Chowilla Game Reserve VKFF-1697

On Saturday morning (22nd June 2019) Marija and I made an early start.  And it was a very chilly morning with a temperature of around minus 4 deg C.  We had breakfast at the motel and were on the road to Ivan VK5HS’s house by just before 8.00 a.m. local time.  Ivan had kindly volunteered to look at my mobile setup in the Toyota Hi-Lux.  Fortunately, it was a quick job, and the issues were minimal.

We then headed off to activate the Chowilla Game Reserve VKFF-1697 which is located about 312 km north east of Adelaide and about 54 km northeast of Renmark.  This was to be the first time that Marija and I had activated this park.

Screen Shot 2019-06-24 at 2.16.32 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Chowilla Game Reserve on the VK2/VK3/VK5 State border.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

Marija and I headed north out of Renmark on the Renmark-Wentworth Road and after approximately 10 km we reached a sign for Calperum Station.  Calperum Station is sometimes referred to as Calperum Reserve.   The Calperum property is a de-stocked pastoral (sheep) station which is owned and managed by the Australian Landscape Trust.

Calperum was purchased by the Chicago Zoological Society in 1993 and is managed for public benefit as a site for habitat and species conservation, scientific research and education.  The majority of Calperum is listed as “critical habitat” for the threatened Black-eared Miner.  It also includes internationally significant wetlands that are a major part of the Riverland Ramsar Site and is part of a larger reserve system known as the Riverland Biosphere Reserve which was previously known as the Bookmark Biosphere Reserve.


At the end of the bitumen section of the Renmark-Wentworth Road, we stopped off at the ‘Bookmark’ information bay.  There are a number of information boards here with some very interesting information pertaining to Calperum and Taylorville Stations.

A little further down the road, about 1 km, we stopped briefly for a photograph at the Calperum Station sign.  Don’t turn right here as it will take you to the Calperum Station information centre.  To get to Chowilla you need to continue on the dirt on the Renmark-Wentworth Road.


We continued along the dirt on the Renmark-Wentworth Road.  This is dry harsh countryside but has a real appeal to me.  There is something about the remoteness of the Australian bush.


The Renmark-Wentworth Road is a dirt road but it is in good condition and 4WD is not at all essential.  However, be aware that at many times of the day you will encounter emus and kangaroos, as we did.  It is due to this reason and the dirt, that the speed limit is 80 kph.


We soon reached a sign for the Chowilla Game Reserve and Regional Reserve.

We turned right onto the road taking you to Chowilla Homestead.  Again it was slow going as there were many big Red Kangaroos and emus who were very keen to run in front of the 4WD.

We soon reached Woolshed Creek where there are some information boards and toilets.  Unfortunately, we could not get any further as the tracks were closed.  Woolshed Creek is a 3.5 km long anabranch of the Murray River which leaves the bottom end of Chowilla Creek and rejoins the Murray River downstream of the Chowilla Creek junction.  Woolshed Creek has more than 450 mature River Red Gums along its banks and supports a diverse range of flora and fauna.

The Chowilla Game Reserve was established on the 4th day of April 1993 and is about 17,000 hectares in size.  The Reserve consists of majestic River Red Gums and hardy Black Box trees.  The park contains the mighty Murray River and a number of its anabranches.

The game reserve is an integral part of the Riverland Biosphere Reserve, comprising 18,000 hectares of floodplains and wetlands.  Chowilla is an important refuge for waterbird populations. It is recognised as a Riverland Wetland of International Importance declared under the Ramsar convention, and one of the six The Living Murray icon sites in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The exact origins of the name Chowilla are not known.  Mr N.B. Tindale, an anthropologist, was quoted in 1965 as saying ‘the word tjowila was the manner in which an early explorer described the spot near the present Chowilla homestead.’  The Aboriginal word meant a ‘place of spirits or ghosts’ and inferred that the spot was a burial place.  Other sources say it is derived from tuawila (or tjauwili) – ‘place of the spiny lizard’.

The short video below gives a snapshot of Chowilla.

We set up near the information board at Woolshed Creek.  For this activation, we ran the Yaesu FT-857d and the 20/40/80 m linked dipole, inverted vee, 7 m at the apex.  I ran 40 watts output and Marija ran her 10 watts PEP abiding by her Foundation class licence conditions.

Screen Shot 2019-06-24 at 3.09.52 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Chowilla Game Reserve and our operating spot.  Image courtesy of Protected Planet.

Marija spotted me on parksnpeaks and I called CQ on 7.144.  Peter VK3PF was first in the log, followed by Geoff VK3SQ, Peter VK3ZPF, and then Bob VK6POP.  It did not take long for a mini pile up to develop.  Within 6 minutes I had qualified the park for VKFF, with contact number ten being a QSO with Don VK3MCK.


After logging 44 stations and qualifying the park for WWFF, Marija jumped into the operator’s chair and started calling CQ on 7.144.  First in the log was Peter VK3PF, followed by Deryck VK4FDJL, Geoff VK3SQ, and then Ross VK3WAC mobile.

After just 10 minutes Marija had contact number ten in the log, with the park qualified for VKFF.  Contact number 10 was with Mark VK7ME.  Marija logged a total of 17 stations from VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK7.


