Rawnsley Park history
Rawnsley Park Station, on the southern face of Wilpena Pound, was settled as part of Arkaba Station in 1851. Arkaba, Wilpena and Aroona were the first pastoral leases settled in the Central Flinders Ranges. The initial pastoral leases were granted for a period of 14 years by the Colony of South Australia for what was then known as ‘unoccupied waste lands’.
During the late 19th century there was considerable political agitation to resume the large pastoral properties for farming. The ‘great wheat drive’ of the 1870s and 1880s resulted in pastoral properties such as Kanyaka and Coonatto being subdivided into farming allotments of approximately one square mile (640 acres). The Great Northern Railway from Port Augusta to Government Gums (Farina) was built largely because of the expected grain harvest from the Flinders Ranges. The railway (3'6" narrow gauge) was built through Pichi Richi Pass to Quorn, reaching Hawker in 1880. The present Port Augusta to Leigh Creek line skirts to the west of the Ranges, so avoiding the steep grades through Pichi Richi Pass and the Yappala Hills.
The farmers suffered a range of natural disasters (drought, grass hoppers, rabbits), as well as fluctuating prices, that resulted in most struggling to be viable in what is marginal farming land well north of ‘Goyder's Line of Rainfall’. However, these were hardy souls who believed that, with luck on their side, the land would yield a bountiful harvest. In 1895 parts of Arkaba Station were subdivided for farming allotments. A portion of Arkaba (Section 10, Hundreds of Morlana and Warcowie comprised 6253 acres) was granted as a Perpetual Lease (99 years from change of ownership). The new lease was issued to Mrs Fahey of Carrieton, however little is known of Mrs Fahey and her family. The lease passed to Mr Nuggent and his family of six sons in the year 1905. The original stone house of three rooms from the Nuggent period is still standing (near the old wagon). The present homestead was begun in 1915 by the Nuggent family and completed by Mr Haesler in the early 1920s. The years 1895 to 1919 were the period of greatest farming activity.
The lease was transferred to Mr. Montgomery Haesler in 1921, principally for grazing rather than farming. Mr Haesler held the lease until 1937 when it was transferred to Mr Neil Cutten, who also held the Ulowdna lease (now held by Stephen and Alan Gregory) which resulted in the whole area being known as Ulowdna.
In 1953 Clem Smith purchased the portion of Ulowdna (Section 10, Hundreds of Morlana & Warcowie) comprising 6253 acres. In 1963, another parcel (Section 9, Hundreds of Warcowie comprising 1200 acres) was purchased to make up the 7453 acres and the land was renamed Rawnsley Park Station. The property is now 29,000 acres, including part of the neighbouring Arkapena and Prelinna Stations, which was added in 2009.
The name Rawnsley comes from Rawnsley Bluff, the southern tip of the pound. This, in turn, was named after HC Rawnsley who arrived from England under false pretences claiming to be a surveyor. Rawnsley spent three months supposedly surveying from Mt. Remarkable to Wilpena before he was recalled by the Colonial Government. We will never know if the prominent landmark or the deception of the man was responsible for the naming of Rawnsley's Bluff.
In 1968 the first cabin was erected and sheep shearing demonstrations began. Originally tourism was developed as a sideline to grazing, however, tourism is now the major enterprise at Rawnsley Park.
To learn about the exploration and settlement history of the Flinders Ranges, check out the site history.flindersranges.com.au