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4x4 road trip to Beltana, SA

By Ron & Viv Moon, 24 Apr 2018 SA

4x4 road trip to Beltana SA explore

Ron and Viv Moon explore a stand-out 4X4 destination in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges.

The peak rising from the plains and segregated from the main hills and valleys of the Flinders Ranges has always caught my eye as I’ve headed north along the western edge of the ranges.

 This feature was originally published in 4x4 Australia’s April 2012 issue

Mount Deception was named by Edward John Eyre in 1840 when he tried to pierce what he thought was a continuous barrier of salt lakes. It is the highest peak on the western side of the road and is immediately recognisable as you drive north towards Leigh Creek.

Until now the peak and surrounding country has been off limits to the general public, but with the historic Beltana Station now opening its doors to travellers, the Deception Range and a number of other spots on the property are accessible to four-wheel drivers.

Beltana Station was established in 1854, and the property soon became the headquarters of Sir Thomas Elder’s vast pastoral holdings. He was responsible for importing some of the first camels to Australia in the 1860s, and it was during that decade that many of the buildings on the property were constructed – many of which still stand today.

By the 1870s, the property was shearing over 20,000 sheep and was the base for a camel breeding operation that saw camels exported all over Australia. A transport business based around camels
and extending as far north as Alice Springs and well into Queensland was also operating from here.

The station was the starting point for several important expeditions into the unknown interior and a large monument near the shearing shed commemorates the Ernest Giles 1875 expedition.

Today, Beltana Station – which incorporates the Puttapa Station lease – is 18,76km2 (460,000 acres) and is owned by Laura and Graham Ragless. While historically the property ran merino sheep, today beef cattle and meat sheep are run more and more, while tourism is ever-growing and an important feature.

Once you have a key and a set of track notes from the homestead, the track to Mt Deception is a relatively easy lope across the flat plains until you cross the rarely flowing Warrioota Creek. Rains some weeks before we arrived meant there was a trickle of water in the gravelly bed and even a few ducks and water hens scattered along the waterway.

The track then meanders among some thick scrub and you soon come to the ruins of the Tea Tree outstation before winding along a creek and past some giant river red gums. For people used to seeing these trees in the better-watered districts of western Victoria and the like, they may come as a bit of a surprise – but a pleasant one, as many birds and a few roos nearly always call the shady trees home.

From here the track begins to climb the range and while it isn’t particularly difficult, it is rough and rocky and a misplaced tyre could easily end up ruptured. As you get higher, the view extends to the west over Lake Torrens, but as you crest the top it is the bulk of the Flinders Ranges to the east that draws your attention.

The vehicle track ends on the edge of a sheer rocky gully while the highest point of the range and the peak of Mt Deception itself is a rough and rugged kilometre or so away to the north. Keen walkers could hike the intervening distance to the cairn on top of the peak, but the rugged country inbetween means it will likely take longer than you think!

We consoled ourselves with enjoying the view in all directions from track’s end and then returned to where we had set up camp in the pleasant camping area on Warriota Creek, just a kilometre or so from the homestead.

Next day we took a series of little-used tracks to the old 1889 Copper King mine and while this historic site can be reached via a Public Access Route (PAR) from further north, the route through the Beltana property is much more interesting. At one point the station tracks take you to the permanent waterhole of Puttapa Spring; a beautiful spot to stop for a while, have a picnic, take a swim or simply observe the birdlife that comes here to drink.

The property also makes a great place to explore the nearby township of Beltana, which was once an important settlement for the nearby mines and the old Ghan Railway, but is now almost a ghost town.
With some legs of saltbush mutton in the fridge (this is a meat lover’s delicacy – you’ve got to try it!) we headed off from Beltana Station and took the original route north through Puttapa Gap.

The old Ghan Railway also followed this route through a rock-shrouded pass in the ranges, and while the main road and railway now bypass this section of range country, it is the more scenic and enjoyable way north.

While our travels were to take us to other hidden spots within the Flinders Ranges over the next few weeks, we knew we’d be coming back to enjoy the delights of Beltana Station once more. And you’ll do the same!

Travel Planner

GETTING THERE
Beltana Station is located about 500km north of Adelaide and 35km south of Leigh Creek. It is 6km east of Beltana Roadhouse and 4km west of the historic Beltana township.

ACCOMMODATION & CAMPING
Accommodation is available in the wonderfully preserved 1860-built overseer’s cottage, or in the eleven comfortable and newly upgraded rooms of the shearers’ quarters. Camping is available within a kilometre of the homestead along Warrioota Creek. Toilets and hot showers are provided, as is a camp kitchen. More remote bush camping is also available.

4X4 TRACKS
A number of self-drive 4X4 tracks are available, and these include the Mount Deception track, the Sliding Rock-Puttapa track and the 100km drive to the edge of Lake Torrens.

MORE INFO
Phone 08 8675 2256 or visit beltanastation.com.au. For detailed info on this property and the whole of the surrounding area, check out Ron and Viv Moon’s latest edition of The Flinders Ranges, an Adventurer’s Guide.