Moorook Game Reserve VKFF-1729

After leaving Ivan’s house, Marija and I headed back into the Renmark town centre and filled up with some fuel.  We then grabbed some lunch and headed down to the riverfront.  As we pulled up, the odd-looking houseboat known as ‘Willitsinkorwontit’ was pulling out, heading upstream.  The boat is the home of Frank Turton, known as the ‘Chookman’.

We then had a quick look at the old Renmark Irrigation Trust building which was built in 1893.  One of the original Chaffey Brothers pumps can be located here.  The Chaffey brothers were Canadian born water engineering experts.  They had developed irrigation schemes in California, and were asked to come to Australia in 1886 by Alfred Deakin who was at the time a Victorian cabinet minister (later to become Prime Minister).

Marija and I then stopped off at the historic Wilabalangaloo property.  Janet Reiners was born in Renmark in 1895 and had a love for animals, natural beauty and open spaces.  In 1941 she purchased the Wilabalangaloo property.  Preceding her death in 1990, she had resolved to gift the property to the National Trust upon her death.  There are some nice walking trails here and some terrific views of the Murray River.

We then headed for the final park activation of our trip, the Moorook Game Reserve VKFF-1729.  The park is located just to the west of the town of Cobddogla and is about 242 km northeast of the city of Adelaide.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 6.37.32 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Moorook Game Reserve.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

We accessed the park via the Kingston Road, which runs off the Sturt Highway.


The Moorook Game Reserve was dedicated in 1976 providing significant wildlife habitats, and popular recreation sites, particularly for river-based activities such as bird watching, canoeing, picnicking, camping, bushwalking and fishing.  The park is 1,236 hectares in size and includes Wachtels Lagoon.


Prior to European settlement, the River Murray was a ‘self-willed’ river.  Water levels fluctuated greatly.  During extreme drought, the river would dry up to a series of waterholes.  During the 1920s and 1930s, weirs and locks were built along the Murray to control the water flow.  This aided navigation and supplied a reliable water source for irrigation projects.  With the new water level being higher than before, low-lying areas were inundated and many thousands of River Red Gums drowned.  Wachtels Lagoon is such an area.


During our visit to the park, we spotted quite a bit of birdlife.  Unfortunately, we were a bit pressed for time, so I didn’t get a lot of time to take photographs.

The park takes its name from the nearby settlement of Moorook, which had earlier been one of the experimental Village Settlements.  These were established by the South Australian government under Part VII of the Crown Lands Amendment Act 1893, in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the depression then affecting the Colony.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 9.29.25 pm.png

Above:- Moorook Village Settlement, River Murray, 1890.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia

We followed a dirt track into the park and set up in one of the campgrounds on the banks of the Murray River.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 6.36.58 pm.png

Above:- An aerial view of the Moorook Game Reserve showing our operating spot.  Image courtesy of Protected Planet.

It was a beautiful location, and equally beautiful day weather-wise, with virtually not a cloud in the sky.

Marija decided not to operate from the park as we were pushed for time.  She was hoping that I would pick up my 44 contacts to qualify the park for the global World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.

After a self-spot on parksnpeaks and on Facebook, I started calling CQ on 7.144.  First in the log was Peter VK3PF, followed by John VK4TJ, Jonathan VK7JON, and then Grant VK2LX.  Within 10 minutes I had contact number ten in the log, a QSO with Deryck VK4FDJL.

I worked a total of 18 stations on 7.144, until I was pushed off the frequency by a New Caledonian station on 7.145.  Apparently, a few of the park hunters running much more power than me advised him I was 1 kc below, but that didn’t seem to influence his decision to QSY.  So I moved down to 7.130.


Above:- My operating position in Moorook Game Reserve

I worked a further 27 stations from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, New Zealand and Italy on 7.130, and soon had contact number 44 in the log.  That being a QSO with George VK4GSF in Queensland.  I was pleased to work regular park hunter, Andrei ZL1TM.  But the big surprise of the afternoon was to log Lauro IK4GRO from Italy on 40m.

