We’d wanted to find Fox’s Grave – one of the most isolated but uniquely carved grave sites in central Australia.
So we’d turned off at the unremarkable brown sign that pointed to Ruby Gap Nature Park.
The sense of remoteness one you leave Arltunga – Central Australia’s most famous ghost town- is all-encompassing.
We wound along a narrow, 4WD only track up and down ridge lines and through creek beds for over an hour, and never saw another car.
Once inside the park, the trip became even more exciting – crossing the deep sand, rocks and water of the Hale River, which flows through the length of the park.
Although crossing the Hale River bed isn’t too tricky, it might not be the best place for beginner 4WDers, given the large river boulders and deep sand.
As we drove further along the track, we crossed into Ruby Gap itself, and passed a tour group of artists camped on the river bank.
These people were part of Deb Clarke & Charlie Carter’s Larapinta Creative Camps. We chatted for a few minutes, before continuing on.
After another 10 minutes or so, we found a glorious place to camp and set about getting ourselves unpacked.
It was a cool June afternoon, and the shadows soon grew long and the sun burned deep red on the gorge’s sides.
We made a camel stew in our well-used camp oven, and ate watching the stars, listening to the evening calls of birds, reading and drinking red wine by the fire.
The next day, we tackled the 8km return hike from Ruby Gap up to Glen Annie, in search of Fox’s remarkable grave.
Along the way, the sands glimmered with the ‘rubies’ which give the gorge its name.
In 1886, explorer David Lindsay came here and thought he’d found rubies.
He started Central Australia’s first mining rush. Not gold – RUBIES!
By 1887, 200 people were camped in and around the Hale River, mining rubies.
Ruby Gap’s days of mining rush ended in 1888 when it was discovered that the rubies were in fact garnets – and gold was discovered at nearby Arltunga.
The ruby camps emptied overnight as people went to make their fortunes in gold instead.
As there was plenty of water in Hale River, we had several sections of rock climbing to avoid deep, cold water (it was June and quite cool!).
After a couple of hours, we reached Glen Annie Gorge and set out too look for Fox’s Grave, which was hidden in the long buffel grass on the banks (a feral pest species in central Australia).
J.P Fox was one of the ruby miners, and he perished there during the rush. His fellow miners carved a headstone with pickaxes. The gravestone is both decorative and unique – which is why we wanted see it…
We’ll blame the buffel grass, but we didn’t find the grave. Others we’ve spoken to have also had difficulty finding it, too.
Settling for a cuppa instead, we climbed one of the hills overlooking Glen Annie and admired the view with a coffee and snack.
We’d have to find Mr Fox’s grave another day.
How to Get There:
Ruby Gap Nature Park is located 150km east of Alice Springs. It takes most people 3 hours to drive in from Alice.
Take the Ross Highway just south of Heavitree Gap in Alice Springs. Travel 110km to Arltunga (this will take a little over an hour if you don’t stop). When you see the sign to turn into Arltunga, DO NOT GO IN if you wish to go straight Ruby Gap.
To get to the Ruby Gap Nature Park turn off, you’ll need to veer to the right instead of going into Arltunga. Of course, if you do go to Arltunga, just backtrack and then turn right instead of left (left will take you back to Alice Springs!).
From Arltunga, take the road towards Ambalindum/The Gardens and look carefully for the Ruby Gap sign after a couple of kilometres. It’s a relatively small sign near a creek bed.
It’s 38km of 4WD-only track from Arltunga to Ruby Gap – this will take you around 1.5 – 2 hours to travel.
When you reach the park entrance, the track drops immediately into the Hale River bed. This is really not a place for inexperienced 4WDers.
The riverbed is rough and very rocky and there are often patches of water and deep sand. It’s very easy to get bogged in mud or sand or damage your car on the boulders – please drive carefully.
The track goes for about 5km in through Ruby Gorge, then you’ll see a sign that says “IT IS NOT ADVISABLE TO DRIVE BEYOND THIS POINT” – this means that whilst you can drive beyond this point, the driving is rough and in very deep sand, so NT Parks doesn’t recommend it.
At any rate, you could only drive another couple of kilometres before you’d reach the impassable (to vehicles) rock walls of Glen Annie Gorge. Of course, there’s a sign up there stating the obvious – no vehicles beyond this point.
See & Do:
Once inside Ruby Gap Nature Park, you can camp anywhere along the river. There’s good birdwatching and photography opportunities and an 8km return bushwalk to Glen Annie Gorge/Fox’s Grave following the Hale River bed.
Climb up on to some of the hills around the gorge and you’ll get some excellent views. If there’s water, you can go swimming.
Ideally, we recommend two nights at Ruby because of the time it takes to get in and out.
Bush camping only. There are no facilities, so you’ll need to bring everything. Collect firewood before you get to the park – you’ll find plenty along the way. Camping fees apply.
Ruby Gap Nature Park is ABSOLUTELY 4WD-only.
An experienced driver could tow an off-road camper trailer in here with care.
Caravans – even off road caravans- are not recommended because of the tricky boulders and wet/deep sand in the riverbed. It would be very difficult to get a caravan in here without damaging it.
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