Parachilna Gorge, Flinders Ranges
About 8km from the little township of Parachilna in the far north of South Australia is Parachilna Gorge. Parachilna Creek meanders through this part of the long chain of rugged mountains known as the Flinders Ranges. They were named by the English explorer Captain Matthew Flinders in 1802.
The creek has carved out a steep and rocky gorge through the mountains. Parachilna Gorge is one of the larger gorges in this chain of mountains. Normally the creek is a mere trickle of water easily stepped over in one stride. Several waist deep waterholes can be found in various places. In drier times, even this little trickle of water dries up. The stark red rocks of the gorge light up in the early morning or late afternoon sun and make excellent photographic subjects. The flat areas near the creek make excellent camping spots; we have camped there on a number of occasions. Many people also come here for picnics as it is a very pleasant spot to stop if travelling from other parts of the ranges.
While I was teaching at the nearby Parachilna Rural School in the late 1960s I also saw the other face of the Flinders Ranges. From my classroom I could see a long stretch of the range. Early mornings witnessed the soft blues of the hills and valleys, sometimes shrouded in mists. In the late afternoons the mountains become fiery battlements in the setting sun. Heavy rain in the ranges higher up would cause each creek to become a raging torrent of water, each emptying into the Parachilna Creek, the only way for the water to escape to the plains below. At these times the gentle trickle of water became a rampaging, runaway monster taking all before it. To see one of these creeks in flood is an awesome sight.
These thundering flood waters are capable of snapping off hundred year old eucalyptus trees and sending them tumbling downstream, tossing them around like toys in a bathtub. Large boulders can be moved downstream. In one famous downpour in 1955 a section of a railway bridge south of Parachilna at Hookina was washed away by floodwaters. On at least one occasion I camped overnight in the back of my car in Parachilna Gorge waiting for the waters to subside enough to complete the drive back to Parachilna.