The first white men to travel through this country were the explorers, John McDouall Stuart, William Kekwick and Benjamin Head. On 11 April 1860, whilst travelling north along the Hugh River they discovered a large water hole. Stuart named this waterhole Owen Springs. One of the results of this discovery led to the Overland Telegraph Line following the Hugh River through Lawrence Gorge in the Waterhouse Range in 1872. In the same year William Gilbert established a cattle run on Owen Springs and built the first station homestead in the Northern Territory. After the death of the last lessee of the Pastoral Lease, the Northern Territory Government acquired the property in the year 2000 and opened it in a limited capacity for free public recreation in 2003.
At present a single 4×4 track, which is well signposted, traverses the property from the Stuart Highway, 66km south of Alice Springs through to Larapinta Drive for a distance of 50km and a further 50km bitumen road return drive to Alice Springs. There is a 2km side track to Redbank Waterhole on the Hugh River where bush camping is allowed. This track branches off to the left 4km from the Stuart highway entrance. There is also an area of 5.6km in length within Lawrence Gorge for bush camping. This area offers shady campsites but look out for falling branches. There are no facilities at either of the camp sites. The 50km track is an easy hard surface run except on a couple of places where it drops into the Hugh Riverbed where there are patches of very soft sand. Camper Trailers and Off-Road caravans could be towed along this track.
Redbank Waterhole offers a peaceful rest area amongst the River Red Gums although they only offer limited shade. There was enough water in the hole to cool off in and the hole shows sign of having more water after good rains. Further along the track interesting stops are at Haunted Tree Bore and Old Owen Springs Homestead ruins. We saw Red kangaroos and numerous birds including Port Lincoln Parrots and Honeyeaters. Some of the corkwood trees were in flower.
The normal safety and comfort rules apply in this harsh climate and please remember to take your rubbish away with you, keep to designated tracks, all cultural items and wildlife are protected. Open fires are allowed in the designated camping areas but please extinguish them before you leave your camp site so as to minimise the risk of bushfires.
North of Larapinta Drive there are more camping opportunities at Birthday Gap Waterhole and Reedy Waterhole which are accessed from the Namatjira Drive. The closest fuel supplies are Alice Springs or Stuarts Well, 90km south of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway.
Owen Springs Ruin