Onkaparinga River Recreation Park VKFF-1738

Yesterday (Saturday 1st July 2017) was a spectacular sunny Winter’s day, so Marija VK5FMAZ and I packed the Toyota Hi Lux and headed south to activate two parks.  Both were to be unique parks for us as activators for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and Moana Sands, our second park, was to be a unique park for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award.

Our first park for the day was the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park VKFF-1738 which is located about 32 km south of Adelaide.

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Map showing the location of the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park south of Adelaide.  Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.


The Onkaparinga River Recreation Park is 284 hectares in size and was established on the 7th November 1985.  Translated from the Kaurna language, ‘Ngangki’ means women, ‘Pari’ means river, and ‘ngka’ means location.  So the correct translation for Onkaparinga is Ngangkiparingka, which means women only places along the river.  The Onkaparinga River, South Australia’s second longest river, flows through the park on its journey to the sea.

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Map of the Onkaparinga River Rectreation Park.  Map courtesy of National Parks SA.

The floodplain and surrounding areas of the park are covered by a combination of open shrubland with Nitre-bush, Lagoon Saltbush, Marsh Saltbush and Sea-berry Saltbush, native grassland and introduced pasture.   Along and near the river areas of there is Common Reed, samphire flats with Thick-head Samphire, Grey Samphire, Shrubby Samphire  and areas of revegetation. The aquatic estuarine flora is dominated by Garweed.

During our visit the park was very active, with lots of bushwalkers, anglers and people canoeing and kayaking down the river.  We had the opportunity of speaking with a few walkers, and explained to them the hobby of amateur radio and the parks awards.


Between 1973 to 1977, the majority of the land which is now dedicated to the recreation park was purchased by the State Planning Authority, a former South Australian State Government Agency.  The purpose of the land acquisition which included land along the full length of Onkaparinga River was threefold.   Firstly, it was ‘to provide open space for recreational purposes’, secondly, ‘to preserve the natural character of the landscape, including the native flora and fauna’ and thirdly, ‘to function as a buffer between areas of urban and rural land.’

In 1982, the majority of the land was transferred to the then Department for Environment and Heritage which established the recreation park in 1985.  In 1993, all of the land east of Main South Road (known as the gorge section) was reclassified as the Onkaparinga River National Park.   For managerial and administrative purposes, the recreation park and the national park are known collectively as the ‘Onkaparinga River Reserve’.

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In February 1839, land in the locality including the Onkaparinga floodplain was surveyed and became available for selection by settlers to the new colony of South Australia.  The majority of the land in the recreation park was a farm originally purchased about 1861 by John Jared, an immigrant who arrived from Lincolnshire, England.  The original purchase of 240 acres was expanded to 400 acres.  Jared named the farm ‘Clear Farm’ and built a house on the property in 1862.  Jared was succeeded in 1871 by his son, John William Jared, who renamed the property ‘Pingle Farm’.  The property remained in the Jared family until the 1970s when it was purchased by the State Planning Authority.  The remains of Pringle Farm which was listed on the South Australian Heritage Register on 11 April 1996 are conserved within the recreation park.

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Over 150 species of birds have been recorded in the park includingSilver Gull, Great Egret, Australian White Ibis, Crested Pigeon, New Holland Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Australian Magpie, Little Raven, Willie Wagtail, Magpielark.  Many birds migrate from the northern hemisphere to escape the arctic winter. Every Australian summer they come from Siberia, China and Japan to feed.  Below are some photos of the birds I observed during our visit to the park.

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Around 20 species of fish have been recorded in the river including mulloway, jumping mullet, black bream, and yellow-eye mullet.

Onkaparinga River Recreation Park is also home to a ‘mob’ of Western Grey kangaroos.  These can often be seen in the cleared land just below the the south western corner of the park off Commercial Road.  And during our visit, the kangaroos were out enjoying the sunshine.

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Of note, a wild goat which has been nicknamed ‘Gary’ has been adopted by the mob of kangaroos, and calls the mob home.  Unfortunately we didn’t see Gary during our visit.  There was some talk last year that the local Council was going to catch Gary.  We hope that hasn’t occurred.

Gary has become quite a celebrity and there is even a Facebook page dedicated to him which can be found at…….



Gary the goat.  Photo courtesy of Facebook

The park has been subject to a lot of local media attention in recent years, as housing has encroached on vacant land surrounding the park.  There is one last piece of land near the SW corner of the park which has been earmarked for further housing and there has been a lot of public outrage at the proposed housing, suggesting it will spell the end for the kangaroos and Gary the Goat.

Marija and I spent nearly one hour trying to find a suitable spot to enter the park.  Many years ago when I lived and worked in this area, the majority of the land surrounding the park was vacant and there were various tracks leading into the park.  Sadly this is no longer the case, with development all the way around the park.  We had hoped to access the park via Sauerbiers Road, but the GPS took us into continual dead ends in the high density living area which is Seaford Meadows.

