Year: 2007

Is Tarlton Spring Stuart’s ‘Spring of Hope’

Tarlton Spring
Tarlton Spring

Explorers and pioneers are usually the people who name things in the European fashion, and those original names usually persist. However, in the Mound Springs country, that may not always be the case. The explorer John McDouall Stuart discovered many springs in his visits to this region while surveying and seeking out country suitable for grazing. On Monday May 30th 1859, he came upon “a beautiful spring in the bed of the creek, for which I am truly thankful. I have named this “The Spring of Hope.” It is a little brackish, not from salt, but soda, and runs a good stream of water. I have lived upon far worse than this: to me it is of the utmost importance, and keeps my retreat open. I can go from here to Adelaide at any time of the year, and in any season. Camped for the rest of the day. Lat., 28 degrees 33 minutes 34 seconds.”

However, there are no springs known today by the name Spring of Hope. They were obviously significant finds in Stuart’s opinion. So the obvious question is – just where are they? On the recent FOMS field trip, the group visited Tarlton Springs, which is protected by a fence, providing an enclosure zone. These springs are located at the foot of the Davenport Range, north of William Creek in S.A. The absence of spring activity and the death of vegetation around the five vents inside the enclosure suggests that we have witnessed the ‘death’ of the five springs inside the enclosure. Also inside the exclusion zone are remnants of a stone building; possibly a stockman’s hut on the original Mt Margaret run. There is one viable spring about 400 metres to the south, and it appears to be heavily utilised by native and feral animal species.

Tarlton Spring
Tarlton Spring

Here-in lies the value of field work. By noting from topographical maps that Tarlton Spring is on Hope Creek; by obtaining GPS observations which demonstrate that Tarlton Springs is at the same longitude & latitude as the Spring of Hope; and by matching Stuart’s other observations, there is a strong possibility that they are the same place. However, on our FOMS visit, there was one other clue that we sought to verify. Stuart’s journal records that he “built a small cone of stones on a reef of rocks that runs along the top of a hill about half a mile west-north-west from the spring, to which it will act as a landmark.”

A search on foot was not able to find the cone of stones, but this is not unexpected. FOMS member Rick Moore has located many of Stuart’s ‘Cones of Stones’ in recent years, (in 2004 he presented the Royal Geographical Society’s annual Brock Lecture, entitled ‘Cones of Stone’) and says that some of these would have been very low and easily disturbed by livestock over the last 145 years.

So, is Stuart’s Spring of Hope nowadays called Tarlton Spring? – very likely. If so, how did the name change come about? Ah, the small unsolved mysteries that make field work all the more interesting & challenging!

A Traditional Story of Tarlton Spring Yatjaparanha

Great egret (Egretta alba)
Great egret (Egretta alba)
Arabunna Fish
Arabunna Fish

Yatjaparanha is where the Arabunna Fish History starts. Two huge ancestral Yellow- bellies appeared here and the Crane and other birds decided to drive them into the shallows by sweeping the water with bushes. They swept them along to Loudon Springs or Katirinha. At Brinkley Springs or Thurru-hurrunha one big isolated box tree next to the spring represents the wicked ancestral Crane Wurru. He was supposed to be in charge of the sweeping operation but was too busy making lewd gestures to his two daughters-in-law. On the upper Umbum Creek the Crane became so distracted that he let go of the bushes, and at Edith Springs or Mangkapil-jinha the fish escaped. A deadly curse was uttered which is associated with a red spring where nothing will grow, on top of the range not far from Mt Margaret. The two big Yellow-Bellies then went to Little Perry Spring and are still represented there by Markara-Pula. The two big lumps of this hill can be seen from far away. The Fish pursued by the Crane go through Primrose Spring or Papu-ngaljuru and camp at the two sandhills Mudlu-mudlu-pulanha to the north. They then split up and the two big Yellow-bellies go back north, and the Cranes go northeast to the lower Diamantina.

This story was taken from SA Dept of Environment & Planning (1986) Heritage of the Mound Springs: The assessment of Aboriginal Cultural Significance of Mound Springs in South Australia prepared by Dr Luise Hercus & Dr Peter Sutton.