Callers on 40m had slowed down, and this was probably a good thing because I then had UW1M start calling CQ Contest on 7.131 just above me.

I moved down to 3.610 on the 80m band and was very surprised to see that I had a strength 6 noise floor.  Very strange!  Unfortunately, I had no takers on 80m.  Perhaps I was being called, but I couldn’t hear anyone through the noise.

To complete the activation, I headed up to 14.310 on the 20m band where I worked Ivan VK5HS and Anthony VK6MAC.  Anthony was running QRP 5 watts and had a good 5/5 signal from Western Australia, a few thousand km away.


Above:- My shack in Moorook Game Reserve. 

It was getting late, and we still had a 2 & 1/2 hour drive to get home.  So we packed up and hit the road for home, stopping off at the Charleston Hotel in the Adelaide Hills for a meal.  It was the end of a terrific 3 days away.

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK4TJ
  3. VK4/AC8WN
  4. VK4/VE6XT
  5. VK7JON
  6. VK2LX
  7. VK3UH
  8. VK3BBB/m
  9. VK2ADB
  10. VK4FDJL
  11. VK5HS
  12. VK4CZ
  13. VK1MIC
  14. VK7ALB
  15. VK2YK
  16. VK5LA
  17. VK3MPR
  18. VK2KT
  19. VK4NH
  20. VK4DXA
  21. VK4/ZL4TY
  22. VK2YW
  23. VK3SQ
  24. VK3FGDN
  25. VK3DN
  26. VK4SMA
  27. VK2FHIT
  28. VK3AFM
  29. VK2IO/m
  30. VK1MCW
  31. VK3FPEM
  32. VK7QP
  33. VK3UP
  34. ZL1TM
  35. IK4GRO
  36. VK2SK
  37. VK2EXA
  38. VK5DW
  39. VK2QK
  40. VK2TM
  41. VK2PKT
  42. VK2HRX
  43. VK2UH
  44. VK4GSF
  45. VK3VLY

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK5HS
  2. VK6MAC




Exploreoz, 2019, <>, viewed 8th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <,_South_Australia>, viewed 8th April 2019

Boat trip to Bulyong Island, Murray River National Park 5NP-016 and VKFF-0372

It was now Sunday morning (7th April 2019), and the end of our quick trip to the Riverland.  However, we still had a few parks to activate.  The night before at the Mallee Fowl Restaurant, Ivan VK5HS had arranged to take me, Marija and Peter VK5PE out to the Bulyong Island section of the Murray River National Park 5NP-016 & VKFF-0372.

I last activated this part of the park back in 2013, when Marija and I, Ivan VK5HS, and our dear friend Larry VK5LY (now silent key) headed to Bulyong Island.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 6.32.41 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Murray River National Park.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

The Murray River National Park is 135.92 km2 in size and was established on the 27th day of April 1972.  It was proclaimed “to conserve a significant proportion of South Australia’s floodplain environments which are not represented widely in other reserve systems.”

The park consists of three sections adjoining the Murray River and extending from near Loxton in the south west to near Renmark in the north-east. The first which is known as the ‘Katarapko’ section is located on the north side of the river between Loxton in the south and Berri in the north. The second section which is known as the ‘Lyrup Flats’ section is located on the north side of the river midway between Berri and Loxton. The third section is known as the ‘Bulyong’ section is located on the west side of the river upstream from Renmark.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 6.32.30 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the various sections of the Murray River National Park.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Our intended activating spot was the Bulyong Island section of the park.  This is only accessible via boat.

The area was originally home to the Erwirung aboriginal people who were a relatively small Aboriginal group that lived on the fertile plains of the Murray.  By 1851, the land surrounding Renmark was held under Pastoral Lease No. 95 by A.B. Cator.  In July 1859, a portion of this lease was taken by William Finke and was subsequently divided into 2 properties named ‘Bookmark’ and ‘Chowilla’.  During the 1860s and 1870’s, the leases transferred hands on a number of occasions.  In 1887 the land was acquired from Bookmark Station by the Commissioner of Crown Lands for the establishment of the Renmark Irrigation Trust by the Chaffey Brothers.  The Chaffey Brothers Irrigation Works Act, 1887, gave the legal right to develop 200,000 acres of land from Spring Cart Gully to the border for irrigation purposes.

