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  • BAG History Group

Sturt Gorge

Image Credit: Friends of Sturt Gorge
Image Credit: Friends of Sturt Gorge

Sturt Gorge Recreation Park lies in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, 13 kilometres south of Adelaide and has entry points at Bedford Park, Flagstaff Hill, Craigburn Farm and Bellevue Heights. In 1973 131 hectares of the area was proclaimed as Sturt Gorge Recreation Park and, with more land added in 1984, 1985 and 2000s currently to bring it up to 244 hectares. It is now in the care of the Department for Environment and Water and includes a network of walking and mountain bike trails.

With Warriparinga (Sturt River) just downstream, this area remains significant for the Kaurna people. The Park is internationally recognised as an area of conservation.

The gorge contains many rare plants and a diverse range of habitats, including grasslands, grey box woodland, blue gum woodland and old river red gums. These habitats are important remnants of the original habitat covering this area, and provide refuge and food for many of the native animals that live in or visit the area.

The Gorge is also recognised as an area of great geological significance. The area became of interest in 1901 when prominent geologist Walter Howchin found definite evidence of the glacial origin of rock strata exposed in the gorge. This formation became known as the Sturt Tillite, which is believed to have been formed from glacial material dropped from ice floating in the ocean that covered South Australia 800 million years ago.

Sir Douglas Mawson (geologist and Antarctic explorer) commented in 1946 ‘the occurrence of an extremely ancient glacial deposit makes this locality of outstanding interest to scientists’.

From 1849 the land was owned by farmers and for short periods by gentlemen and agents. There is a 19th century ruin of a farmhouse at Magpie Creek investigated by the Archeological School of the Flinders University in 2014. The ruin is associated with the rural development of the gorge and associated with prominent people in the region.

Sturt Tillite  Image: Friends of Sturt Gorge
Sturt Tillite Image: Friends of Sturt Gorge

In 1910 the Sturt Gorge was visited by Lord Kitchener. A South Australian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) that stood on the corner of Botanic Avenue and Black Road, Flagstaff Hill, provided shade for Kitchener as he watched a military demonstration. Shells of 14 lbs were fired by cannon in the general direction of Blackwood, and as a child, Gordon de Rose, son of Edgar de Rose whose family occupied the land from 1920-1969, found remnants of these shells scattered around the family’s farm.

The de Roses who named the property ‘Sturt Hills’, grazed sheep and a few cattle. During the depression in the early 1930s, they cut timber and sold the wood to bakeries and brickmakers. Their property was commandeered by the Australian Army during World War 11 and was used by the military for training and as a defence position against invasion. Gordon de Rose identified locations of the wireless operators and mess huts and officers’ accommodation on the southern side of the property.

The Friends of Sturt Gorge Recreation Park was formed in 1999, with the aim of restoring the pre European habitat. The group has a current membership of 90 people who undertake trail maintenance, bush care, and weed control through weekly working bees, monthly meetings, training walks and more.

In the Advertiser December 1947 Geoffrey Shephard described his walk through the Sturt Gorge as a stirring sight, ‘a scene so rugged that it might have mysteriously strayed down from the far away Flinders Ranges’.

More information about the park is found at the Friends of Sturt Gorge Recreation Park website and National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia website.

Magiepie Creek Ruin  Image: Friends of Sturt Gorge
Magiepie Creek Ruin Image: Friends of Sturt Gorge


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