THE next instalment to Ron Moon’s must-see spots of the Red Centre is a four-wheeler’s paradise: Owen Springs Reserve.
Part 2: Owen Springs Reserve
THE 1570km² Owen Springs Reserve is located south and west of Alice Springs and is a favourite for four-wheelers wanting to get away from the crowds.
Surprisingly, considering how easy it is to access, we've always found it pretty quiet with few other travellers around.
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The southern access is off the Stuart Highway about 65km from Alice, while the western access is 50km from Alice along Larapinta Drive.
The main 4WD track through the reserve closely follows the original route of John McDouall Stuart's explorations through this region in 1860-1862, which opened the area up to European pastoral settlement. His route and today's 4WD track skirts along the edge of the Hugh River, which is one of the major but still ephemeral streams of Central Australia.
From the southern access point, the Hugh is met just four kilometres from the blacktop while Redbank Waterhole, probably the most popular camping spot in the reserve, is found just two kilometres south. The main track crosses the Hugh and wanders north via 8 Mile Yard before passing through Lawrence Gorge, a convoluted gap in the Waterhouse Ranges. Camping is allowed along the river through Lawrence Gorge but don't expect any facilities.
On the northern edge of the Waterhouse Ranges are the ruins of the old Owen Springs Homestead. Originally built in 1873, the building here was the first homestead built in Central Australia. Some of the great pastoral pioneers who owned this property include Sir Thomas Elder (late 1880s), Sir Sidney Kidman (1896-1901) and the Hayes family, who first bought the property in 1907, sold it in 1930 and re-purchased it again in 1936.
The property was taken over by the Northern Territory parks service in 2002.
The track to the north crosses the Hugh River once again and then wanders across the plain before re-crossing the dry river and soon reaching the bitumen of Larapinta Drive. Along the way you'll see ’roos and the occasional dingo, while birdlife of all sorts commonly hang around the waterholes. Bushwalking near Haunted Tree Bore and among the Waterhouse Ranges is particularly enjoyable but remember this is a hot, dry region so be prepared.