Onkaparinga River National Park

Following the activation at the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, I drove a bit further to the south and activated the Onkaparinga River National Park which is situated about 32 kms south of Adelaide.


The park, which is 1544 hectares in size, incorporates the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park (284 hectares).  The park follows the Onkaparinga River to the sea.  The river enters the park in a steep sided valley and flows into a magnificent gorge with cliffs up to 50 metres high and large permanent rock pools.

The Onkaparinga River is South Australia’s second longest river.  It is 95 kms in length and runs from its source between the towns of Mount Torrens and Charleston, here in the Adelaide Hills, not far from my home qth.  The river then flows south westerly to an estuary at Port Noarlunga.

The name of the river comes from ‘Ngangkiparinga’, a Kaurna Aboriginal word meaning ‘The Women’s River’.  It was during about 1840 that Europeans commenced settling in the area which resulted in rapid displacement of the Aboriginal inhabitants.

In 1837 Surveyor General Col William Light named it Field’s River, or the Field River, after Lieut William George Field RN (1804-1850) of the brig Rapid, who carried out the first surveys in the vicinity, but subsequent Governor George Gawler soon reinstated the Indigenous name.

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The vegetation of the park has been greatly perturbed by human activity, but remnant patches remain. The most intact area is the Hardy’s Scrub section of the reserve.  Unfortunately 160 years of livestock grazing, timber harvesting and cropping has cleared most of the park of native understorey species and in many areas invasive grasses are the main vegetation type.

A variety of remnant Eucalypts are the most noticeable native species in the reserve: Eucalyptus microcarpa (Grey Box), Eucalyptus fasciculosa (Pink Gum), Eucalyptus porosa (Mallee box), Eucalyptus Cameldulensis (Red Gum), and Eucalyptus leucoxylyn (Blue Gum).

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The European Olive (Olea europaea) which is a noxious weed here in South Australia has invaded the park.

A variety of wildlife including kangaroos, echidnas, are common in the park.  About 180 species of birds have been found in the park.

Rock climbing is permitted in the park at the designated cliff climbing area.  You can also canoe or kayak down the river.

I entered the park via the southern side of the park, off Chapel Hill Road, about 1 km east of the well known Chapel Hill winery.  This is deep in the heart of the McLaren Vale & McLaren Flat wine region, where some of Australia’s best wines are grown, particularly Shiraz.  As a lover of red wine, it was really hard driving passed some of the wineries, and not going in for a tasting !

I found a nice little carpark off the road with plenty of room for me to string out the dipole.  I secured the 7m squid pole on a permapine post and tied off the ends of the dipole to some gum trees.


I turned the radio and tuned to 7.100 and heard some of the regular ‘Hunters’ John VK5BJE, Col VK5HCF, & Steve VK5AIM, having a chat waiting for me to come up on frequency.  Spoke to both John and Col, and I then had a few more QSO’s with a few other regular ‘Hunters’ Brian VK5FMID, Nev VK5WG, & Bill VK5MBD.

I spoke again with Larry VK5LY who was operating QRP on just 4 watts (5/9 send and 5/8 received).  This was followed by a QRP contact with Tony VK3CAT who had just finished assembling his Elecraft.  Tony was using just 3 watts and had a terrific 5/8 signal into the park.  And my last QSO of the day was another QRP to QRP contact, this time with Michel VK3KVW who was operating with hust 5 watts (5/9 both ways)

I worked a total of 10 stations on 40m SSB.

Stations worked:- John VK5BJE; Col VK5HCF; Steve VK5AIM; Brian VK5FMID; Nev VK5WG; Larry VK5LY/qrp; Tony VK3CAT; Bill VK5MBD; John VK5FMJC; and Michel VK3KVW.

Mark Oliphant Conservation Park

My second activation of the day (Friday 12th July 2013) was the Mark Oliphant Conservation Park.  The park which consists of about 189 hectares, is situated about 22 kms south east of Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’.

The park was first used for recreation in the 1930’s, and in 1945 it was purchased by the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA).  In 1953, the park was acquired by the State Government and was proclaimed the Loftia Recreation Park in 1972.  The park was expanded in 1992 and 1995, and renamed in 1996 in recognition of its conservation values and to honour physicist and humanitarian Sir Mark Oliphant’s contribution to conservation.

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Sir Marcus ‘Mark’ Laurence Elwin Oliphant who was an Australian physicist and humanitarian who played an important role in the first experimental demonstration of nuclear fusion and also the development of nuclear weapons.  He was a former State Governor here in South Australia, and also has other places and things named in his honour including the Oliphant Building at the Australian National University; a South Australian high schools science competition; the Oliphant Wing of the Physics Building at the University of Adelaide; and a new high school located in northern Adelaide.

Messmate stringybark and brown stringybark dominate the forest canopy, and there is a small stand of candlebark gums near the Loftia oval. This tall eucalypt with white bark is rare and only found in the higher rainfall areas of the Adelaide Hills.  Tiny patches of pink gum, manna gum and blue gum also occur in the park.  In the forest understorey there are many spring-flowering shrubs, including myrtle- leaved wattle, beaked hakea and large-leaved bush-pea.  The park’s flora was affected by bushfires in February 1980 and January 1995, but weeds are the main threat to native plants.