At the conclusion of World War One, Bulyong Island was leased by the Returned Serviceman’s League (RSL) as part of its returned soldier repatriation program.  Primarily it was used for agisting horses while they were not being used for agricultural work.  During the mid-1960s the Renmark Irrigation Trust entered into negotiations with the RSL to obtain the northern portion of the Island for use as an evaporation basin.  The RSL acceded to these moves and by the late 1960s, a series of embankments and an inlet/outlet structure had been established.  On the 20th June 1991, the island was established as part of the Murray River National Park.

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Above:- Map of the Bulyong Island section of the Murray River National Parks.  Map courtesy of National Parks SA.

After breakfast at the motel, Marija and I headed to Ivan’s house in Renmark.  We then drove down to the banks of the Murray River and launched Ivan’s boat.


We then headed downstream to Bulyong Island.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky.

This section of the River is quite amazing, with big River Red Gums along the bank of the river.

There were quite a few Whistling Kites in the gums above the river.  Whistling Kites are a medium-sized raptor which has a very pronounced loud whistling call, which it often gives in flight.

We found a nice little spot to pull the boat up and jumped out onto the island.

We then set up our station, a Yaesu FT-897 and a 20/40/80 metre linked dipole, supported on a 7 metre telescopic squid pole.  Unfortunately, we found that there was strength 5 noise on the 40m band, which really surprised us as we were in the middle of nowhere.  It really had us perplexed.


Marija was first up on air.  Geoff VK3SQ was first in the log, followed by John VK4TJ, and then Peter VK3PF.  Marija qualified the park in 9 minutes, with her 10th contact being Greg VK8GM in Alice Springs, which Marija was extremely happy with.  Marija logged a further 2 contacts before it was my turn to hop into the operator’s chair or the fallen log as it actually was.


We could not get on to the normal parks frequency of 7.144 as the broadcasts from the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) were in progress.  We tried to get on to 7.090, but the WIA broadcast from Perth was very strong on 7.088.  So we chose 7.105.

I started calling CQ on 7.105, and was then jumped on by VK5FUZZ who runs the 10am Smoko Net on that frequency.  I had totally forgotten the net.  So we moved up to 7.110 where I called CQ.  First in the log was Peter VK3PF, followed by John VK4TJ, and then Keith VK2PKT.

Our first Park to Park contact for the day was with Rob VK4AAC/3 and VK2VH/3 in the Upotipotpon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2218.  We all logged Rob.

I logged a total of 13 stations before it was Peter’s turn to take charge of the microphone.

Peter logged a number of stations and he too had soon qualified the park for VKFF.  Sadly, the noise floor made it very difficult to pull out the weak stations calling us.


Next was Ivan VK5HS, who fell just 1 contact short on 40m for his 10 QSOs.  So we moved down to the 80m band, and it wasn’t long before Ivan had his 10th contacts in the log.


We then moved back to 40m where I logged a further 12 stations from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7.  This included Gerard VK2IO/p who was activating VKFF-2014.  We all swapped the mic to log Gerard.

To complete the activation we each made a handful of contacts on 14.310 on the 20m band, including a Park to Park with Greg VK4VXX/6 in the Quarram Nature Reserve VKFF-1871.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3SQ
  2. VK4TJ
  3. VK4/AC8WN
  4. VK4/VE6XT
  5. VK3PF
  6. VK2WQ
  7. VK4FDJL
  8. VK2FHIT
  9. VK5NJ
  10. VK8GM
  11. VK3ZPF
  12. VK5MRE/m
  13. VK4AAC/3 (Upotipotpon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2218)
  14. VK2VH/3 (Upotipotpon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2218)
  15. VK2IO/p (Wambina Nature Reserve VKFF-2014)

