Kings Canyon has the deepest gorge in the Red Centre, with sandstone walls rising to a height of 270 m, sometimes looking as if cut with a knife. On the bottom of the canyon are waterholes which never dry up. In the upper part of the gorge is the Garden of Eden, with a lush growth of vegetation, including plants which are relics of earlier climatic conditions (e.g. palm ferns).
To the Aborigines this area was a sacred site, and their dwellings and places of assembly were decorated with rock paintings.
The national park borders directly on Aboriginal land, and the Luritja tribe has three settlement areas within the park, to the east at Bargot Springs, in the center at Lilla and to the north of the new tourist center. Their traditional name for the area is Watarrka.
Ernest Giles was the first white man to see the dry river bed (though not the canyon itself, 30km further northwest), in 1872, and named it after his principal sponsor, Fieldon King. His favorable report brought many cattle farmers to the area.
The area has been accessible only since 1960, when Jack Cotterill, on his own initiative, built a track to Kings Canyon.
On the plateau above the canyon is the Lost City, an area of red sandstone rocks weathered into the semblance of ruined houses and streets. The rock is brittle and not safe for rock climbing.
A steep walking trail leads up to the plateau, along the top of the canyon walls and down through the Lost City to the Garden of Eden, then across to the south wall of the canyon, down to the bottom of the gorge, passing Aboriginal rock paintings, and so back to the parking lot (6 km, 3-4 hours; water, head covering and stout footwear essential). There are no safety rails on the steep rock faces. The shorter Kings Creek Walk (1.5km) takes about an hour.
Box 2130, South Stuart Highway, Alice Springs, NT 0870, Australia
Useful tips: Access from Alice Springs on Stuart Highway, turning off west at Henbury, then past Wallara Ranch to Kings Canyon; 200km on a loose gravel road suitable for ordinary cars. Filling station at Kings Creek campsite. Route from south: from Lasseter Highway (leading to Ayers Rock) on Luritja Road (asphalted) to Wallara Ranch.
No camping in the park.