Simon Trayhorn explores the beauty of SA's Onkaparinga River NP.
Just 40 minutes south of central Adelaide, Onkaparinga River NP offers quick access to those seeking a variety of interesting bushwalks and a sense of remoteness.
Sandwiched between the suburb of Hackham and the famous vineyards of McLaren Vale, the 1544 hectare park features the state's second longest river after the Murray, winding through a deep gorge that stretches for 10km. At the downstream end of the gorge, the river emerges at the historic township of Noarlunga, before entering the Gulf St Vincent at Port Noarlunga.
Before European settlement, these lands were home to the Kaurna people who still retain strong cultural ties to the area, and many local place names such as ‘Onkaparinga’ and ‘Noarlunga’ are derived from Kaurna language.
There are many walks available in the park, ranging from the long to the short and the difficult to the easy. If you are seeking a quick snapshot of the park’s natural heritage, take a one hour hike along the Porosa Track, which leads you down to the river bed and some spectacular cliff faces at the base of the gorge.
While the walk is relatively short, its steep incline makes it more suitable for those bushwalkers with some experience and a good fitness level, and particular care should be taken during the wet months of winter when the track can be a little slippery. High up on the northern side of the gorge, you enter the Porosa Track from Hepenstal Road and immediately take in the magnificent views of the sprawling Onkaparinga Hills.
As you negotiate the gently meandering track down the hill face, you soon come across several high vantage points on either side of the track, from which you can view the gorge through native scrub.
It’s a good idea to linger at these points as you may catch a glimpse of some of the park’s 180 bird species, kangaroos, echidnas, koalas and a variety of reptiles living amongst the wildflowers and red gums.
The track begins to flatten out a little as you approach the base of the gorge, where you are greeted by jagged cliff faces and what is currently a dry river bed, edged by saltbush, samphire and wetlands of bull rushes growing under numerous river red gums.
Although the ongoing drought in SA has left much of the gorge dry, the exposed slate coloured rocks of the river bed add to the tranquil beauty of the park as it opens up below the cliffs. You can extend your walk by carefully traversing the smooth rounded rocks of the river bed, giving you an opportunity to more fully explore the gorge.
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