Traditionally owned by the Nganguraku and Ngaiawang people, Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park is an important indigenous site on the banks of the Murray River. Yellow ocher cliffs house rock shelters dating back at least 5,000 years; a boardwalk runs along the river; and the rock art here has rich cultural significance.
Visits to the Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park have to be arranged in advance with the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association, which manages the land. It’s recommended that you join a tour led by one of their guides, which will introduce not only the natural landscape and the ancient rock art but its meaning in the indigenous worldview known as the Dreaming. While many visitors drive from Adelaide, often as part of a road trip to other South Australian destinations, it’s also possible to explore Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park as part of a Murray River cruise.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The excavations and art at Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park are a must for history and archaeology buffs.
- Aboriginal people believe that all land is sacred. Removing so much as a single stone from a sacred site like this is cultural vandalism.
- There are no trash cans in Australian national parks. Come prepared to take your garbage with you.
- The boardwalk is exposed, so bring a hat and sunscreen.
- Much of the park is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park is located on the banks of the Murray River, about 27 miles (44 kilometers) northwest of the riverboat town of Mannum, or 73 miles (117 kilometers) east of downtown Adelaide. There is no public transport, so your only option is to drive, join a tour, or join a Murray River cruise that visits the park. To reiterate, the park is only accessible by prior arrangement.
When to Get There
In South Australia’s scorching summers (roughly December to February), temperatures can rise above 115°F (46°C). If traveling during the summer, plan your visit for early in the day to beat the heat. Bushfires are not uncommon here, and Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park will close on days when there is a serious risk of fire.
Ngaut Ngaut and the Dreaming
In Aboriginal culture, the Dreamtime is when life came into being, and the Dreaming are the stories of creation. The Murray River figures prominently in local indigenous Dreaming tales. Ngaut Ngaut itself is sometimes conceptualized as a man, sometimes as a woman, and occasionally as a demon or fire demon.