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Wilpena Pound ~ Flinders Ranges

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Uploaded on Mar 13, 2009

History

Wilpena Pound taken at Bunyeroo or Brachina Gorge.The first European to see the mountains of the Pound was almost certainly Edward Eyre from the western plains on his first 1839 expedition to the vicinity of Lake Torrens; although Robert Brown climbed one of the highest peaks of the southern Flinders in March 1802, Wilpena would have been just over the horizon. Eyre did not investigate the ranges on his trip, though, and it's likely to have been the pastoralist C.N. Bagot (who applied for a lease in the area in 1851) or bushman William Chace (whose employers, W.J. and J.H. Browne applied in 1850) who first investigated the ranges at first hand. Bagot described the country and claimed to be the discoverer in a newspaper report in June 1851.

In an attempt to sort out the conflicting claims, Bonney and Surveyor-General Henry Freeling employed H.C. Rawnsley to go north and survey the area. In a controversially expensive trip, Rawnsley, of dubious skill and experience, only made it to the southern end of the Pound, which had been privately surveyed by Frederick Sinnett (employed by the Brownes) only a month or two earlier. On his arrival, Rawnsley found that the Bluff was already named after him by the locals, perhaps in an ironic wink at his shaky reputation (he was sacked by the Governor early the following year).

The Browne brothers eventually won the claim for Wilpena from Bagot, and the young Henry Strong Price opened and ran the 40,000-hectare station for them. By 1863 Wilpena consisted of well over 200,000 hectares, but was nearly ruined by the drought of that decade. According to one account, the Pound itself was used for keeping horses, and was such a good natural enclosure that the horses became as wild as brumbies.

When Price died in 1889 the immediate 8,000-hectare area of the Pound was separated from the main run and leased separately. When the Hill family obtained this lease in 1901, they decided to try farming, something never before attempted so far north. Goyder's Line had proven rather accurate with regard to agricultural expansion in the great drought of the 1880s, and Wilpena is some 140 km north of the Line. But being in the shadow of some of the highest mountains of the Flinders, rainfall in the Pound is a little higher (snow even being very rarely known on St Mary Peak) and the Hills were determined to try.


Pompey's Pillar seen from the south westAfter the immense labour of constructing a road through the torturous Wilpena Gap, they built a small homestead inside the Pound, which still stands today, and cleared some open patches in the thick scrub of the interior. For several years the Hill family had moderate success growing crops inside the Pound, but in 1914 there was a major flood and the road through the gorge was destroyed. They could not bear to start all over and sold their homestead to the government. The Pound then became a forest reserve leased for grazing. In 1945 the tourist potential of the area was recognised when a "National Pleasure Resort" was proclaimed. A hotel called the Wilpena Chalet was opened on the southern side of the creek just outside the gorge, and it has been run by various private companies ever since.

The Pound also later became part of the Flinders Ranges National Park.

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