Kings Canyon – Central Australia’s Own Live Botanical Museum
Located in Watarrka National Park, within the Northern Territory of Australia, Kings Canyon is a huge natural amphitheater, made out of the same amber sandstone, like the Uluru and Kata Tjuta monoliths, close by. It’s the deepest gorge in the area, with a reddish soil, and its 100 meter steep cliffs which find their way down to Mount George Hill. From here, sunsets are truly amazing sites to see. On a terraced cliff, close to Kings Canyon, there is a peculiar rock formation which looks quite similar to a series of beehives. Their odd appearance brought on their name of a “lost city”. Watarrka National Park, or the “garden of Eden” as it is sometimes known, is a picturesque and serene combination of sand dunes, mountains, gorges and crevasses.
Kings Canyon is one of the most botanically rich places in the whole of Central Australia, giving the animals here, a well-deserved safe haven from the surrounding desert. Three major bio-geographical regions come together here. Some 80 species of birds, 36 species of reptile and 19 mammals call this place home. Plant life here however, is what really absorbs one’s attention. Within the canyon, around 60 species of rare plants can be found, as well as some old flora relics closely related to ferns, making this place a true “live botanical museum”.
This is among the oldest places in the world, with Mount George Hill’s exposed sandstone, dating back more than 350 million years. The sandstone itself is of the rare, Mereenie type, which usually forms in hot, arid conditions. Underneath, there’s an even older layer of sandstone, Carlmichel, which dates back 450 million years and which formed in aquatic conditions. Geologists believe that, as the bottom layer of sandstone eroded from underneath, the top layer formed the many fissures and canyons of today.
Watarrka has been inhabited by the local, Luritja people, for more than 20,000 years, making Kings Canyon full of well-preserved aborigine rock paintings. Kings Canyon Walk is a 10 kilometer long hike which offers some truly amazing sites of some of the oldest places in the world.