After six trying hours hiking over the fourteen difficult kilometres from the northern park entrance, arriving at the campground was a welcome relief and if like me, you don’t have to share the designated camping areas with anyone, this is a little piece of paradise.
There are no facilities at the campground, no toilets, food or water, you will need to bring everything you need, including firewood, but there is a lot to explore. You will need to take all your rubbish out with you, butI can (almost) guarantee that your stay at Box Flat will be absolutely idealic.
It is a sheltered, shady, expansive camping area with fire pits, an open areas where families can swap stories or just sit and relax.
To the west of the campground is the soakage that collects water (not recommended for drinking) after the first rains of winter. In the evenings and early mornings, if you are quiet, this is a wonderful place to sit and watch the Western Grey Kangaroo come in to drink with birds passing overhead or chattering noisily in the trees at your back. If you are lucky, there may even be an emu or echidna who won’t even notice you as they forage for food around the soak.
When you tire of watching the wildlife, extend your discovery westward out to the ruins of the old outstation of the Garra Pastoral lease which are now long abandoned and falling into disrepair.
On my visit, late May 2017, I didn’t share the road or camping area with another sole and it was a time to slip dreamily into that quiet place that we solo travellers seek so passionately.
It is isolated, beautiful and full of new experiences.
The northern entrance to Ngarkat Conservation Park is on Baan Hill Road (pronounce Bain Hill), over an easy 17km of gravel road south of the Mallee Highway near Lameroo. For those coming from Adelaide, you can enjoy a comfortable 2½ hours’ drive if you are not in a rush.
For those without a park pass, don’t forget to use the self-registration station located just inside the entrance where your camping fee is payable and maps are available.
Past the first kilometre after the park entrance, the road is definitely for four wheel drive vehicles only, deteriorating from compacted clay to soft sand without warning and for us walkers pushing hiking carts, with disturbing and sometimes back-breaking regularity.
The eight kilometres to the sign posted Box Flat turnoff is a nice hike though which in reasonable weather, will take roughly two and a half hours to reach. Allow more time if you are prone to photography, floral examination or a spot of bird watching
Baan Hill Road does continue south but not having travelled it, I can’t comment on its condition, the Box Flat track though is another matter.
The turn off itself is an indication of things to come.
The junction is a sandy mess, churned up by spinning, deeply treaded rubber and a warning I should have heeded. Not that I could have done anything about the tough conditions that abounded further along the six kilometres of twin wheel ruts that serve as a route to the camping ground. It just has to be endured, a right of passage if you wish to think of it in those terms.
Having broken a bicycle axle here a month earlier, this was, as a walker still very wearing, but 4WD tourists will possibly only comment in passing on how soft the surface seems. Let me say though, that at times my Trackmate hiking cart glided effortlessly over a firm ground, but then, without warning it would bog down in a talcum like track surface with me transformed into a grunting hunchback struggling to maintain any forward momentum.
Knowing that I would have to hike back out along this route in the morning was an added torture I ignored.
- Name: Box Flat Campsite
- Location: Ngarkat Conservation Park, South Australia
- Surface: Compacted clay bust mostly soft, clogging sand
- Access: 4X4 Vehicles via the Murray Valley Highway, then Baan Hill Road and Box Flat Track
- Best Times: All year round with autumn and spring being the reccomended times
- Opening Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
- Facilities: Not a brass razoo! What you don’t bring, you won’t need.