Question: Where in the world is a sacred desert canyon also the site of the “Garden of Eden” and the “Lost City?”
Answer: Kings Canyon, Australia
With soaring red rock walls 440 million years in the making, an oasis of natural pools, and a plethora of native flora and fauna, it’s no wonder why Kings Canyon was once a sacred Aboriginal site. Located at the heart of Australia’s iconic “Red Centre,” Kings Canyon is an impressive display of Australia’s raw beauty. Atop the canyon’s 810 foot walls, visitors get rare aerial views of the bluffs and gorges of the surrounding desert and a forest of palms, ferns, and cycads at the bottom of the canyon.
Kings Canyon is located within Watarrka National Park which conserves 274 square miles of the Outback and more than 600 native plant and animal species—it was even described as a “living plant museum” in 1986 for its abundance of rare varieties. The landscape of Watarrka is unlike any other, standing at the crossroads of three Australian landscapes—the western desert sandplains, the Macdonnell mountain range, and the Simpson Desert.
The area of what is now Watarrka National Park was home to the Aboriginal people, the Luritja, for more than 20,000 years, and the name “Watarrka” was their name for the land. For the Luritja, Kings Canyon was a shady refuge from the sweltering desert heat and a place to hold their sacred ceremonies. The watering holes and lush vegetation at the bottom of the canyon made it a lifeline for survival. Today, their paintings and engravings can still be spotted along the walls.
Two main walking trails allow visitors to revel in this sheer size and beauty of Kings Canyon. For more ambitious hikers, a three-mile trek traverses the rim of the canyon, through the tropical pools known as the “Garden of Eden,” and looks out onto domed, beehive-shaped rock formations called the “Lost City.” An easier path leads through the floor of the gorge while looking up at the towering canyon walls. Whether you walk along the top of the canyon with its 360-degree views of the desert or walk through the forest of eucalyptus along the bottom, Kings Canyon captures the essence of Australia’s unmatched Red Centre.
7 Things to Know About Australia’s Red Centre:
- Australia’s Red Centre is an extraordinary landscape of desert plains, mountain ranges, and rocky gorges located in the southern part of Australia’s Northern Territory. The Aboriginal people consider it the spiritual heart of Australia.
- The distinct and recognizable red glow of the Red Centre comes from oxidized iron within its soil.
- Among the rocky red terrain, there are pockets of lush growth and watering holes which are a refuge for the unique wildlife that lives there. Some of the well-adapted wildlife found in the Red Centre includes red kangaroos, dingoes, thorny devils, Australian feral camels, among many others.
- The largest aboriginal culture in the Red Centre are the Arrernte people who have lived there for more than 30,000 years, making them one of the oldest surviving cultures on Earth.
- Some of the most sacred of all Aboriginal sites are here, most notably Uluru and Kata Tjuta. These massive red sandstone formations glow red at dawn and sunset and appear as varying colors at different times of the year. They hold special cultural significance for Aboriginal people as the place where Earth and memories exist as one.
- The region itself is also recognized as one of the largest remaining intact natural areas on Earth.
- Alice Springs, the outback’s most cosmopolitan city, is considered the gateway into the Red Centre. Here, Europeans first settled in central Australia during the 19th century. Today, Alice Springs Telegraph Station still stands, which was the original site of the first European settlement in central Australia.
Journey to the Red Centre and explore Kings Canyon during our Enhanced! A South Pacific Odyssey: Australia, the Outback & New Zealand adventure .