Exploring Kings Canyon from Down Under – The Kings Creek Walk

Looking up at the sheer canyon walls from the shady tree lined creek bed I could make out pimply protuberances sticking out along the top –
People… up on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, were leaning out over the edge admiring the view or snapping a photie of the stunning red rugged cliff face, which from my vantage point, down here on the canyon-floor required no such antics!

Kings Canyon Walls looking up at people along the top

I’ve enlarged them for you in the picture above on the left, which is clipped from the top left of the right hand photo… that gives a sense of scale!

This was our second day visiting Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park.
 (pron Wah-tah-kah), named in 1989 is the local Luritja people’s name for the Umbrella bush (Acacia ligilata), which is a common plant on the sand plains in the region.

Watarrka National Park map

Watarrka – Kings Canyon is in the red centre of Australia

Assuming bigger must be best, meaning a 6km (3.75 miles) challenging Rim walk must be better than an easy 2km (1.25 miles) Creek stroll, we’d tackled the 500 (or so) steps taking us up and around the Kings Canyon Rim Walk (click the link for the full story!) on our first day, so we’d already circumnavigated the canyon around the top getting some bird’s eye views of the sheer sides that appeared to be oh-so crisply cut right down to the canyon floor, where the Kings Creek Walk that we were doing today meandered.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Down here on the creek bed, it was a very different place to the harsh environment up on the rim where the sun not only beats down from overhead, but also rebounds back up from the barren red hot rock underfoot.
Down here is where the Luritja people would have lived.
Sheltered from the extremes of the weather.
Down here there was a sense of protection and I could feel the life and the footsteps that had gone before me
– and I don’t mean those of tourists!

River Red Gums in Kings Creek

The River Red Gum known as Itara (pron I-tar-ah) in the local Luritja tongue were an important food source.
Ngapari (pron nah-pah-ri), a white sugary scale that forms on the River Red Gum leaves was collected by the women as they shook the branches making bits of the sweet crust fall either into a receptacle or onto a flat rock below, where it was swept together with a small branch and packed into a ball for sharing.

River Red Gums on the Kings Creek Walk

Then, there are the big white grubs – maku (pron mah-koo), which live at the bottom of long tubes leading from the surface down to the roots of the River Red Gums when they’ve been exposed by flood-waters. The women put a long piece of hooked grass down these tubes and would pull the grub out quickly to then cook on hot coals.

Kings Canyon from Kings Creek

Aboriginals appreciate their precious landscapes.

They look up to and bestow a healthy respect to the land-forms that support them.

And as the canyon walls rose up to encompass and embrace us it also signaled that we were reaching the end of our permitted trail.

In these lower reaches aboriginal families would have camped together – But the women and children, like us visitors, would not venture further into the canyon’s inner secret folds.

Beyond this point lies a hidden world where mens’ private ceremonies were performed.

The end of the Kings Creek walk

It was here, at our turning point, that we came upon a side channel of water remaining in this otherwise dry creek.
As we stood beside this pool there was a sense of sanctuary and oneness with nature when a pair of yellow and white birds came in to drink – sharing this life giving resource.

And there was evidence of years of previous occupation at the edge of the pool – small wells for storing water, which covered with a rock would have preserved this liquid gold from evaporation so when the main pool finally disappeared leaving exposed dry rock, a final vestige would be saved for survival.

Plant life in the Kings Creek river bed

Also of interest on the far side was the remains of a huge woody plant base – that looked ancient.

I have no idea what it was – Just that it resembled in shape an enormous hollowed out sea urchin shell! (if you know do tell in the comments below!)

But no matter what it was – “that thing belongs here“.

Traditional owners of Watarrka ask that you respect their trees

Trees are precious and important –
The traditional owners of Watarrka ask that you respect them

And as we prepared to leave this special place, I caught sight of this stunning reflection of the canyon walls in this precious pool of liquid life.

Kings Canyon reflected in a pool of water

Circumnavigating the Canyon around the top on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk (6km)
and then penetrating the base of the canyon walls up the creek-bed walk (2km)
offered two very different perspectives.

Is one better than the other?

Or is it a simple case of…

they’re different 🙂


Story Map of walking up Kings Creek, below Kings Canyon

My Story Map of Walking Kings Creek to view Kings Canyon from Down Under


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19 thoughts on “Exploring Kings Canyon from Down Under – The Kings Creek Walk

    • Welcome to my blog Doreen!
      We have some fine chocolatiers here in Australia too so I’m sure you’d find some interesting material for your third volume of Chocolatour 🙂

    • Thanks Anne ~
      I think the Red Centre is one of the most rewarding areas of Australia to visit –
      You get to enjoy the space of the outback with some stunning landscape interludes 🙂

    • I felt there was a sense of one either does the Rim Walk or the Creek Walk –
      With the Creek Walk being touted as the consolation prize if you felt the 500 step start up to the Rim was too much –
      Many people who therefore do the Rim Walk leave assuming Kings Canyon has been conquered!
      Doing both offers two very different experiences 🙂
      (And yes when I find out what that amazing “sea urchin” trunk remains is I’ll be sure to let you know!)

  1. I’ve certainly enjoyed your posts on Kings Canyon. Both walks look fabulous and I agree, I think you would have to do both to really appreciate it. The scenery on the lower walk is beautiful!
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    • I was pleased we’d made the time to allow one day to go up and around the Rim, and after a restful afternoon, return the second day to enjoy a leisurely stroll up the canyon floor –
      I was semi expecting this to be insignificant by comparison to circumnavigating the Rim – but it was simply refreshingly different 🙂

  2. Those shear canyon walls are just amazing. This looks like a fabulous walk though Kings Creek full of beauty and a sense of time gone by. Interesting background about the Luritja people that lived there.

    • The Red Centre of Australia is a superb place to visit if you enjoy landscape –
      Along with learning about the aboriginal people who survived this tough country for 40,000 before “we” turned up on the scene 🙂

    • The Creek Walk is very easily overlooked if you’ve already done its big brother up on the Rim –
      We very nearly wrote it off too assuming bigger must be best, but as we went to leave the following day we felt a gentle walk before the long drive back to Alice would be pleasant –
      It was more than that! 😉

  3. Your photos are stunning, especially the one with the reflection in the water. I also love the perspective of the hikers seemingly on the canyon’s edge. Of course your story map is a work of art, just beautiful and full of bite sized pieces of information that as travellers it’s easy to neglect or forget.

    • We did this walk in the morning before making the drive to Alice Springs –
      Hence our dotted route from the Canyon on the right side of the Story Map.

      I’m hoping to create an ebook showing you how its not just the so called arty types who can create Story Maps –
      Its a technique for everyone, including you Jo 🙂

  4. Pingback: How to Experience the Best 6 Days of your Life Guide to Uluru, Kata Tjuta & Watarrka National Parks

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