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK4TJ
  3. VK4/AC8WN
  4. VK4/VE6XT
  5. VK2PKT
  6. VK3SQ
  7. VK3NXT
  8. VK4AAC/3 (Upotipotpon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2218)
  9. VK2VH/3 (Upotipotpon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2218)
  10. VK4FDJL
  11. VK3ZPF
  12. VK5TS
  13. VK3ARH
  14. VK2IO/p (Wambina Nature Reserve VKFF-2014)
  15. VK7JON
  16. VK4SMA
  17. VK5HYZ
  18. VK2LEE
  19. VK3UH
  20. VK1BUB
  21. VK5FANA
  22. VK7ME
  23. VK3CU
  24. VK2UH
  25. VK3FPSR
  26. VK3MKE/5

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK2LEE
  2. VK4VXX/6 (Quarram Nature Reserve VKFF-1871)
  3. VK4SYD

Sadly band conditions were quite poor, and our noise floor was high, but we all qualified this rare section of the Murray River National Park.




Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 8th April 2019

Loch Luna Game Reserve VKFF-1723

After leaving Overland Corner, Marija and I headed to the Loch Luna Game Reserve VKFF-1723, for a quick activation prior to dinner.  The park is located about 233 km north east of Adelaide, and about 15 km (by road) to the northwest of the town of Barmera.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 3.09.15 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Loch Luna Game Reserve in the Riverland region of South Australia.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Prior to driving into the park, we stopped to have a look at the Lake Bonney Hotel ruins.  The ruins are the remains of the 11 room hotel and a separate store hut which once stood on the site and was built in 1860.

Marija and I then accessed the northern section of the park off the Morgan Road.  We followed the dirt track (definitely 4WD – lots of corrugations) until we reached the Sugarloaf campground area.

The Loch Luna Game Reserve is 1,905 hectares in size and was established on the 7th day of November 1985, with exception to a parcel of land known as Sugarloaf Hill within the boundaries of the game reserve which has been excluded from protection for the purpose of mining activity.  The park covers the floodplain on the north side of the River Murray between the towns of Kingston-on-Murray in the west and Cobdogla in the east.

The park contains numerous narrow creeks and shallow swamps which provide important habitats for many birds and mammals including the rare White-bellied Sea Eagle.  During our visit, we spotted Western Grey kangaroos, Whistling Kites, Emus, and Pelicans, and numerous other native birds.

We set up in the Sugarloaf campground area, which we had entirely to ourselves.  There was plenty of room here to string out the 20/40/80 metre linked dipole.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 3.10.06 pm.png

Above:- An aerial view of the park showing our operating spot.  Image courtesy of Protected Planet.

Marija placed a spot up for me on parksnpeaks and I called CQ on 7.139.  David VK3FDZE was first in the log, followed by Scott VK4CZ, Carl VK2ADB, and then Ray VK4NH.  Compared to the day prior, the 40m band was in good shape, and it didn’t take me long to get 10 QSOs in the log, qualifying the park for VKFF.  Contact number 10 for me was with Ben VK3WRL/7 who was activating the Ben Lomond National Park VKFF-0028.

Unfortunately about 20 minutes into the activation, I started to experience QRM from an Italian station just 1 kc above me, calling CQ.  I boxed on until I had 36 contacts in the log, before the interference became so strong, that I could not stay on the frequency.

One of those 36 QSOs was with Wade VK1MIC/p who was activating SOTA summit VK1/ AC-048.  There was a VK/ZL/EU SOTA event on, and there were quite a few Australian SOTA activators out and about.  I also logged Rod VK2ARJ/p who was activating SOTA peak VK2/ HU-093.


I was just 8 short of my 44.  I moved up the band to 7.144 and called CQ once again.  First in the log was Andy VK5LA, followed by Andrei ZL1TM, and the Clem VK3CYD.  Stuart VK4TSB became my 44th contact.  I also logged Jonathan VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p on SOTA summit VK7/ NW-062.

