Insider Guide: Onkaparinga River parks

Insider Guide: Onkaparinga River parks

Go behind the scenes to dis­cov­er the unique jobs and pas­sion­ate peo­ple that care for South Australia’s environment.

Steve John­son – Senior Ranger in the Fleurieu and Willun­ga Basin district

How would you describe your job to some­one at a BBQ?

I work in an awe­some team to man­age parks across the Fleurieu and Willun­ga Basin dis­trict for safe­ty, vis­i­tor expe­ri­ence and con­ser­va­tion. This includes Onka­paringa Riv­er Nation­al Park and Recre­ation Park. My team works with the local com­mu­ni­ty to deliv­er a broad range of con­ser­va­tion projects and pro­vide enjoy­able recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for park visitors.

How did you get into this line of work?

My dream of being a rock star didn’t work out. How­ev­er, my love of nature and the out­doors and my pas­sion to con­serve and restore our nat­ur­al places and threat­ened species is just as strong. I grew up camp­ing in parks with my friends and fam­i­ly and always admired and respect­ed rangers. When I decid­ed I want­ed a career in the envi­ron­ment, I stud­ied con­ser­va­tion biol­o­gy at Flinders Uni and then snagged a posi­tion in the Grad­u­ate Ranger Pro­gram. From there I moved into a per­ma­nent ranger posi­tion at DEW.

What do you encounter in a nor­mal’ day on the job?

Any­thing and every­thing – all things park man­age­ment and beyond. A ranger’s role is very diverse and that’s why I love it. It can be work­ing with the com­mu­ni­ty, vis­i­tors, events, con­ser­va­tion, fire, park infra­struc­ture, liv­ing with wildlife or all of the above. A ranger’s day can also be very spon­ta­neous – quite often you end up doing some­thing com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed. For exam­ple, what you thought was going to be a bor­ing day in the office could turn into an exhil­a­rat­ing marine mam­mal res­cue or a fire­fight­ing deploy­ment in anoth­er region. 

What’s the most amaz­ing thing you’ve seen at Onka­paringa Riv­er Nation­al Park and Recre­ation Park?

In Onka­paringa Riv­er Nation­al Park, the gorge itself is amaz­ing. The views from the look­outs and ridgetops still blow me away. It was also amaz­ing and a great hon­our to share the expe­ri­ence with award-win­ning sci­en­tist, envi­ron­men­tal­ist and broad­cast­er David Suzu­ki ear­li­er in the year. David vis­it­ed the park to see a large reveg­e­ta­tion project named in his hon­our. While he was in the park I showed him the gorge, and he was great­ly impressed with its vast size and beauty.

In the recre­ation park, the sea­son­al wet­lands in the estu­ary have filled with water, which hasn’t hap­pened for more than two years. It’s amaz­ing to hear the frogs and see the diver­si­ty of water­birds that have moved in, such as pel­i­cans, stilts, spoon­bills and ducks. It’s gone from dry grassy sedge-land to some­thing like Kakadu!

What are your insid­er tips about Onka­paringa Riv­er Nation­al Park and Recre­ation Park?

Explore the recre­ation park via the Wet­lands Loop Trails to see large fresh water lagoons abun­dant with wildlife, or kayak from Old Noar­lun­ga through the park to Port Noar­lun­ga. Remem­ber to check the tide times, as sec­tions of the riv­er become quite shal­low at low tide.

Fol­low the hik­ing trails in the nation­al park to enjoy the bush­land and spot native wildlife. Dur­ing late win­ter and spring, try the Nature, Echid­na and Hardy’s Scrub hikes for beau­ti­ful dis­plays of wild­flow­ers, and the Sun­dews Riv­er Hike from spring to autumn to explore the gorge.

Through­out the month of August, Onka­paringa Nation­al Park and Recre­ation Park are being cel­e­brat­ed asPark of Month– an ini­tia­tive between Nature Play SA and DEW.

Why not enjoy a guid­ed tour of Noar­lun­ga Downs Wet­land on 28 August with Ranger Steve. Click thePark of the Month eventstabfor all the details.In the mean­time, check out5 trea­sures in Onka­paringa Riv­er parksfor more insid­er tips on what to do on your next visit.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living