Exploring the NT’s Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley Conservation Area is absolutely stunning, consisting of scenic sandstone bluffs rising up out of a vast claypan. The site seems to be continually changing throughout the day, almost putting on a show with …

Club 4X4 Insurance
Feb 02 2023

Rainbow Valley Conservation Area is absolutely stunning, consisting of scenic sandstone bluffs rising up out of a vast claypan. The site seems to be continually changing throughout the day, almost putting on a show with its rich and earthy tones. The hard light of the day doesn’t do it justice though, so make the effort to plan a nights stay and enjoy this thing of beauty in either late afternoon or early morning.

The Northern Territory might not be on the top of your bucket list as it’s a long way from most cities, especially the eastern states. Sure, you will need to rack up the kms, but there is so much to see and do in the Northern Territory.

If you are heading to Alice Spring or otherwise touring around the borders of the Northern Territory and South Australia, I’d suggest you make time to visit the Rainbow Valley Conservation area as a jewel of Central Australia that’s easy to miss while barreling along the Stuart Highway.

If you are interested in an area’s history, Rainbow Valley has archaeological evidence and is the traditional land of the Upper Southern Arrernte people.

The turnoff is approximately 75kms south of Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway. You’ll need to travel approximately 22kms from the bitumen to the site on a mainly sandy 4WD track, which is usually easy going.

The site is open all year round except during rain when the access track will most likely get closed. Due to the heat up this way, the area is best visited during April through to September.

The NT government’s website is great when it comes to tourist information, with a page dedicated to the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve featuring live road conditions and a phone number for the local ranger station (08 8952 1013) as well as a fact sheet and map that’s worth keeping handy. They’ve got a page with information on how to check road conditions across the territory too and you also might like to try the free interactive park maps on your mobile phone or tablet.

Camping is in the designated sites with good facilities and cover to help you enjoy your stay, but make sure you book your camp sites online.

Fires are in the designated fire pits only and firewood collection is prohibited, so bring your own along with plenty of water. The site has BBQ facilities, picnic tables and public toilets but bins are not provided, so take your rubbish with you.

Pets, generators, and the flying of drones are not permitted in the reserve.

There are some beautiful walks around the claypan providing a close look at the stunning formations. You will see birdlife and wildlife in the area for sure, so take your time on the 1.6 km loop track and keep your eyes peeled.

The last time we stayed at the site, there was only one other person there, and we spent most of the night enjoying our photography, creating various images of this awesome scene. We used a couple of GME handheld radios to walk a couple of lights along the tracks to highlight the landscapes features.

Adjusting the position of the lights to cast across the huge landscape created some amazing results under the starry night sky. The rain came in extremely heavy overnight, so we all jumped for cover into our swags. The weather can change quick up here, so be prepared. Luckily, the rain cleared by early morning so that we could build some awesome panoramic images in the soft, warm light.

For more information, contact Parks and Wildlife Alice Springs or you can call the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Ranger Station on 08 8952 1013.


-Michael Ellem

Offroad Images

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