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Home > Travelogues > 2008 Travelogues Index > East Macdonnell Ranges
The East MacDonnell Ranges 2008.  The soft colours of the East Macdonnells are lovely, and they contain the interest of Aboriginal rock paintings and rugged orange rock strata.  We start out with visits to Emily and Jesse Gaps and Corroboree Rock, then go to Trephina Gorge. 
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Just ten kilometres east of Alice Springs, Emily Gap is the first of two gaps through the Heavitree Range in the Macdonnell Ranges, with Jesse Gap being a further five kilometres to the east.  Neither have permanent pools in the sandy creek beds.  Picnic areas are provided. 

Aboriginal rock paintings in Emily Gap and the nearby Jesse Gap depict Caterpillar Dreaming; the story of the creation of the MacDonnell Ranges. Emily Gap is where the caterpillars originated.  The paintings are bright and I wondered if they have been touched up in recent times. 

The Macdonnell Ranges are unique in the fact that the ranges consist of almost parallel ridges running east west, the water courses dissect the ranges as they run roughly north south.  There are many gaps where streams have cut their way through the various ranges in the area around Alice Springs.   

Jesse Gap is a further five kilometres to the east of Emily Gap. 

Orange rocks of tilted sedimentary strata towering above Jesse Gap

Caterpillars are again represented by all the Aboriginal rock paintings in Jesse Gap.  These caterpillars formed Emily and Jesse Gaps as well as many of the topographic features around Alice Springs.

Corroboree Rock is an eroded remnant of ancient rock strata known as the Bitter Springs Formation.  It is estimated to be about 800 million years old.  This rock formation is the result of successive layers of silt deposited in the shallow salty sea water in which algae grew.  Over millions of years the silt was compressed into layers of rock.  These layers have been tilted vertically by the folding process.  The rocks containing dolostone or magnesium carbonate have been weathered to a mottled dark brownish black.  The orange and white colours indicate tropical weathering which occurred 60 million years ago.  Ref: Signage at the site. 

Looking at Corroboree Rock from the narrow side. 

The soft colours of the folds of ranges that make up the East Macdonnells. 

Corroboree Rock (Antanangantana) is a large fan shaped rock 51 kilometres east of Alice Springs.  It is so narrow that there are several tiny windows in the rock.  Despite the name, it's doubtful the rock was ever used as a corroboree area, but it is associated with the Perentie Dreaming trail and is of significance to the local Aborigines. The Perentie is one of the world's largest lizards, growing in excess of 2.5 metre long, and takes refuge at the base of the rock. 

The road in passes Trephina Bluff, which can be seen from the campsite and the cliff top walks.  There is a small tent only camping site on the edge of the creek close to the Bluff. 

Nearby is the picturesque Ghost Gum which is known as the largest Ghost Gum in the East Macdonnell Ranges, and is estimated 33 metres tall and 300 years old. 

We reached Trephina Gorge Nature Park where a well spread out Campsite run by Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife is in scenic valley near the gorge.

The walk at first climbed to the top of the orange brick like walls above the creek bed. 

Trephina Gorge

The first walk we took runs along the top of the gorge on one side of Trephina Creek, before descending into the sandy creek bed to return to the campsite.  There are small waterholes depending on seasonal conditions.  Walks are very clearly marked, using a different coloured spot on the marker posts for each walk.   

 

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Emily and Jesse Gaps
Corroboree Rock (Antanangantana)

Small ghost gums contrasted against the colours of the spinifex and the ranges. 

The wide valley extends to the east, lined by distant ranges.

Climbing down to the sandy creek bed, we walked to the waterhole, where bees were taking advantage of this small remnant water source.

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The John Hayes Rockhole is accessed by a stony track which follows along the John Hayes Creek bed.  This presented some difficulties for our larger vehicle.  There is a small basic campground at John Hayes Creek.  Access is not suitable for caravans. 

There is a ten kilometre ridge top walk linking the John Hayes and Trephina Gorges, which we did not take.  To achieve this walk in daylight requires a car journey one way. 

The Chain of Ponds walk follows the start of the ridge top walk, giving views across the John Hayes Creek gorge, as well as back into the ranges to the south and west, before descending into the gorge and following the creek which has seasonal pools and rock holes. 

This walk takes an hour and a half.  We only climbed as far as the look out after which the trail descends in the John Hayes Creek and follows the creekline back to the parking area.  Some rock scrambling is required.

We set out early in the morning on the panorama walk. 

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We visit Trephina Gorge, Arltunga Historic Reserve and N'Dhala Gorge Nature Park
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