It was 10:30 at night and we were bogged.
My first visit to the Dulcie Ranges National Park wasn’t going too well…
We weren’t entirely sure where we were, and the troopy (that’s Territorian for Toyota Troop Carrier) in front of me had just got ‘hung up’ trying to cross a steep erosion gully.
It also happened to be the vehicle towing a trailer that carried 9 drums of aviation fuel for the helicopter that would be arriving the next morning.
NB. The photos in this post are scanned from prints of my very first field trip to the Dulices.
By the time we got the vehicle out and reconsulted the maps and the GPS, it was after 11pm.
Shortly after, the brown and white NT Parks Commission sign assured us we were in the right place.
We’d reached the Dulcie Ranges National Park, one of the least known and least visited parks in the Central Australia. I was about to spend almost a week there, assisting with a massive sacred site survey with Aboriginal Elders and anthropological colleagues.
It was an unforgettable five days – and I’ve been back to the Dulcies for work several times since.
If you’re up for an adventure, then the Dulcie Ranges might be just what you’re looking for.
Where Are the Dulcie Ranges?
The Dulcie Ranges are approximately 220 km north east of Alice Springs.
Very few guidebooks or websites refer to them. This makes them one of central Australia’s least-known and least visited national parks.
Possibly only Anna’s Reservoir is even less visited!
The Dulcie Ranges are not exactly easy to get to (more about this later), but you need to head north of Alice Springs for 70 km to the Plenty Highway, and then out about 100 km and turn off up the Binns Track.
There is another way to access via Jervois and Huckitta Stations, but it is a lot more difficult and you’ll definitely need to call the ranger (numbers below) to discuss how to cross the pastoral land.
See & Do
This area is a real remote wilderness – you won’t find any amenities or marked trails.
Don’t let that deter you, however.
The Dulcie Ranges are full of great hiking, Aboriginal culture, European history, bush camping, birdwatching, photography and winter star-gazing.
The Dulcies are made up of striking quartzite escarpments and lush gorges which the Aboriginal people of the area occupied heavily – the ranges boast over 100 rock art sites and numerous occupation sites (that’s what archaeologists call the sites where people lived or camped).
Possibly the most spectacular art galleries are in the spectacular Mt Ultim (eastern) section of the park – this is accessible to experienced hikers only.
Be aware though that some of these galleries are restricted to Men only (they’re very important Men’s Sacred Sites), and some are not open to visitors without an Aboriginal Custodian present at all.
Although you’ll see people on the internet using the term ‘Akerre’ to label the Aboriginal people of the area (they’ve copied and pasted this from the Park Plan of Management), I can tell you that few people call themselves Akerre today.
Most Aboriginal people in this area call now themselves Eastern Arrernte or Alyawarr. The proper name for this area is Atnwarle (Ad-NUWARL-uh).
The Elders I worked with were Alyawarr Senior Law men who hold the traditional songs and ceremonial objects in trust for the actual traditional owners. In Central Australia, this very special role is called Kwertengwerle (cor-DUNG-goor-loo) in Arandic languages, or ‘Manager’ in Aboriginal English. The actual ‘Traditional Owners’ (called apmereke artweye) are Eastern Arrernte people who live in and around Harts Range.
The easiest place to camp when you get to the Dulcies is near the site of the Old Huckitta Station old homestead ruin, just inside the park boundary.
There are a few interesting old structures to take your time exploring – the ‘window’ in the remains of the old homestead is in fact the windscreen from an early motorcar!
European occupation of the area began in around 1917, by CLJ (Charles) Dubois. The original homestead was built around 1920 by Dubois, who had also taken up the nearby Huckitta station lease in about 1908.
By 1921, Dubois was running 2600 cattle and 220 horses in 1921 on the lease. Dubois appointed W.(Bill) Madrill as manager in 1923 or 1924 who continued for 20 to 25 years.
An interesting snippet of information is that the 1922 Melbourne Cup winner, ‘King Ingoda’ was foaled on Huckitta Station.
There is a grave belonging to Jim Laughton, who held a grazing lease over the present Indiana Pastoral Lease, at the foot of the range near the Old Huckitta homestead. His death occured during the late 1920s or 1930s.
One of the Alyawarr Elders I worked with at the time, Alec Petersen (now deceased), worked on the property as a boy, and remembers Laughton coming off his horse, breaking his neck and dying.
Sidney and Walter Kidman purchased the station from Dubois in 1928. Records indicate that the Old Huckitta homestead was occupied until the mid 1940s.
There are no facilities at the Park, so you do need to be self-sufficient.
The recommended camp site is near the park entrance, in the vicinity of the Old Huckitta Homestead site.
If you follow the little creekline near the homestead, you’ll come to a permanent spring and an old windmill from a bore. This is the only source of water – and we don’t recommend that you rely on it being there.
