Driving through rocky ranges near Depot Creek.
DEPOT CREEK, a hidden delight in the Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Monument to Eyre and Depot Creek Camp.
Depot Creek in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia was first named as such by Edward John Eyre in 1839 on his first endeavour to find a way north and into the heart of Australia. An incredibly reliable and good source of water, Eyre made his ‘Eyre Depot’ on the creek close to the where the rugged ranges meet the plains; this became his base on his first and further endeavours, while other explorers and surveyors followed.
Of course, they weren’t the first people to depend on this water supply for succour and life. Aboriginal people had been savouring these waters for millennia and were probably more than a little distraught when Eyre and his mob of people, horses and stock arrived. Just a few years later, in fact, two shepherds were killed by Aboriginals and one could surmise that it had a lot to do with the sheep’s seemingly insatiable demands on the water supply.
In 1915, with the planned Transcontinental Railway about to be built across Australia linking distant Perth with the eastern states, the Commonwealth Railway set about changing the creek and its water flow for ever. They built a dam deeper in the ranges, and with more substantial rock and earth works downstream built a pipe line that fed water to Port Augusta and the steam trains that hauled goods and people north and south and east and west.
Today the dam and most of the original works and pipeline are in ruins, although water is still fed from near the original dam out to a number of nearby station properties that still rely on this water point.
One of those properties is Wilkatana Station whose lands take in the old weir, the creek, the site of the historic Eyre Depot and much of the rugged surrounding country.
With directions from the owners we took the station track south across flat plain bordering the range before reaching the northern edge of Depot Creek, its line of gums trees marking the route of the creek far out onto the flat plains – certainly the most obvious creek line along this whole western rampart of the ranges.
Once at the creek the main track heads deeper into the range and we dropped our camper on a flat piece of country above the creek before wandering deeper into the mountain fastness. The route winds and climbs a few rocky ridges for a few kilometres before suddenly coming to an end at a sheer bluff. From here it’s about a 500m walk – the easiest being along the creek bed itself – to the old weir and workings of the railway pipeline. Pools of water had dotted the creek downstream from the weir but the weir itself was completely silted up, while a few sprightly gum trees indicated that it had been like this for a long time.
Remains of the weir that once feed water to Port Augusta.
After our explorations we backtracked to our camp as a few spits of rain indicated that a cold front was passing through. Next morning, we followed tracks to the south-side of the creek where a monument pays homage to Eyre and his fellow explorers. From there we headed out to the main road, where just north of Depot Creek another monument to Eyre can be found. You have to say it’s a rather strange one for an explorer, but I guess it made sense for the Carlton Primary School who erected it here back in 1986.
With our explorations over we took one last photo and headed south to the ‘big smoke’ of Port Augusta. Hopefully it won’t be another 20 years before we visit this lonely, spectacular spot once again!
For access to Depot Creek contact Andrew or Rachel at Wilkatana Station, ph: (08) 8642 3642; or check the web for details on their camping, accommodation and other 4WD tracks they have on offer:
The main road, where just north of Depot Creek, where another monument to Eyre can be found.
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