There is a variety of wildlife located in the park, including the rare southern brown bandicoot and yellow- footed antechinus, along with several lizard, snake and frog species.  Numerous bird species are also found in the park including the superb fairy-wren, scarlet robin, golden whistler, Adelaide rosella and honeyeater species.

I accessed the park via Evans Drive which runs off Scott Creek Road, and I set up on the Honeyeater walking track.  I used the permapine walking track sign as an anchor point for the squid pole which I secured with an octopus strap.

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I placed the Yaesu FT-817nd on the sign and put a call out on 7.100 to be called by regular ‘Hunter’ Col VK5HCF, and then followed by another regular ‘Hunter’, Brian VK5FMID.  Both had good strong signals coming in from Mount Gambier in the south east of South Australia.  Larry VK5LY was my next contact who was using just 3 watts QRP and had a great signal.  Also spoke with Nick VK3ANL who is a regular interstate ‘Hunter’ and is a recipient of the Bronze Hunter certificate.


Fortunately the weather held off, and I worked a total of 9 stations in VK3 & VK5 on 40m SSB.

Stations worked were:- Col VK5HCF; Brian VK5FMID; Larry VK5LY/qrp; Paul VK5FUZZ; Don VK5NFB; Garry VK3FWGR; Nick VK3ANL; Terry VK3UP; and Steve VK5AIM.

The Knoll Conservation Park

The weather forecast for today (Friday 12th July, 2013) and the weekend was lousy, so sadly it put a halt to any plans of activating any SOTA summits.  I was getting itchy feet after my trip to the Eyre Peninsula last month, but the forecast showed that we were expecting heavy rain.

But whilst enjoying my Friday morning coffee I kept looking out the window and the weather seemed okay, so I packed the car with my radio gear and headed to The Knoll Conservation Park, which is about a 15 minute drive from home.

The Knoll Conservation Park is located at Crafers West, about 20 kms south east of Adelaide, in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’.  Access to the park is via Upper Sturt Road, slighty south of Sheaok Road.  I have driven passed this park probably hundreds of times, but I had never visited it.  In fact if you blinked you would probably miss it.  It is well signposted but is only a very small park.

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There is a smalI dirt area just off Upper Sturt Road at the entrance to the park, so I parked the car there, and walked up the dirt track for about 100 metres.  There is a large tower and associated buildings at the top, but I found after setting up my gear that it had no affect on the noise floor.

There are plenty of options here to string up a dipole, with lots of large gum trees.  I set up the dipole on the southern side of the tower as there were a few more options there and room for the dipole to run north – south.  Whilst setting up the antenna I had a friendly group of kookaburras who must have found something funny.

The view out to the east is really quite impressive.  Although the weather was pretty average and there was quite a bit of low cloud, there were still good views out across the Sturt Valley, towards Victoria and New South Wales.  There is quite a significant drop in terrain out to the east.  The park is about 571 metres ASL.

I found a comfy spot under a large gum tree and started calling CQ on 7.100 but after 5 minutes of calling I had no takers.  I knew that there were going to be a few SOTA activators out this morning, so I moved down to 7.090 and heard Brian VK5FMID who is a regular ‘Hunter’ of the VK5 Parks Award.

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I gave Brian a call after he finished his QSO, and he was a very good signal from Mt Gambier.  This was followed by Ron VK3AFW who was mobile.  Marshall VK3MRG who was operating portable in a park in Kew, also called in. He also had a good strong 5/8 signal.

I then moved back up to 7.100 to leave 7.090 for the SOTA fellas, only to be followed up by Allen VK3HRA who was portable on SOTA peak Mount Torbreck VK3/ VN-001.  Allen had a very good strong signal (5/8 both ways).

I then had a QSO with Col who was using just 10 watts and was a very good strong 5/8.  Goes to show as Andrew VK1NAM has pointed out, is that in most cases SOTA ‘Chasers’ or Park ‘Hunters’ don’t need to use high power.

My i-phone bleated from the SOTA Goat application, so I slid down to 7.085 and spoke with Andrew VK1NAM and Al VK1RX, who were operating portable from SOTA summit Mount Ainslee VK1/ AC-040.

This was followed by a contact with Rick VK3KAN who was mobile.  Rick had a great signal coming out of his mobile station.

My last contact of the day was with Andrew VK1DA/3 who was portable on SOTA summit Mount Delegate VK3/ VG-034.

Stations worked were:- Brian VK5FMID; Ron VK3AFW/m; Matt VK1MA; Nick VK3ANL; Marshall VK3MRG/p (in Kew); John VK5FTCT; Allen VK3HRA/p (SOTA); Col VK5HCF; Dave VK3VCE; Brenton VK3CM; Andrew VK1NAM/p (SOTA); Al VK1RX/p (SOTA); Rick VK3KAN/m; Bernard VK3AMB; Mal VK3AZZ; Andrew VK1DA/3 (SOTA).