Nilpena Ediacara National Park
Nilpena Ediacara National Park is closed to the public until mid-April 2022 while visitor facilities are being created.
Nilpena Ediacara National Park is a place of rich cultural heritage and exceptional scientific value, where evidence of the emergence Earth’s earliest complex animal life has been discovered.
Located on the western fringes of the Flinders Ranges, the national park is situated on 60,000 hectares of the former Nilpena Pastoral Station. The national park was proclaimed in 2021.
In the park’s unassuming hills, an ancient seafloor containing strange early lifeforms some half a billion years old have been exquisitely preserved in the fine sandstone grain. When the park opens in 2022, visitors will be guided to the Nilpena fossil fields to see first-hand where the significant discovery took place and remains an active research site to this day.
Currently underway is the creation of an immersive Ediacaran fossil experience at the former blacksmith shop, where fossils can be viewed up-close with curated lighting and audio-visual technology. The focal point will be specimen commonly referred as Alice's Restaurant Bed named after the Arlo Guthrie song that notes it has everything you could ever want.
The Nilpena gateway – a striking stone wall is the entry location to the park with ample parking as it is the area where all visitors will be welcomed and escorted by guided tour to the visitor precinct and fossil fields. There will be no overnight facilities or areas to freely undertake recreation due to site being of huge international significance requiring protection.
Nilpena provides unique photo opportunities with panoramic views of the northern Flinders Ranges as well as permanent springs.
Learn more about Nilpena, the single most important site on the planet for the Ediacaran rise of early animal life.
The park is currently closed while visitor facilities are created. Anticipated opening is within the first half of 2022.
Port Augusta National Parks Wildlife Service South Australia Office
Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5300
Medical, fire (including bushfire) and police emergency situations
Phone: Triple Zero - 000
Phone: 131 444 for non-urgent police assistance
National Parks and Wildlife Service SA – After-hours duty officer
Phone: 0408 378 284
Within the park
Please contact Port Augusta National Parks Wildlife Service South Australia office on (08) 8648 5300 or the after-hours duty officer on 0408 378 284.
Outside of the park
Please contact a local wildlife rescue group.
When to visit
The park is currently closed with an anticipated opening in the first half of 2022.
Mild temperatures from April to October make this period the most comfortable in the Flinders Ranges region.
During the summer months, maximum temperatures range from 30ºC to 45ºC.
Dogs not allowed
Assistance dogs are permitted in most public places and are therefore welcome in South Australia’s parks and reserves. Assistance dogs must be appropriately restrained on a lead and remain under your effective control at all times while in a park or reserve.
As per the dogs in parks and reserves policy, if the dog is not an accredited assistance dog, they must be trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate that disability and meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for a dog in a public place. However, refusal may be given if the person with the disability is unable to produce evidence the dog is an assistance dog with the appropriate training.
Before taking your assistance dog into a park that does not normally allow dogs, it is highly recommended that you contact us so we can provide you with the latest information on any potential hazards within specific parks that may affect your dog. Please contact the park via the contact details provided under the contact tab or contact the visitor service centre via email or on Facebook.
Construction of a visitor precinct is currently underway and will include three historic Nilpena pastoral buildings – the former blacksmith shop, shearer’s quarters and woolshed. The first to be opened will be the repurposed Blacksmith's Shop which will be an all-access fossil experience supported with audio visual technology. Curated lighting will enable visitors to see fossil in the best possible conditions. All access toilets will be included in this facility.
The fossil fields include an all-access Class 2 trail that will enable visitors to see the research site and fossil beds in the Nilpena landscape. There is no public amenities at this location and access is by guided tour only.
Nilpena’s significance is integral to the bid for World Heritage for the Flinders Ranges and in April 2021, the Flinders Ranges was placed on Australia’s World Heritage Tentative List.
Nilpena Ediacara National Park has a rich and complex cultural heritage combining Aboriginal and pastoral history. The Adnyamathanha people (meaning rock people) are the traditional custodians of the Nilpena Ediacara National Park. Their connection with the land stretches back many thousands of years. Ancient rock paintings and engravings can be seen at the nearby Arkaroo Rock, Sacred Canyon and Perawurtina Cultural Heritage Site in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
The Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park Co-Management Board is currently providing an advisory role and has oversight of the infrastructure upgrades as well as developing the management plan for the new national park.
