Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve: is situated in the Northern Territory, 75 kilometres south of Alice Springs off the Stuart Highway.
The arresting feature of this Reserve is the scenic sandstone cliffs and bluffs (see image). The free-standing cliffs have rainbow-like bands that are particularly attractive in early mornings and late afternoons. The area is very popular with photographers and the manufactures of 4WD vehicles (see below).
The coloured bands were caused by water. In much earlier and wetter times the red colouring was caused by red iron being dissolved and drawn to the surface in the Dry Season.
The dark red capping is harder than the white sandstone below. This weathers into loose sand.
There is a hard claypan in front of the cliffs and after rain there are interesting reflections in the water.
Unmarked trails for bushwalking are found throughout the Reserve which is rich in Aboriginal culture. There are rock engravings, paintings and grinding stones. There is a large formation, to the south of the main formation, known as “Ewerre” and this has particular significance for the local aboriginal people. Please do not move the black rocks in this area.
Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve has a small camping area with barbeques, picnic tables and pit toilets. A camping fee is payable.
There is a 22 kilometre unsealed, very sandy road from the Highway to the Reserve. Access is recommended for 4WD vehicles only.
The reserve is dominated by Spinifex (Triodia spp) sandplains. We visited the Reserve some years ago and were suitably impressed by the sandstone cliffs. The stands of Desert Oak (Allocasuarina decaisneana), along the road into the Reserve, were another eye-catching feature. We only spent one night camping in the Reserve and did not have time to do any long walks. We felt that behind the sandstone cliffs there were many interesting plants growing amongst the Spinifex.
Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve may be familiar to viewers of commercial television. Manufacturers of 4WD vehicles have used the claypan, in front of the cliffs, as the site for commercials advertising their products. On the morning we left a low-loader drove in with vehicles to be used in another commercial epic.