FOMS Newsletter #4, August 2007

Blanche Cup with Mt Hamilton (extinct spring) in the background, June 2007
FOMS at Blanche Cup, with Mt Hamilton (extinct spring) in the background

This newsletter edition features:

  • Diary of the FOMS SA Springs Tour, June 2007
  • Is Tarlton Spring Stuarts ‘Spring of Hope’?
  • Introduction to some springs (Big Perry, The Fountain, Twelve Mile Spring, Outside Spring, Tarlton Spring)
  • Federal Protection for the GAB Springs and the EPBCA Recovery Plan

Springs Tour, June 2007

Sunday 24th June

FOMS Springs Tour, June 2007
FOMS Springs Tour, June 2007

A 3pm rendezvous at Roxby Downs for John & Leigh Childs, Sue Black, Bruce & Sherrie Gotch, Ann Gorton, Colin Harris & Elaine Smyth, Dean Harris, Simon Lewis, Rick Moore, Anne Pye, and Doug Smith & Heather Woods. Unfortunately Travis Gotch was unable to join the group for a few days because of damage to his work vehicle. The remainder of the party headed up the Borefield Road to a very satisfactory camp-site on the Gregory Creek, near the sign to New Year Gift Bore 2. We were fortunate to be joined at the camp-site by Bobby Hunter, manager of Stuart Creek station.

Monday 25th June

We met up with Justin Costelloe and colleagues from the University of Melbourne at the Borefield Road / Oodnadatta Track intersection. We also met with Reg Dodd (from the Arabunna community at Marree) who was accompanied by a group of Melbourne lawyers who are assisting the Arabunna people in their efforts to have heritage listing applied to Finniss Springs. Reg led the enlarged group in a guided tour of several points of interest on Finniss Springs. These included Finniss Spring ruins; several springs at Hermit Hill with their tall reed (Phragmites) communities; springs at West Finniss, where the group noted the very rare and isolated pipewort, Eriocaulon carsonii and attractive cutting grass Gahnia trifida (noteworthy as a disjunct species to that which occurs hundreds of kilometres to the south); and Bopeechee Spring, a spring that virtually ceased to flow as an apparent result of water extraction from Borefield A for the Olympic Dam mine, but which was “revived” through injection of bore water around the periphery of the spring to re-establish sufficient pressure to reinstate a flow. The FOMS group then headed north-west up the Oodnadatta Track. We had a brief stop at Curdimurka before venturing on to the Coward Springs Campground run by Greg Emmett and Prue Coulls where we camped for the next two nights.

Tuesday 26th June

Some of the group inspected a few of the springs in the northern section of Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park – specifically Elizabeth Springs and Jersey Spring. For some, the Elizabeth Springs were one of the highlights of the trip – the springs were in fine fettle and the weather was superb. Before lunch, most of the party then ventured out to Coward Spring. This is a spring where reeds (Phragmites) have steadily encroached down the tail of the spring, displacing the bore sedge Cyperus laevigatus, following fencing in the mid 1990s. After lunch, the group had a look at Blanche Cup and The Bubbler. At Blanche Cup we discussed the impact of visitors trampling C laevigatus around the open pool. A low board-walk or low protective fencing were two options suggested to deal with this. We then split into two parties. One group ventured to springs in the south of Wabma Kadarbu (Horse, Buttercup, and the Mt Hamilton ruins), while the other group drove into Emerald Spring. At Emerald, a search for a cone of stones, thought by Rick to be nearby, was not successful. Bobby Hunter also rejoined us and regaled the group with his memories of Coward Springs when it operated as a railway siding complete with pub.

Wednesday 27th June

We proceeded to Strangways Springs with its ruins of the Overland Telegraph repeater station. The group had a short ramble around the ruins and some of the ~450 springs at Strangways (of which, according to Travis, about 50% are active). Then on to William Creek for lunch, refuelling and a chance to check out the bar of the William Creek Hotel. After lunch we carried on up the Oodnadatta Track to Warrina Siding where Colin, under Elaine’s careful supervision, gave the Royal Geographical Society’s plaque a good going over. Doug finished the job with a rinse and a scrub with a washing-up brush. With the afternoon flying by, we decided on a quick trip into the ruins of the Old Peake repeater station. This proved to be a good decision as the ruins were splendid in the late afternoon sun. Bruce then led us to a magnificent spring nearby – clearly the pick of the Freeling Springs. A wonderful sight with a large expanse of open water with some black swans in residence. We then returned to our pre-selected campsite on the Old Peake Public Access Route.

