Discover thousands of ancient rock carvings by the Arrernte people of Central Australia in the sandstone caves and rock overhands of this sacred site.
Experience the cultural heritage of the Arrernte people of Central Australia in N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park, also known as Ilwentje. There are almost 6000 pieces of rock art in this sacred site. Many carvings are from the past two thousand years, but some are thought to be as old as 10,000 years.
The sandstone caves and overhangs in this gorge were an ideal site for ceremonies and shelters for the Arrernte people, who decorated the rocks with carvings. The dry desert atmosphere has preserved the artworks for thousands of years.
There are two techniques of stone carving exhibited in the park. Pecking was a technique done with one stone used as a chisel and one as a hammer. Pounding was a technique using a single pointed stone. Though little is known about the artworks, the two techniques are thought to distinguish between different time periods. The carvings feature many circles and some human-looking figures wearing headdresses. It is thought that many of the stories told through the rock art are from the Caterpillar Dreaming (Yeperenye).
Paintings, charcoal, animal remains and other ancient artefacts from Arrernte life have been found in the park and are still visible today.
Discover the history and culture in this area on the walking track to the gorge. Interpretive signs line the 1.-hour return walk. Admire the incredible scenery in this area, including layered stone thrust out of the earth by shifting geology.
The gorge is filled with wildlife. Birdwatchers should bring binoculars and look out for parrots, kingfishers, budgerigars, thrush, whistlers, painted finches and honeyeaters.
The N’Dhala Gorge Nature Park is located in the East MacDonnell Ranges, 90 kilometres (55 miles) east of Alice Springs. The road into the gorge follows the Ross River and is only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles.
Stay in accommodation nearby at Ross River. There is a simple bush campsite at the gorge, with toilet facilities but no fresh water.