© SAFC 2002

Mt Ive Station

The Heart of the Gawler Ranges



The Gawler Ranges were explored by Edward John Eyre. He was the first white man to travel over this country. Two volcanic periods have resulted in an amazing ancient landscape with some of the largest exposed examples of Rhyolite columns in the world. Salt Lakes are many with Lake Gairdner being the most spectacular in Australia.

It is understood at the time of settlement the Wirangu, Barngarla and Kokatha (or Gugada) aboriginal people were in this area.

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History of the Gawler Ranges

On the 25th August 1839 John Eyre left Streaky Bay. Five weeks later on the 29th September he successfully completed the journey through the Ranges to the Head of Spencer Gulf, to a fresh water supply camp at Depot Creek near Port Augusta.

Several days after naming the Gawler Ranges after the governor of the colony, Eyre first sighted the Desert Pea in South Australia at the base of Spring Hill on Thurlga Station. It has since been chosen as the states floral emblem. Eyre described it as a most splendid creeping plant in flower, quite new to him and beautiful. It was one of the prettiest looking flowers he had seen in Australia.
(The first recorded sighting of the Desert Pea was in Western Australia in 1699 by William Dampier)

Eighteen years later Stephen Hack explored the Ranges and in 1857 the first pastoral lease was taken up.

The years 1857/58 must have been good for rain over the country as all the explorers spoke of permanent fresh water lakes, of which there are none, except after good rains.

The Land Regulations of the day required pastoralists to stock their runs with 50 sheep per mile˛ (19 per Km˛). In the late 1860’s this saw approximately 90,000 sheep being shorn at properties such as Nonning Station. To comply with lease conditions many wells were sunk to provide crucial summer water. However, the harsh, arid conditions and unreliable water supply found those sheep numbers to be unsustainable. At times throughout the past, some leases were abandoned by pastoralists only to be taken up again by others. Shepherds were used until the late 1870s when fences gradually replaced them.

The earliest wool from the Ranges went to Port Augusta, Venus bay, Elliston, or Streaky Bay. It was transported by either camel pack or wagons drawn by Bullock, Horse or Camel teams.

The first car to enter the region in 1907 was a De Dion driven from Pt Augusta to Yardea by Mr Mosely and his son. In 1916 the first truck arrived.

The most direct road and first communication to Western Australia by telegraph (1903) was through The Gawler Ranges.

The first mail service through to Yardea from Pt Augusta commenced in 1876 and was known as the quickest outback mail run in the state.

For the interested observer, there are marks of history throughout the Ranges. Woolsheds, Eyre’s campsites, embankments, gravesites, ruins and homesteads are but a few of the reminders of the achievements and hardships of those in days gone by. Evidence of the bullock droving days and dog fences from the turn of the century are there for those with a sharp eye.