Once I had 44 in the log, I swapped the mic with Marija, who started calling CQ on 7.144.  Grant VK2LX was first in the log with his normal big 5/9 signal, followed by Linda VK7QP, and then Geoff VK3SQ.  It took Marija just 9 minutes to qualify the park for VKFF, with her 10th contact being with Rod VK2ARJ on SOTA peak VK2/ HU-093.

Marija worked a further 6 stations including Peter VK3PF/p on SOTA summit VK3/ VT-049, before we once again changed operator positions.

I called CQ for around 5 minutes on 14.310, but sadly had no takers.  So I headed off to 3.610 on the 80m band where I logged just the one station, Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula.  To complete the activation, I had one last tune across the 40m band and logged two more SOTA contacts.  The first was with Andrew VK1AD/p on SOTA summit VK1/ AC-008, and then Sam VK2GPL/p on SOTA peak VK2/ CT-056.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2LX
  2. VK7QP
  3. VK3SQ
  4. VK2ADB
  5. VK4SMA
  6. VK3AHR
  7. VK3ANL
  8. VK3MPR
  9. VK1DI
  10. VK2ARJ (SOTA VK2/ HU-093)
  11. VK3AFW
  12. VK4MWB
  13. VK3ZNK
  14. VK3FGDN
  15. VK2PKT
  16. VK3PF/p (SOTA VK3/ VT-049)

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3FDZE
  2. VK4CZ
  3. VK2ADB
  4. VK4NH
  5. VK4DXA
  6. ZL4TY/VK4
  7. VK7AN
  8. VK3SQ
  9. VK7QP
  10. VK3WRL/7 (Ben Lomond National Park VKFF-0028)
  11. VK4FDJL
  12. VK1DI
  13. VK3FGDN
  14. VK2YW
  15. VK7DW
  16. VK4MWB
  17. VK2PKT
  18. VK1MIC/p (SOTA VK1/ AC-048)
  19. VK4SMA
  20. VK5NE/p (Kangaroo Island)
  21. VK3MPR
  22. VK3ZMD
  23. VK4AAC/3
  24. VK2VH/3
  25. VK7HCK
  26. VK7FJFD
  27. VK4FSCC/m
  28. VK3XPT
  29. VK2ARJ/p (SOTA VK2/ HU-093)
  30. VK3ZNK
  31. VK4TJ
  32. VK4/AC8WN
  33. VK4/VE6XT
  34. VK4HNS
  35. VK2VKB
  36. VK3LCM
  37. VK5LA
  38. ZL1TM
  39. VK3CYD
  40. VK3ANL
  41. VK3AFM
  42. VK7JON/p (SOTA VK7/ NW-062)
  43. VK7FOLK/p (SOTA VK7/ W-062)
  44. VK4TSB
  45. VK3PF/p (SOTA VK3/ VT-049)
  46. VK1AD/p (SOTA VK1/ AC-008)
  47. VK2IO/p
  48. VK2GPL/p (SOTA VK2/ CT-056)

I worked the following station on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5FANA.

We hurriedly packed up our gear and hit the road, and headed back into Renmark.  As we left the park Marija spoke with Andrew VK1AD/p who was activating SOTA summit VK1/ AC-008.  Once we got out onto the Sturt Highway Marija spoke with Wade VK1MIC who was activating SOTA summit VK1/ AC-048.

Upon arriving back in Renmark we quickly freshened up at the motel and then headed to the Mallee Fowl Restaurant for dinner.


The Mallee Fowl Restaurant is quite a quirky place, with many old wares and Australiania on display.  Despite there being a wedding at the venue, the meals came out very quickly.  I had Sizzling Prawns and they were excellent.

This was a great evening.  Terrific food and company, and a great way to complete the day.




Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 8th April 2019

2019 BRL Gathering at Overland Corner

Marija and I were on the road by about 7.15 a.m. on Saturday morning (6th April 2019) and were on our way to the 2019 BRL Gathering at the historic Overland Corner Hotel.  The day was to kick off at about 7.30 a.m. with a cooked breakfast, and concluding at about 2.30 p.m. following some presentations.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 1.18.18 pm.png

It was about a 44 km drive from Renmark out to Overland Corner, along the Sturt and Goyder Highways.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 1.21.23 pm.png

Above:- Route from Renmark to Overland Corner.  Map courtesy of google maps.

The Overland Corner Hotel is located about 21 km from Barmera, and is situated off the Goyder Highway.  It is the oldest structure to remain standing in the area and is set amongst a beautiful lawned area with plenty of shade.


Above:- The Overland Corner Hotel.

The hotel was originally established as a watering hole for drovers and overlanders operating between New South Wales and Adelaide in the colony of South Australia.  It also served as a temporary camping ground for steamers passing through the area along the mighty Murray River, about 600 feet from the hotel.  The hotel was erected in 1859 and since that time has served as a staging point, a general store, a police station and a local Post Office.


The Overland Corner Hotel, c. 1910.  Courtesy of Trove.

The hotel was originally established as a watering hole for drovers and overlanders operating between New South Wales and Adelaide in the colony of South Australia.  It also served as a temporary camping ground for steamers passing through the area along the mighty Murray River, about 600 feet from the hotel.  The hotel was erected in 1859 and since that time has served as a staging point, a general store, a police station and a local Post Office.


The Brand brothers.  Courtesy of Barmera Visitor Information Centre

After saying g’day to everyone upon our arrival, we enjoyed a bacon and egg sandwich, which was prepared by Ivan VK5HS who was hard at work at the BBQ.  Also a nice warm coffee.


Above:- Ivan VK5HS cooking up breakfast

At about 8.30 a.m. local time, Ron VK5MRE kicked off the Saturday morning BRL Net on 40m, using Steve VK5SFA’s loop antenna.


Above:- Ron VK5MRE running the BRL Net on 40m.

Steve VK5SFA was to be one of the guest speakers of the day and was certainly a popular man, explaining his loop antennas to many an interested onlooker.

This is a great gathering to catch up with radio mates in a terrific social environment.

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Mid-morning, Steve VK5SFA delivered a presentation on loop antennas.  In 2018 Steve won the ARRL antenna competition.  The criteria for 2017 called for compact designs for those with space restrictions.  Congratulations Steve.  I have heard Steve’s presentation a few times now, and it never ceases to amaze me of his ability.

After a short break, Grant VK5GR then delivered a presentation on his involvement in the Islands on the Air (IOTA) program.  Grant has operated from a number of Pacific islands including Niue and Vanuatu and is about to embark on a trip to Tonga.  A very interesting presentation which gave an invaluable insight into just how much work goes into such DXpeditions.


Above:- Grant VK5GR delivering his IOTA presentation.

It was now about lunchtime, with lunch served from the hotel.  I had a very nice chicken schnitzel parmigiana and a few ciders.  The raffle was also drawn, and a number of people were the lucky recipients of various prizes.

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A group photograph was then taken of all in attendance.


Above:- Group photograph of those in attendance at Overland Corner.

A homebrew competition took place this year, with a number of people entering various equipment including antennas and tuners.


Above:- Some of the homebrew equipment in the homebrew competition.

A number of presentations then took place, with trophies and other goodies being presented.  The Riverland Radio Group kindly gave Marija a bottle of wine, a RRG mug, and some coated almonds for her assistance in taking photographs at the event.  I was also given the same for my continued promotion and attendance of the event and my involvement in the VK5 Parks Award.  It was greatly appreciated and certainly came as a pleasant surprise.

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The day officially wrapped up at around 2.30 p.m.  It was the end of another highly successful BRL Gathering.  We had the remainder of the afternoon to ourselves prior to the evening meal at the Mallee Fowl Restaurant.

For just a small radio club, the Riverland Radio Club are certainly boxing above their weight.

Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1685

On the weekend just gone (Saturday 6th April 2019), the Riverland Radio Club held their annual gathering at the historic Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland region of South Australia.  Marija and I have attended the past 5 years, since its inception, as it is a terrific weekend to catch up with amateurs from across Australia.

I am on my last few days of holidays, but Marija took half of Friday 5th April off, and we headed off to Renmark.  For this trip, we travelled up through Tailem Bend, Karoonda, Sandalwood, Alawoona, Loxton, Berri, and into Renmark.  It’s a drive of around 3 hours.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 11.32.04 am.png

Above:- Map showing our route to Renmark in the Riverland.  Map courtesy of google maps

Our first quick stop on the trip was the town of Karoonda, about 145 km east of Adelaide.  Karoonda takes its name from the Aboriginal word for “winter camp”.  Karoonda was founded on wheat growing early in the 20th century, and was proclaimed as a town on the 11th December 1913.


Each year in April, the 2 day Karoonda Farm Fair is held in the town.  The event showcases local, state and interstate farming and general interest products, services and events.  The Farm Fair attarcks about 7,000 – 10,000 pople.  Marija and I have promised ourselves that next year we are going to attend to have a look.

We continued northeast on the Karoonda Highway, travelling through the little towns of Borrika, Sandalwood, Halidon, Mindarie, and Wanbi.  Not much exists in many of these places anymore, I suspect due to the closure of the railway line.  It never ceases to amaze Marija and I on our travels, that many towns are a shadow of their former selves due to the closure of nearby rail lines.

We stopped briefly to have a look at the Goyders Line monument.  Goyders Line is a line which runs roughly east-west across South Australia and, in effect, joins places with an average rainfall of 250 mm.  North of Goyder’s Line, annual rainfall is usually too low to support cropping, with the land being only suitable for grazing.

Another sad example of the demise of many towns in the region is the old Simpsons Hotel at Wanbi.  The hotel was constructed in 1931 for Mrs Ellen Barnes, the licensee and lessee at the time, of the Karoonda Hotel.  It was built at a cost of 3,000 pounds and was opened in 1932.  The hotel was the only licenced hotel in the former District Council of East Murray, with its nearest competitors being at Loxton and Karoonda.  Upon its opening, it featured a swimming pool at the rear.


Our next brief stop was at the town of Alawoona, about 211 km east of Adelaide.  Alawoona was established as one of the original sidings during the construction of the Barmera railway line in 1906.  The town which was surveyed in 1914, takes its name from the aboriginal word meaning ‘place of hot winds’.

Our one and only intended park activation for the day was the Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area VKFF-1685, which is located about 20 km south of the town of Alawoona, and about 30 km north of the town of Lameroo.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 12.20.44 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area, east of Adelaide.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Marija and I headed south on Billiatt Road out of Alawoona.  It was an overcast but very hot day, with the temperate just shy of 35 degrees C.    There was a very strong wind blowing, and as a result, a dust storm had been created.


We soon reached the park which is well signposted.  A word of warning, this is quite a remote area, with very little phone coverage.  It is very easy to become bogged if you venture off-road and are not prepared.


Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area is about 59, 125 hectares in size and was established on the 24th day of July 2008.  It is not to be confused with the much smaller Billiatt Conservation Park which is about 801 hectares in size which is located at the northwestern corner of the Wilderness Protection Area.

The Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area conserves some of the largest remnant stands of pristine mallee heath and shrubland habitat in South Australia.  The park was devastated by a significant bushfire in 2004, but it appears to have recovered quite well.

Some attempts were made to farm the land in the Billiatt area between the 1870s and 1930s.  However, the land ultimately proved unsuitable for conventional farming methods.

Wilderness is defined as land which has not been seriously affected by moderan technology or exotic plants, animals and organisms.  In 2005, the South Australian Wilderness Advisory Committee assessed the wilderness quality of the former Billiatt Conservation Park.  The high National Wilderness Inventory values identified during the assessment prompted the Committee to recommend the reserve receive protection under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992.  Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area was subsequently proclaimed by the Governor in 2008.