Words from the Adnyamathanha people
As the traditional owners of this amazing part of the country, we have a cultural responsibility to ensure your physical and spiritual wellbeing is well-looked-after during your stay. There are many cultural treasures to be found whilst you visit our Yarta (Country). We invite you to learn about our culture and social history; however, we ask that you exercise your role as a respectful and responsible traveller to assist us in protecting them for future generations. Take your time, walk in our footprints, and share our story. Familiarise yourself with the richness of our Yarta and appreciate the wildlife, landscape, cultural richness and more. We will do our best to highlight areas of strong cultural importance and we ask that you treat them with the respect and reverence they deserve.
Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state.
There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations. At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.
In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.
Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia.
Located on the traditional lands of the Adnyamathanha people (meaning hills or rock people), it is where they traded ochre and conducted important ceremonies and camped occurred alongside the permanent springs which still exist at Nilpena today.
In the 1980s, Ross Fargher leaseholder of Nilpena Pastoral Station, found Ediacaran fossils on his recently-acquired property when a family friend noticed ripple rocks of the ancient sea floor used as the flooring of Nipena’s woolshed.
Nilpena was placed on Australia’s National Heritage List in 2007 for its quality of intact fossil specimens.
In 2016, Nilpena’s most superbly preserved beds, now known as Alice’s Restaurant Bed, was unearthed by leading palaeontologist Dr Mary Droser and her team from the University of California Riverside. The bed contains many rare species, with evidence depicting the seafloor was once a habitat and complex environment, where there was activity of mobility, feeding and reproduction.
Over 40 species have recorded at Nilpena with others first discovered in the nearby Ediacaran Hills back in the 1940’s by local geologist Reg Sprigg, which is also in the national park. His discovery was so significant that a fossil was named in his honour (Spriggina) and has become the South Australian fossil emblem. The Ediacaran geological period of time was named after the location of discovery.
Nilpena also contains several newly described taxa, including one named after Sir David Attenborough (Attenborities janeae) who visited Nilpena to film part of the BBC Documentary ‘First Life’ and another after President Barack Obama (Obamus coronatus) for his commitment to science research.
World Heritage for the Flinders Ranges
In April 2021, a significant milestone was achieved, with UNESCO accepting Australia’s inclusion of the Flinders Ranges on its World Heritage Tentative List. This is an exciting and significant first step in pursuing World Heritage Listing, expressing Australia’s commitment to nominate in the future.
Fossils and geology of the Flinders Ranges display the history of our planet and the evolution of life on Earth. Some of this critical evidence spans more than 300 million years and includes the world’s finest example of the Ediacaran explosion of life discovered at the newly created Nilpena Ediacara National Park. Its here where evidence of the earliest forms of complex multicellular animal life evolved. It is these outstanding geological and palaeontological forms within the Flinders Ranges that make it an important site to pursue for World Heritage Listing.
Learn more about the nomination currently being prepared for a bid to claim World Heritage for the Flinders Ranges.
An all access Class 2 walking trail exists as part of the experience within the Nilpena fossil fields.
This is a site of huge international significance and its protection will be managed by mandatory guided tours when it opens to visitors in the first half of 2022.
The tour will also include a visit to Nilpena’s unassuming hills where a Class 2, all-accessible trail has been developed at the fossil field site. It’s here where you’ll see where earliest life was discovered. The trail includes nodes of excavated fossil beds, each with a unique story to be told.
At the visitor precinct itself, tours will include a visit to the repurposed Blacksmith’s Shop (of the former pastoral station) which is being created as a state-of-the-art interpretation centre.
At the Blacksmith's Shop, a one-of-kind fossil experience will present the most significant fossil specimen known as Alice’s Restaurant Bed. Curated lighting will provide the best possible viewing conditions to see an array of fossils on the bed on a specially designed plinth that supports the large extent of the specimen.
This will be an all-accessible, visitor experience allowing everyone of all mobility types to view fossils up-close.
Information to book a tour will be made available closer to the time of the park opening to visitors.
It is encouraged to bring drinking water as the visit includes both indoor and outdoor activity. Water will be available from the Blacksmith's Shop interpretive centre however these is no water at the fossil field site. A water bottle is necessary.
Know before you go
|Access to Nilpena Ediacara National Park is restricted to guided tours only. The park will open to visitors in the first half of 2022. The park is remote and dry, so protective clothing is required for both warm and cool conditions and sturdy walking shoes.|
When open for visitors in 2022, entry will be on a guided tour only and a fee will be required directly with the tour operator.
This park will not be included in the park pass system as the experience will be provided by an approved tour guide.
Camping and accommodation
There is no camping or accommodation available within this park. A number of overnight options exist in the nearby Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.
Other fees and permits
Besides the cost for a guided tour, there are no other fees or permits associated with entering this park.
Filming and photography for commercial reasons requires a permit which can be requested here.