Onkaparinga River is to be found 20 minutes south of the capital of South Australia, Adelaide. 'Onkaparinga' means 'Womens River'; and the story goes that an aboriginal woman had a fight with her tribe and tried to cross the river to escape, but drowned in the attempt. Middens1 and a secret cave of the Kouri people have been found within the park. It is part of the NPWS2 National Park scheme, being divided up into both a National Park (upper section) and Conservation Park (lower section). It starts in the Mount Lofty Ranges and winds its way via small creeks to Mount Bold Reservoir; which is nothing but feral pines but beautiful all the same, especially when they open the sluice gate.
From there the Onkaparinga flows through a picturesque valley and the village of Clarendon3 before dipping into the National Park, where the riverbed lies in a gorge several hundred metres deep with a large cliff on the southern side for a climb down (belaying points are available). There are a couple of waterfalls and a natural spring, as the river winds its way down to the township of Old Noarlunga, where the gorge gives way to hills then an estuary and wetlands system. This marks the start of the Conservation Park, which has extensive walkways and hides above the wetlands where you can spy on the birds; up to 400 species have been sighted by orthinologists.
Finally, the River winds its way past the edge of the township/suburb of Noarlunga, where towering sandunes surround the mouth of the river at Southport. A cool little surfing beach just south of Noarlunga reef has underwater information markers for the scuba divers.
Before being proclaimed a National Park, the Onkaparinga River valley was extensively used for grazing sheep and various other types of farming, especially olives. Now the time has come to return it to its natural glory of eucalyptus, casuarinas and other native plants by removing feral olives, figs, and pines and particularly tenacious weeds like prickly pear, boneseed, and South African Daisy.
Come and have a look. It's a beautiful part of the state, close to the city, the Southern Vales wine district, and the sea. It's also South Australia's best kept secret that few of the locals even know about. Look out for the 60 plus grey kangaroo; the nesting wedge-tailed eagles; and the volunteers, who may insist on telling you all about the park over a mug of coffee.