyon Walk and at the Canyon car park in case of emergency.

The Creek Walk and Kathleen Springs remain open at all times.

Fact Sheets

Recreational Activities


Most of Watarrka's visitors come to view the spectacular Kings Canyon with its towering vertical walls and pockets of 'lush' vegetation protected in sheltered gullies amidst the vast and harsh desert that surrounds the Park.

There are two walking tracks at the Canyon, both offering visitors an opportunity to escape the crowds and experience first hand the beauty and solitude of the Australian bush. Signs along both tracks highlight features of interest.

There is also a walking track at Kathleen Springs. This walk is recommended for families and visitors with limited mobility. Signs along the track tell the story of centuries of Aboriginal culture and the recent cattle industry. It leads to a delightful spring-fed waterhole at the head of Kathleen Gorge. This is a cool moist place to sit and enjoy the areas tranquility.

All walkers are advised to carefully read the information on the two walks before starting out. Safety is your responsibility. The Kings Canyon walk has many steep sections and is recommended for reasonably fit and healthy walkers. Tracks are constructed to a suitable standard with stairs and boardwalks to make your walk safe and comfortable and to protect sensitive vegetation and waterholes. Information on other walking tracks in Watarrka is available from other Parks Service publications.

Bush Ethics

Watarrka, as with all National Parks is a protected area. Disturbance of plants, animals and natural features is an offence. It is prohibited to: break branches for fly swats; write or etch names on rocks; remove or displace the natural landscape i.e. rocks or flora. Cigarette butts, tissue paper and orange peel are three common and unsightly forms of litter.

Care should be taken after heavy rains as gravel roads may become impassable.

Walking Track Markers

The walking tracks of the Canyon area are well sign posted with metal trail markers. The arrows are Orange for the Kings Creek Walk and Navy Blue for the Canyon Walk.

Please travel the Canyon Walk in a clockwise direction, in accordance with management, safety and interpretive signage.

Emergencies

If someone is in urgent need of medical action, you can contact a Ranger in one of two ways.

  1. Emergency Radio Call Boxes
    This is the quickest, most effective way of reaching a Ranger. There are 4 call boxes located along the Canyon Walk at:
    1. near the carpark at the beginning of the walk;
    2. the eastern side above the Garden of Eden staircase;
    3. at Kestrel Falls half way down the return loop section; and
    4. at the top of the northern climb.
  2. Ranger Workshop/Residence
    Workshop/Residence area is located 2km, east of the Canyon turn-off.

Basic first aid equipment is available from the emergency first aid boxes on the top of the Canyon.

Avoid leaving an injured person alone. Stay with them to administer first aid and send another person with careful note of your location and the problem to get help.

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Safety

Please read this information carefully before commencing these walks. Drinking water, a hat, sunscreen and robust footwear are essential on all walks.

  • Accommodation
    Overnight camping in tents, caravans or motorhomes is not permitted in the National Park. Commercial accommodation, camping and bunkhouses are available at the Kings Canyon Resort (tel +61 (0)8 89567442). Camping and safari style cabins are also available at Kings Creek Station (tel +61 (0)8 89567474). Luxury tented cabins are available at Kings Creek Wilderness Lodge (tel 1800 891 121).
  • Picnic Tables
    Located at the sunset viewing area at Kings Canyon and at the Kathleen Springs carpark and picnic area.
  • Walking Tracks
    • The Canyon Walk (6 km loop Approx. 3-4 hrs duration) This walk begins with a steep climb to the top of the Canyon, then follows the Canyon rim around before descending to the carpark. Approximately half way along the walk is the 'Garden of Eden', a delightful area of cool waterholes and riverine vegetation communities. This walk requires a medium to high level of fitness with some strenuous sections. Extreme care should be taken in the hotter months (Sept - May) when walkers should consider other shorter walks as alternatives during the middle of the day.
    • The Kings Creek Walk (2.6 km return Approx. 1 hour duration) This walk meanders along Kings Creek ending at a lookout point, then returns by the same route. It can be rough underfoot, so sturdy footwear is essential. Information signs on the Aboriginal cultural uses of the area are located at several points along the route. This walk has assisted wheelchair access for approxmately half the walk and the remainder is suitable for walkers of all ages.
       


    • The Giles Track is a 22km overnight walk traversing the top of the range from Kathleen Springs to Kings Canyon with an entrance/exit point at Reedy Creek/Lilla. Careful planning and preparation is required. For more information contact (08) 8951 8250.
       

    • The Kathleen Springs (2.6 km return. Approx 1.5 hours duration) This walk is recommended for families and visitors with limited mobility. Signs along the track tell the story of centuries of Aboriginal culture and the recent cattle industry. It leads to a delightful spring-fed waterhole at the head of Kathleen Gorge. This is a cool moist place to sit and enjoy the areas tranquility.

 

Central Australia Parks Alive

Territory Parks Alive is a program of talks and guided walks that NT Parks Rangers conduct across the Northern Territory. The program is offered from May to September each year. View the 2014 Central Australia Parks Alive brochure (pdf 1.6Mb).

Park Sites Access Comments Forecast Opening
Watarrka National Park Open
Kings Canyon Access Road Open Edit
Kings Canyon Rim Walk Open Closed after 9.00 am on days forecast 36 degrees Celsius or over. Edit
Kings Creek Walk Open Edit
Kathleen Springs Walk Open Edit