Deep in Ormiston Gorge grandeur and colour
Ormiston Gorge – the jewel of the West MacDonnell Ranges
Ormiston Gorge offers so much more than “bucket-list” spectacular scenery.
It connects you to the creative forces of nature eternally crafting Australia’s ancient landscape.
It offers the active over 50s traveller a chance to navigate “feet-first”, a moderately challenging trail bringing cognitive relief from the pressures of an everyday lifestyle.
It draws your soul into a world of wonder and peaceful contemplation.
It inspires personal creativity through expressions in images, feelings and even music.
It reminds you of your humble place in an ever evolving symbiotic world.
Where is Ormiston Gorge?
Once aptly described as the “opal of the centre” given its innumerable hues of colour ever changing with the time of day and sweeping sun, every arrival carrying a sense of heightened expectation.
Enjoy the spectacle
Ormiston is arguably the most spectacular of the many gorges slicing through the ancient ranges and is known in the tourism rush for its near permanent but freezing waterhole (even in desert conditions), up to 14 metres deep and located an easy stroll from the car park and tourist coach bays. It has dark and mysterious qualities.
Ormiston Creek is one of two headwater tributaries of the ancient Finke River still following its original course from 350 million years ago. The creek drains a huge 10 kms wide saucer like “Pound” at the extremity of the gorge, flushing its coarse sand and pebbles along two fault lines through the spectacular ravine.
The towering 250 metre high cliffs of the Gorge are primarily hardy quartzite. Extraordinary earthly movements have heaved and thrust hundreds of metres of the quartzite on top of itself.
The extensive contortion of polished rock faces of varying colour, the contrasting spillage of giant boulders and platforms into the creek bed, add reality to the sense of adventure far from the car park.
Seams and fissures run in competing vertical and horizontal directions threatening violent collapse of the walls, which probably hasn’t happened, even in a million years.
Meanwhile stark white Ghost Gums cling tenaciously to the red encrusted cliff faces, finding life and security in seemingly impossible crevices.
Here and there according to seasonal rains, waterholes provide friendly respite and River Red Gums lay claim to the chain of beauty spots.
Choosing an Ormiston Gorge walk
Apart from the 300 metre stroll from car park to waterhole, there are two other more immersive and rewarding trails, both of which we recommend and include in a full day visitation to Ormiston.
The first is a 2.5 kms loop trail of moderate difficulty, climbing and strolling to the Ghost Gum Lookout for far reaching panoramic views of the ranges and a deep vertical gaze into the main gorge below. This walk can be shortened to 1.5 kms, to and from the lookout.
However, the ultimate immersive experience comes with an 8.4 kms, 3 to 4 hour loop walk into and through the Ormiston Pound returning through the full length of the Gorge. The sandy passage through the gorge involves 2.5 kms navigating informally around boulders, manageable rock hopping and negotiating a few waterholes left by occasional rains – all part of the rich reward.
We encourage all Over 50’s adventurers to go slow, engage with all your senses, and embrace the enormity of Ormiston experiences in this longer walk, clear of distracting crowds.
Walking the Ormiston Pound and Gorge
The Ormiston Pound and Gorge walk starts with an early departure from the overnight creature comforts of Alice Springs. It is important to have adequate hiking footwear for gravel trails and stony creek crossings ahead, possibly a walking pole for stability on trail and rocks, plenty of water, a shady hat and long sleeves for sun protection. There are amenities at the park tourist hub / kiosk before commencing the walk.
Initially the walk is flat skirting along the edge of the entry road, a short but only part of the multi-day hiking Larapinta Trail, before you turn and start climbing to the edge of the Pound.
Arrival at the elevated rim lookout provides a splendid 360 degree panoramic view of flat expanse surrounded by naked ranges dotted with clumping spinifex.
Distant views take in the masses of Mount Giles 1285m, Mount Zeil 1510m and Mount Sonder 1380m with the Pound rim drawing your gaze toward the Gorge entry.
Then begins a gravel trail descent into the heart of the Ormiston Pound with comfort breaks alongside Ormiston Creek. Keep your eyes peeled for birdlife and scattering members of the dragon and lizard families. Birds increase in number as you near the gorge waterholes with 130 species recorded in varying numbers.
As you enter the gorge the trail reverts to informal sandy navigation around boulders, rock bars and waterholes beneath the compelling walls, catastrophic structure and glorious colour.
Finally, the main waterhole and a pause to pack your memories away and reluctantly return to the car park.
Savouring the inner wonder and contemplation
Ormiston Gorge and Pound provide numerous opportunities to reflect on life and your humble place in nature, to contemplate inner feelings, review values and experience mindfulness.
All this is stimulated by the grand earthly environment into which you have ventured and a willingness to connect.
Inspiration can follow when observing the colour, form and textures so abundantly apparent while navigating the Pound and Gorge at a receptive pace. We have known our tour guests to gather inspiration for artisan expression back home.
So inspiring is Ormiston (and nature’s acoustics), it has hosted the acclaimed Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir and other national and international choirs joining the “Desert Song Festival“.
Share the Ormiston Experience
Nature Bound Australia has visited the Ormiston Gorge and Pound regularly since 2006, offering exceptional full day discovery experiences to guests. Part of our small group Adelaide to Alice Springs Classic Outback Tour, along with days exploring the Flinders Ranges, Lake Eyre, the Painted Desert, Coober Pedy, Rainbow Valley, Trephina Gorge plus Chambers Pillar and other iconic features of Central Australia.
Tours in 2023 are scheduled for June 3 and June 25 with numbers limited exclusively to 7 guests per tour.
Enquire for availability at firstname.lastname@example.org