Bring all your water, food and firewood in.
There are no camping fees payable.
I’ve stayed in the park twice during mid-winter, and I should warn you that it was COLD! I was glad for my -22 rated sleeping bag (the same one I took to Mt Everest) being tucked inside my swag.
Every morning we awoke with ice covering our swags. We later learned that the temperature had reached -6C.
Hiking & Birding
There are no marked tracks in the park, however the hiking is relatively easy for experienced hikers.
I’ve made several half-day sojourns, (solo), across the ranges and back, starting from the Old Huckitta Homestead site. found gorges, waterholes, art sites and great views out across the plains.
Of course, you should be a fit, experienced hiker, and able to navigate with topographic map and landmarks.
There are many opportunities for birding around the park, especially in the gorges where pools of water and flowering plants can be found.
Access to the Dulcie Ranges National Park is across ungraded, private station tracks, and is strictly 4WD only.
You will need to be prepared to make phone calls before you go, let someone know where you’re going and be TOTALLY self-sufficient.
First of all, if you’re planning to visit, we recommend that you talk to the rangers who manage the park, who are based at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station (ph. 08 8952 1013).
They’ll be able to update you on track conditions and as to whether you’ll need to call the pastoralists to let them know you’re coming:
- Jinka Station
- Huckitta Station
- Dneiper Station
You also MUST have topographic maps or HEMA’s high quality explorer maps on your GPS or tablet.
If you don’t have a detailed topographic map – do NOT attempt this journey. Likewise, if you can’t read a topo map and you’re going alone, the Dulcie Ranges are NOT for you.
To get to the Dulcies from Alice Springs, head north on the Stuart Highway for 70km, and turn right at the Plenty Highway.
You’ll need to head out along the Plenty for a little over 130km, then you have TWO choices for accessing the park, both of which involve tracks on station land.
Via the Plenty Highway & Huckitta Station
The track in to the Dulcies via Huckitta Station is a rough as it crosses a number of creeklines. You will need a 4WD on this one!
Intending visitors should contact station managers, as the access track to the park is not well defined from general station tracks and can be difficult to find especially where it travels near cattle watering points.
Huckitta Station owned by Huckitta Aboriginal Corporation. Ph. 08 89569258
Managers Malcolm and Emma Chalmers Huckitta@activ8.net.au,
- Head out approximately 48km from Harts Range to the Huckitta Station turnoff
- Take the turn off and drive past the homestead for 1km
- Take second track on the right and STAY on this track for about 5km
- Veer right at the fork in the track and head roughly north east for about 15km to Marshall Bore
- Just after Marshall Bore, the track turns to the south and comes to a T-junction
- Turn right at the T-Junction and continue for about 8km
- You’ll come to a fork in the track, continue along the left fork for about 20km (there are LOTS of creeklines)
- Once you pass Huckitta Bore, you’ve got about 5km to go
- Look out for a track to the right just after Huckitta Bore. This will take you to the Park near the old Huckitta Homestead.
Via the Binns Track (Old Explorer Territory 4WD Route)
After leaving Harts Range, Atitjere, head out the 22km to the Binns Track. This is a reasonable gravel road that any 4WD will be able to travel. It is also the easiest way to get in to the Dulcies – it’s the way I’ve been several times and would recommend to most.
Not long after seeing the little sign for the Boxhole Meteor Crater, you’ ll come to a grid and station-made signpost that says MacDonald Downs and the Dulcie Ranges. This is where you leave the Binns Track.
This mud map is an APPROXIMATION only.
- Head north along the Binns Track for approximately 45km
- At around 22.54844S/135.24915E, look for a fence line. Keep your vehicle SOUTH of the fenceline.
- Head almost due east along the fenceline for approximately 12km
- Veer north east at where the fence veers north east (you’re still on the south side of a fenceline)
- After almost 2km, take the track that turns RIGHT (heading almost due east again)
- Follow this track for about 5km and it comes to Elkera Bore where you need to make a RIGHT hand turn to the south.
- Head south for about a 1km, then turn left at the fork in the track
- Stay on this track for about 10km, then you’ll see a track that heads to the left and into the park.
You can also head up into the Mt Ultim area from Elkera Bore. Take the track that heads north.
A Final Word
As we’ve said above getting to the Dulcie Ranges National Park is a bit of an adventure in itself.
This is NOT a beginner’s adventure.
You will really need to be able to navigate via a map, and seek permission to cross pastoral land. The tracks aren’t maintained like the Binns Track and Plenty Highway are, as they’re private station tracks.
If you do go to the Dulcies Ranges, remember you’re crossing pastoral land, so please don’t interfere with cattle, bores or other infrastructure, and as always, leave all gates exactly as you found them.
If the Dulcies seems a little too tough for your skills, but you’re you’re looking for something quiet and remote in Central Australia try these alternatives:
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