We eventually found a nice quiet spot just off River Road.  For this activation we ran the Yaesu FT-857d, set at 10 watts for Marija and 40 watts for me, and the 80/40/20m linked dipole.

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Aerial shot of the park showing our operating spot.  Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.

As is our normal practice when activating parks together, Marija started off first.  Marija is generally only interested in qualifying the park for the VKFF program (10 contacts).  Prior to finding a spot to call CQ, we both worked Gerard VK2JNG who was in the Goobang National Park VKFF-0204.  Marija and I had worked Gerard from the mobile on our way to the park, but were very happy to get the Park to Park contact with Gerard as well.

We then QSY’d down to 7.130 and Marija started calling CQ whilst I spotted her on parksnpeaks.  Marija’s first taker was Geoff VK3SQ at Beechworth in NW Victoria, followed by Dennis VK2HHA in Albury, and then Nick VK3ANL in Melbourne.  Considering it was a weekend, the number of callers were quite low.  But Marija perservered and within 20 minutes had contact number ten in the log, Brett VK2VW.

We then swapped the mic and I started calling CQ and this was answered by Peter (VK3YE) VK5WAT/3 who was pedestrian mobile on Chelsea Beach running QRP 3 watts.  Peter was an excellent 5/8 signal.  Contact number 10, qualifying the park for me for VKFF, was with Peter VK3ZPF.  Shortly afterwards I was called by Ian VK5MA/6 who was activating the Stokes National Park VKFF-0468 in Western Australia.  Ian was 5/8 and considering the time of day (1.20 p.m. local time), had an excellent signal on 40m, some 3,000 km to my west.   Marija also logged Ian.

The 40m band was in quite good condition, with excellent signals from the eastern states of Australia.  Of note, were the number of Western Australian stations logged on 40m: Ian VK5MA/6, Ian VK6EA, Mark VK6BSA mobile, Richard VK6HRC, and Hans VK6XN.

Contact number 44 qualifying the park for the global WWFF program was Peter VK7PRN.  I worked a total of 47 stations on 40m before things started to slow down.  I had received an SMS message from Peter Vk3PF asking me to give Joe VK3YSP a call, who was portable at the GippsTech amateur radio convention.  I headed to 7.144 and have Joe a call, and went live at GippsTech.

I then called CQ on 14.310 on the 20m band where I logged 5 stations: Rick VK4RF/VK4HA, Hans VK6XN, Ken ZL4KD, and Lee VK2LEE.  To complete the activation I put a few CQ calls out on 3.610 on the 80m band and there logged 3 stations: Iain VK5ZIF, John VK5BJE, and Ivan VK5HS.  The 80m band continues to be a reliable form of communication locally when the 40m band is not open.


Marija made a total of 12 contacts including 2 Park to Park QSOs.  I worked a total of 56 stations including 2 Park to Park contacts.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2JNG/p (Goobang National Park VKFF-0204)
  2. VK3SQ
  3. VK2HHA
  4. VK3ANL
  5. VK3ZPF
  6. VK2KYO
  7. VK4TJ
  8. VK3ARH
  9. VK5GJ
  10. VK2VW
  11. VK5WAT/3
  12. VK5MA/6 (Stokes National Park VKFF-0468)

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2JNG/p (Goobang National Park VKFF-0204)
  2. VK5WAT/3
  3. VK3SQ
  4. VK2NP
  5. VK2HHA
  6. VK5GJ
  7. VK2IO
  8. VK2VW
  9. VK2UH
  10. VK3ZPF
  11. VK4AAC/p
  12. VK3HWB
  13. VK5MA/6 (Stokes National Park VKFF-0468)
  14. VK3MCK
  15. VK3BBB
  16. VK7NWT
  17. VK3WAR
  18. VK3AWG
  19. VK2JNG/m
  20. VK3MRH
  21. VK6EA
  22. VK5GI
  23. VK7DW
  24. VK3VLA
  25. VK3VEF
  26. VK6BSA/m
  27. VK3GQ
  28. VK4NH
  29. VK2VRC
  30. VK6HRC
  31. VK7AU
  32. VK3FPHG
  33. VK3FSPG
  34. VK3MPR
  35. VK3BG
  36. VK3WAC/m
  37. VK3QA
  38. VK4RF
  39. VK4HA
  40. VK6XN
  41. VK3UH
  42. VK5ZIF
  43. VK7FPRN
  44. VK7PRN
  45. VK7GG
  46. VK2LEE
  47. VK2JDR
  48. VK3YSP/p (Gippstech)

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK4RF
  2. VK4HA
  3. VK6XN
  4. ZL4KD
  5. VK2LEE

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5ZIF
  2. VK5BJE
  3. VK5HS



Birds SA, 2017, <http://www.birdssa.asn.au/location/onkaparinga-river-recreation-park/&gt;, viewed 2nd July 2017

National Parks South Australia, ‘Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park’.

Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onkaparinga_River_Recreation_Park&gt;, viewed 2nd July 2017

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