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Home > Travelogues > 2008 Travelogues Index > West Macdonnell Ranges to Stanley Chasm

The West Macdonnell Ranges 2008.  We visit Simpson Gap and Standley Chasm.

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Simpsons Gap has a permanent pool along the otherwise dry creek bed.  Roe creek, which cuts through the range at Simpsons Gap, has not flowed since 1997 (as at time of our visit in 2008).  The access is via Larapinta Drive to the west of Alice Springs along eight kilometres of bitumen road.  There are picnic facilities and information boards in the park.

 

Simpson's Gap was named after A.A. Simpson, President of the South Australian branch of the Royal Geographical Society.  The Simpson Desert was also named in his honour.

Honeymoon Gap

When Bob Darken and his bride Vicky were married in Alice Springs in 1942 and spent their honeymoon camping at what was then Temple Bar gap, friends who went out to see them referred to it as honeymoon gap, and the name stuck. 

 

The Darkens eventually purchased Simpsons Gap Station, and Bob was the owner when Simpsons Gap itself became a National Park in 1958.  When the whole of the Simpson Gap property came under the care of the Conservation Commission in 1970, Bob became the first Ranger.            

Pinnacles high above Simpsons Gap.

The gap at the original Temple Bar (now known as Honeymoon Gap) was named after an arched gateway in London as it is believed that the shape of the hills was reminiscent of the arch over the gateway at Temple Bar. 

Roe Creek rises north of Simpsons Gap, where it cuts through the range at the scenic Simpsons Gap before heading south east where it cuts through the Heavitree range at Honeymoon Gap (originally called Temple Bar).  It cuts through the next range at the gap now known as Temple Bar (see story following), before heading south then joining the Todd River.  A borefield on Roe Creek fifteen kilometres south of the town is the water source for Alice Springs. 

When the Alice Springs area was being marked on the map, there was confusion with the two names for the one gap, so those making the maps called it Honeymoon Gap.  Thinking there was some mistake about the placement of Temple Bar gap, attributed that name to the next gap to the south east and they have been known by those names ever since.     

There is a good bitumen access road from Larapinta Drive to Standley Chasm, which is in an Aboriginal owned flora and fauna reserve. Entrance fees apply.    

Soft folds of the range near Standley Chasm.

One of many differing textures of the Macdonnell Ranges, on the way to Standley Chasm.

The gateway was taken away in 1887 and re-erected in Hertfordshire, to be returned and reconstructed in London again near St Paulís Cathedral in London in 2003.

Temple Bar history: This newspaper from December 1887 shows Temple Bar in Fleet Street, London shortly before its removal.  Built in 1672 as one of the entrance gates of London, its location is now marked by a monument topped by a dragon, outside the Royal Courts of Justice.  The original gateway was designed by Christopher Wren.

It is a short walk along a palm and bush lined creek to reach the entrance into the chasm.  The creek bed through the chasm is usually quite dry. 

 

We crossed the Hugh River, and turned in to have a look.  The track which goes to Hugh River Gorge and Birthday Waterhole was too sandy so we didnít risk going any further.  There are a few spots suitable for camping, but too risky for us with the deep and soft sand. 

We soon reached the junction where Namatjira Drive heads west through the West Macdonnell National Park, with Larapinta Drive continuing south west towards Hermannsburg. 

The gorge is said to be named after Mrs. Ida Standley, who came to Alice Springs in 1914 as the first Government school teacher and taught there for fifteen years.  She is reputed to have been the first white woman to walk through the Chasm.  See Ida Standley, Beloved Lady.
 
 
This sheer face of this sandstone spike towing high above us showed evidence of a rock slide.
At the narrowest point, sunlight only reaches the walls at mid day.  The walls of the chasm tower eighty metres above the stony floor.
Point Howard lookout is accessed by a short steep bitumen drive, and gives vistas to the ranges on either side of the road. There are picnic tables, a shelter and fireplaces with wood provided

The range on the south side of the road from Point Howard Lookout.

Looking west along Namatjira Drive from the Point Howard Lookout.

Entering the narrowing Chasm
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In the West Macdonnell Ranges we visit Simpson Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Serpentine Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen, Redbank Gorge and Roma Gorge
 
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For details of road conditions, distances and travel times on sealed and usealed roads see question and answer West Macdonnells and on to Kings Canyon