The Sturt Gorge Recreation Park is situated within the traditional lands of the Kaurna Aboriginal people. The Kaurna people’s territory spans from Port Wakefield to Cape Jervis, west to Gulf St Vincent, and east to the Mount Lofty Ranges. While there is limited information available about the Kaurna Aboriginal occupation and utilization of the area, it is known that they utilized this natural corridor for traditional hunting and gathering activities.
1849 – Archibald Jaffrey:
Originally surveyed as Sections 28, 29, 68-71, 79, and 80 in the Hundreds of Adelaide and Noarlunga, the land that now comprises Sturt Gorge Recreation Park was granted to Archibald Jaffrey, an Adelaide merchant. Jaffrey acquired Sections 29, 68, 69, 79, 80, and 393 on October 29, 1849. Subsequently, on April 18, 1850, he purchased Sections 70 and 71 (63 hectares), followed by Section 80 (32 hectares) on November 21, 1850. The total area of Jaffrey’s Sturt River property was 254 hectares. Over the years, the land was leased to various individuals for grazing cattle and sheep, as Jaffrey’s descendants continued to lease the property after his passing in 1893.
1900s – Alfred de Rose:
In May 1903, 2 hectares of Section 80 were sold to Henry B. Adams, who had an adjoining property. The remaining land was sold to Charles John Downer of Blackwood in November 1919. Later, negotiations took place with the Minister of Repatriation to purchase the property from Downer as a settlement for discharged soldiers. The Sturt Gorge property, renamed Section 1424 and 1425, was leased by Edgar Alfred de Rose, a returned soldier and farmhand, in November 1920. The de Rose family occupied the Sturt Gorge property for the longest duration, working it until 1969. They referred to the property as Sturt Hills and primarily grazed sheep and a few cattle. During their tenure, the property faced challenges due to the steep terrain, herding sheep, and the encroachment of residential development.
1930s and the Depression:
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the de Rose family resorted to cutting timber from the eastern part of the property to supplement their income. The timber was sold to bakeries and brickmakers.
1940s and World War II:
During World War II, the hilltops around Sturt Gorge, including the area near Edgar de Rose’s house, were fortified with barbed wire, trenches, and guns. Soldiers camped near the de Rose property, and the shearing shed was utilized by the military. Interestingly, this was not the first time the military used Sturt Gorge, as during the First World War, General Kitchener staged a mock battle in the area. Some remnants of this activity, such as old shell cases and craters, can still be found.
In August 1953, the lease of the property was jointly transferred to Edgar de Rose, his wife Amy Elizabeth de Rose, and their two children. The increasing residential development in the Marion area during the 1950s posed challenges for grazing operations, as packs of dogs frequently preyed on the de Rose’s sheep.
1960s – Mr. Robin Millhouse tries for National Park listing:
A significant bushfire in the early 1960s devastated most of the Sturt Gorge property, prompting the de Rose family to consider selling it. In 1962, Mr. Robin Millhouse, a Member of Parliament, recognized the ecological and recreational value of the area and proposed the establishment of a national park in the Sturt Gorge region. However, his efforts to secure national park status were unsuccessful at that time.
1969 – State Government purchase:
In 1969, the South Australian State Government acquired the Sturt Gorge property, consisting of Section 1424 and 1425, from the de Rose family. The purchase aimed to preserve the natural beauty and environmental significance of the area for public enjoyment.
1971 – Sturt Gorge Conservation Park proclamation:
On September 30, 1971, Sturt Gorge Conservation Park was officially proclaimed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. The park encompassed an area of 618 hectares, including the Sturt River and the surrounding hills and gorges. The park was managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, now known as the Department for Environment and Water.
1985 – Addition of Craigburn Farm:
In 1985, an additional area known as Craigburn Farm, adjacent to Sturt Gorge Conservation Park, was incorporated into the park. This expansion increased the park’s total area to 692 hectares.
Today, Sturt Gorge Recreation Park offers a range of recreational opportunities for visitors, including bushwalking, picnicking, cycling, and birdwatching. The park features scenic walking trails, breathtaking views of the Sturt River Gorge, and diverse plant and animal life. It continues to be managed by the Department for Environment and Water to ensure the preservation and sustainable use of its natural and cultural heritage.
Please note that the information provided is accurate up until September 2021, and there may have been additional developments or changes since then.