While Marija was on air I was off taking some photographs.  Birdlife Australia is currently running its Photography Awards competition, and I was hoping to get some snaps to submit.

Once I returned from my walk, I jumped back into the operator’s chair and logged a further 4 stations including Fred VK4FE/p who was activating the Mowbray National Park VKFF-0367.  Marija also logged Fred for a Park to Park contact, along with another 3 stations from VK2, before we decided to give the 80m band a go.

It was down with the squid pole and in with the links for the 80m section of the antenna.  I called CQ on 3.610 and this was answered by Perrin VK3XPT/p who was operating portable using his Clansman military transceiver and a random length of wire just 1 metre off the ground.  Although Perrin’s signal was quite low, he was very readable due to the lack of man-made noise in Chowilla.

Below is a video of my contact with Perrin (taken by Perrin).

After speaking with Perrin I then logged Ian VK5CZ, followed by Peter VK3ZPF and then Gerard VK2IO mobile 5 who was nearly in a park.  I then spoke with Greg VK5GJ who was running just 4 watts and was a good 5/7 signal.  I lowered my power down to 5 watts and Greg gave me a 5/9 to the Adelaide Hills.

Gerard VK2IO/5 had now made it into his park, and gave us a call from the O’Halloran Hill Recreation Park VKFF-1737.  Marija then logged Adrian and Ian VK5CZ.

To conclude the activation I called CQ on 14.310 where I logged a total of 7 stations from VK2, VK4, VK7 and New Zealand.


Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK4FDJL
  3. VK3SQ
  4. VK3WAC/m
  5. VK2MT/p
  6. VK3MKE
  7. VK3DOU
  8. VK3UH
  9. VK3XPT/p
  10. VK7ME
  11. VK4TJ
  12. VK4/AC8WN
  13. VK4/VE6XT
  14. VK7QP/3
  15. VK7EE
  16. VK3ANL
  17. VK2PKT
  18. VK4FE/p (Mowbray National Park VKFF-0367)
  19. VK2HMV
  20. VK2STO
  21. VK2YK

Marija worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK2IO/p (O’Halloran Hill Recreation Park VKFF-1737)
  2. VK5FANA
  3. VK5CZ

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK3PF
  2. VK3SQ
  3. VK3ZPF
  4. VK6POP
  5. VK4FDJL
  6. VK2WG
  7. VK2LX
  8. VK2HHA
  9. VK2YK
  10. VK3MCK
  11. VK6MAC
  12. VK4NH
  13. VK4DXA
  14. ZL4TY/VK3
  15. VK2VW
  16. VK3MPR
  17. VK2PKT
  18. VK2KYO
  19. VK4HNS
  20. VK4CZ
  21. VK3YSA
  22. VK4MGL
  23. VK3WAC/m
  24. VK4MWB
  25. VK1VIC
  26. VK2VIC
  27. VK3DOU
  28. VK6TU
  29. VK4TJ
  30. VK4/AC8WN
  31. VK4/VE6XT
  32. VK2VIN
  33. VK3CCW
  34. VK6KRC
  35. VK3XPT/p
  36. VK4AAC/2
  37. VK2VH
  38. VK3DBP
  39. VK1DI
  40. VK3MKE
  41. VK4FARR
  42. VK2HL/4
  43. VVK2GKA
  44. VK3UH
  45. VK2MT
  46. VK3ANL
  47. VK4GSF
  48. VK3TKK/m
  49. VK4FE/p (Mowbray National Park VKFF-0367)

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK3XPT/p
  2. VK5CZ
  3. VK3ZPF
  4. VK2IO/m
  5. VK5GJ
  6. VK2IO/p (O’Halloran Hill Recreation Park VKFF-1737)
  7. VK5FANA

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK4TJ
  2. VK4/AC8WN
  3. VK4/VE6XT
  4. VK6XN
  5. ZL1TM
  6. VK7HCK
  7. VK2LEE

At the end of the activation, we had a look at the old Chowilla shearing shed and shearer’s quarters.  The history here is fascinating.  Way back in 1864, Richard HOLLAND took possession of the Bookmark Station lease for his stepsons: John, William and Robert ROBERTSON.  The shearing shed was constructed in the 1870s of local pine timber and iron.  In 1881, a total of 70,250 sheep were shorn in the shed.

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There are some terrific historic photographs inside the shearing shed which show the people and history of Chowilla.

We then had a look at the old shearer’s quarters which can now be booked for accommodation.  Marija and I both agreed that we will be back here to stay.

The shearers quarters and the shearing shed are situated right on the banks of the mighty Murray River.

We then headed off for our next park activation, the Chowilla Regional Reserve.



Chowilla Station, 2019, <>, viewed 24th June 2019

Department of the Environment and Energy, 2019, <>, viewed 24th June 2019

National Parks South Australia, 2019, <>, viewed 24th June 2019

State Library South Australia, 2019, <>, viewed 24th June 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 24th June 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <>, viewed 24th June 2019

2 thoughts on “Chowilla Game Reserve VKFF-1697

  1. Great videos Mate. And my Old Man was the Gun on the Dalgety Team in the 60’s/70’s so I spent a lot of time in shearing sheds growing up.
    ….great radio as well!!!


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