MacDonnell Ranges Tower over Alice Springs

I was amazed to have my first glance at the MacDonnell Ranges, a huge mountain range that towered over Alice Springs. I was driving and twisting my head to really look at them. My feeling was the awesome presence of these mountains. It felt to me a sacred place.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The MacDonnell Ranges of the Northern Territory, are a 644 km (400 mile) long series of mountain ranges located in the centre of Australia (23°42′S 132°30′E / 23.7°S 132.5°E / -23.7; 132.5), and consist of parallel ridges running to the east and west of Alice Springs. The mountain range contains many spectacular gaps and gorges as well as areas of aboriginal significance.

The ranges were named after Sir Richard MacDonnell (the Governor of South Australia at the time) by John McDouall Stuart, whose 1860 expedition reached them in April of that year. The Horn Expedition investigated the ranges as part of the scientific expedition into central Australia. Other explorers of the range included David Lindsay and John Ross.

The MacDonnell Ranges were often depicted in the paintings of Albert Namatjira.[1]

The highest peaks are Mount Zeil (1,531 m AHD/ 5,023 ft), Mount Liebig (1524 m / 5,000 ft) and Mount Sonder (1,380 m / 4,528 ft). These are the tallest mountains in the Northern Territory.[2] The MacDonnell Ranges are the headwaters of the Todd River, Finke River and Sandover Rivers. The range is crossed by the Australian Overland Telegraph Line and the Stuart Highway.

350-300 million years ago a mountain building event created the MacDonnell Ranges.[2] Since that time, folding, faulting and erosion have shaped the range and created numerous gaps and gorges.[2][3] The ranges are composed of many rock types, but are most famous for their red quartzite peaks and gorges. Other rock types include granite, limestone, sandstone and siltstone.[3] Some of the valleys of the range contain fossil evidence of the inland sea that once covered central Australia.[3]

Part of the Central Ranges xeric scrub ecoregion of dry scrubby grassland [4] the ranges are home to a large number of endemic species including the Centralian Tree Frog. This is mostly due to the micro climates that are found around the cold rock pools. Some pools are so cold that hypothermia can set in after a few minutes of swimming.[3]

Tourist attractions

The West MacDonnell National Park was established in 1984 to protect the numerous parks and reserves of the range.[3] It also facilitated the development of the Larapinta Trail.

To the east of Alice Springs, within an hours drive, are sites important to the local Arrernte people, many of which contain examples of Aboriginal rock art. These include Emily Gap, Jessie Gap, Trephina Gorge and N’Dhala Gorge.

To the west of Alice Springs is the Larapinta Trail—a world-class, long distance bush walking trail that runs 223 kilometres along the backbone of the range.[3] Along the trail is Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Serpentine Gorge, Ochre Pits, Ormiston Pound, Redbank Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge, Tnorala Gosse Bluff, Palm Valley, Mount Sonder, Mount Zeil and Mount Giles.

Mohandas Gandhi

“Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion.”