FOMS Springs Tour, June 2007 (2)

Thursday 28th June

Another fine day as we proceeded to the new Peake homestead where we caught up with Adam, the acting manager for Kidmans. Then down the station track to Milne Spring – with its bore, natural spring and impressive rock formations – and on to Levi Springs where the adjacent rock formations contain Aboriginal circular etchings or petroglyphs. After Levi we drove on to Spring Hill, where Rick led us to one of Stuart’s cones of stones at the top of the Hill – an impressive sight. The convoy then journeyed onto Tarlton Springs, where we also met up with Travis as well as Bruce and Sherrie (who had kindly taken Ann Gorton down to William Creek that morning). Tarlton confirmed our concerns from previous inspections – the Typha springs were essentially ex-springs with the Typha (bullrushes) dead and just a little of the sedge Cyperus gymnocaulos hanging on. We were interested to note, however, an active spring in the bed of Hope Creek outside of the fenced area (possibly Stuart’s “Spring of Hope”). That evening we camped at a very good site on Bulldog Creek.

Friday 29th June

Adam of the Peake Station joined the group at Outside Spring and we spent the first part of the day looking at springs nearby which had been fenced off in the 1980s. Kelli-Jo Kovac and Reece Pedler from BHP Billiton also joined us for the day. The four springs were Outside Spring showing extensive growth of Phragmites within the fenced area with little change since last inspection (2005), although the adjoining unfenced spring has an increased proportion of Typha; Twelve Mile Spring with extensive Phragmites with some Typha at top vent and a recently established area (~2 square metres) of Typha on edge of Phragmites near the top of Vent #3 (Phragmites has spread considerably at the top of the mound since the last inspection.); The Fountain which is a Phragmites dominated spring with little apparent change since the last inspection; and Big Perry where the Phragmites and Typha exhibited little change. With light rain developing, we drove on to George’s Creek for lunch and combined this with a walk over to the Old Umbum Station ruins. Then on to Louden Spring, once one of Stuart’s favoured camp-sites, now extinct. The group arrived at the campsite on the Douglas River in plenty of time to prepare for a camp oven extravaganza prepared by Travis, with pre-dinner nibbles laid on by Kelli-Jo courtesy of BHP.

Saturday 30th June

With final farewells, the group dispersed, some heading for home and others continuing to enjoy the region for another day or two. The week had been a resounding success: good company, great weather and plenty of interesting locations.

Great Artesian Basin (GAB) Springs Protection and Monitoring Program, 1984 – 2005

The Little Bubbler
The Little Bubbler

Extracts from Paper prepared for GAB Springs Researchers Forum, February 2006, Adelaide by Colin Harris and Simon Lewis

In 1984, the then SA Department of Environment and Planning commenced a comprehensive review of the significance of the 4000 plus GAB vents and springs in SA covering Aboriginal heritage, European heritage and biodiversity features. This culminated in the production of the 1986 report, “Heritage of the mound springs”. Based upon this work, the Department identified ten springs as a priority for fencing and protection. Using a mixture of State, Commonwealth and industry funding, the GAB springs at Blanche Cup, The Bubbler, Strangways, Big Perry, The Fountain, Twelve Mile, Outside, Tarlton, Old Nilpinna and Big Cadna-Owie were fenced during the period 1985 to 1988.

At the time of this fencing, the Department of Environment and Planning commenced a monitoring program to assess the effects of the stock exclusion etc. The monitoring also included an unfenced spring, Little Bubbler, near The Bubbler and Blanche Cup to provide information on the condition of a spring still accessible to stock and other introduced animals.

In the early to mid 1990s, pastoralists S Kidman and Co offered to relinquish a portion of the Stuart Creek pastoral lease – areas including and surrounding Blanche Cup and the Bubbler – to be included in the national parks system. These negotiations succeeded and Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Parks was established in 1995. This included Coward Springs, Little Bubbler and other springs within the immediate environs of Blanche Cup and The Bubbler. In the late 1990s, the new lessees of Stuart Creek, Western Mining Corporation, offered to relinquish a much larger area surrounding Wabma Kadarbu, to protect many other springs including Jersey, Elizabeth, Horse, Buttercup and Mount Hamilton springs. These negotiations were also fruitful and the expanded Wabma Kadarbu GAB springs Conservation Park was proclaimed in 2001.