The park is named in honour of John William Billiatt, who was an explorer, adventurer, and tutor.  He was born in Lincolnshire, UK, in 1842, and arrived in Adelaide in 1861.

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Above:- John William Billiatt.  Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.

As it was a hot day, we chose a nice shady spot underneath a gum tree.  We had very little phone coverage, and the only way to get a signal out was to climb to the top of one of the sand dunes in the park.  Marija managed to get enough coverage to place a spot up for me on parksnpeaks, and I started calling CQ on 7.144 on the 40m band.

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Above:- Map of the Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area, showing our operating spot.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Sadly, band conditions were awful.  It took a few minutes before I had my first caller in the log, Keith VK7FKLW.  But much to my pleasure, my next caller was Andrei ZL1TM in New Zealand.  After around 15 minutes I had just 8 stations in the log, which is very unusual for the parks program which has become incredibly popular.


So I swapped the mic with Marija who called CQ.  Marija’s first contact was with Alan VK2MG, followed by Andrew VK7DW, and then Ian VK1DI.  Marija did better than me, even with lower power.  Within 10 minutes Marija had qualified the park with 10 contacts for VKFF.  Her 10th QSO being a contact with John VK2JON.

I then jumped back into the operator’s chair and called CQ once again.  Ray VK4NH came back to my call, and with his 2 other callsigns, I now had 10 contacts in the log.  I worked a further 3 stations before callers totally dried up.

I then moved to 14.310 on the 20m band, where my sole caller was Lauro IK4GRO in Italy with a good 5/7 signal.  To complete the activation I moved to 3.610 on the 80m band where I logged a total of 5 stations from VK3 and VK5.

With both of us having qualified the park for VKFF, it was time to pack up and head off to Renmark.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK2MG
  2. VK7DW
  3. VK1DI
  4. VK4NH
  5. VK4DXA
  6. ZL4TY/VK4
  7. VK2PKT
  8. VK7FKLW
  9. VK1MCW
  10. VK2JON

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK7FKLW
  2. ZL1TM
  3. VK2BHO
  4. VK2MG
  5. VK1DI
  6. VK3UH
  7. VK2JON
  8. VK7DW
  9. VK4NH
  10. VK4DXA
  11. ZL4TY/VK4
  12. VK2PKT
  13. VK2LX
  14. VK3PF

I worked the following station on 20m SSB:-

  1. IK4GRO

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK5HS
  3. VK5PE
  4. VK2VH/3
  5. VK4AAC/3

We continued on our journey north on the Karoonda Highway and soon reached the town of Loxton.  We headed north out of Loxton on the Bookpurnong Road and into the town of Berri, crossing the mighty Murray River.  The photos below are of the Murray River at Berri.

We were now in Riverland country, with orchards of oranges and miles of vineyards.  The region enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate and has vast acres of fertile soil and a readily available water source in the Murray River.

After booking into our motel, the Citrus Valley Motel, we headed out for dinner at the Renmark Club.  It was a beautiful warm evening so we sat in the outdoor area, admiring the view of the Murray River.

After dinner, we took a stroll along the Renmark riverfront to have a look at the ‘Possum Parade’.  Each evening at dusk fruit and vegetables are placed on the trees on the riverfront, attracting the local possum population, and as a result a number of tourists, including us.

We also had a quick look at the Murray River Queen, a paddle ship built in 1974 as a luxury passenger cruise boat.  Murray River Queen retired from regular service in 1993, and spent ten years initially as a floating hotel at Goolwa, then stored near Mannum. In 2003, she was moved to Waikerie, South Australia, running dinner cruises and occasional longer trips until 2012.  In August 2017, the Murray River Queen was moved from Waikerie 200 km upstream to Renmark.

We then headed back to the motel room, where I watched a bit of the footy on TV before having an early night.




Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2011, Reserves of the Billiatt District.

Heritage of the Murray Mallee, 1998, Bruce Harry & Associates.

Wikipedia, 2019, <,_South_Australia>, viewed 8th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 8th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 8th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 8th April 2019