The springs listed above have been monitored annually since their fencing. Coward Springs was included for monitoring with the initial dedication of the Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park. At the time of the initial fencing program in the 1980s, the Department engaged Dr Tim Fatchen to design a monitoring program. At that time it was envisaged that pastoral lessees and possibly others resident in the region could be engaged in assisting with monitoring. The focus of monitoring has therefore been the following: photopoints; recording of plant species present; some measurements of pool diameter and extent of fringing vegetation; and some transects to show distribution of dominant plant species from vent to wetland.

The GAB springs fencing program and the resultant exclusion of stock and other animals has led to a substantial increase in the biomass and, in some instances, area of wetland vegetation as well as associated dryland vegetation. In some cases a relatively stable situation appears to have developed ( e.g., Blanche Cup, Bubbler, Little Bubbler and, to some extent, Old Nilpinna). In other cases there has been a proliferation of reeds, Phragmites and/or Typha, which appear to have stabilised in terms of cover (sometimes because they now comprise 100% of wetland cover) but which now wax and wane in terms of condition and biomass (e.g., Big Perry, Fountain, Outside, Big Cadna-owie). At two other springs (Twelve Mile and Coward Springs) the spread of Phragmites is continuing. At Tarlton there has been a proliferation of Typha through the 1990s, followed by a decline in spring flow and death of Typha – with the most recent observations, in 2004, suggesting that the springs may be about to dry up completely. At the fenced spring at Strangways, there has been a steady decline in pool vegetation and apparently spring flow at the fenced spring during the last five years. The proliferation of Phragmites and/or Typha has created concerns including: the loss of open pools and the reduction in plant diversity, potentially adverse effects on aquatic fauna, particularly the significant hydrobiids (freshwater snails), and the potential for the dense growth to reduce spring flows through increased evapotranspiration and possibly through plugging of the spring vent. Reflecting these concerns, active manipulation of the reeds, on a carefully monitored trial basis, is recommended at selected springs. This work will need to link with burning trials elsewhere (e.g., on Finniss Springs).

A Traditional Story of Big Cadna-owie Kadnjawi


Big Cadna-owie Spring was an important traditional camping site until 1919 when the entire group of traditional people living there was killed by an influenza epidemic brought by a passing camel-driver. Cadna-owie or Kadnjawi is also the name given to Mt Dutton and means hill-water or hill with springs. Big Cadna-owie, and four other springs in the vicinity of Mt Dutton including the Wandillina Springs are all connected with the story of the ngampa or nardoo stone. A ngampa stone is a large stone on which nardoo and other large seeds are broken up with a hammer stone. The outline of the story is that the Aranda ancestor Indarra could hear the beautiful ringing sound of the ngampa far far away to the south. It drew him towards the lower Finke, and then to the northern tip of the Alkaowra flood flats before he tracked the sound all the way to Mt Dutton. He camped first at the Ngampayiwalanha spring and asked the Kadnjawi people for the stone. They tried to fob him off with a broken stone and then inferior ones. He moved onto other springs and repeated his request. Finally they had to give him their favourite ngampa stone. Big Cadna-owie was one of the places where Indarra camped and the main camp of the Kadnajawi people was nearby.

ngampa stone
ngampa stone

Between the ruins of Wandillina homestead and the main Marree-Oodnadatta road there are three springs almost in a straight line to the north-east. In the far distance, almost in a straight line and visible from far away is Mt Arthur. As soon as Indarra got the ngampa stone, he said he was going back, and that now it was indeed he who would beat seed with the stone. He put the stone on his head and without looking back he set off towards home via Mt Arthur or Pakalta. He stayed there for a while, put down the stone and just looked at it and admired it. Mt Arthur represents the stone. The Kadnjawi song cycle, much of which is in Aranda, goes with this story.

This story was taken from SA Dept of Environment & Planning (1986) Heritage of the Mound Springs: The assessment of Aboriginal Cultural Significance of Mound Springs in   South Australia prepared by Dr Luise Hercus & Dr Peter Sutton.