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Finke River: Area Description

Landscape surrounding the Finke River

The Finke River Gorge of the Central Australian Ranges near Alice Springs rises from the Western MacDonnell Ranges, flows through pediments, crosses the Missionary Plain, enters the James Ranges, and forms a deep meandering gorge in Hermannsburg Sandstone.  Near Palm Valley, the Finke River has cut a spectacular gorge across the trend of the ranges. The crests of the sandstone ridges are beveled by regional planation. This surface appears to be regionally deformed, but quantitative analysis of topography is required to establish this hypothesis and its consequences.


Landsat TM data of Finke Gorge National Park

As shown in the Landsat scene above, the region is composed of mountains, hills and low hills with a general east-west trend and very little flat country, except for the Missionary Plain. There are several large drainage systems draining east or west ultimately leading to the Finke River or Ellery Creek. The geology of the area is one of great interest and complexity, resulting in a wide variety of vegetation and soil types1. The assemblages of species which make up the vegetation of the area vary widely and produce a complex of many types in a relatively small area. Superimposed on this natural complexity is a mosaic of changes caused by such things as fire history, climate and land use. The most widespread vegetation types in the area are spars woodland, more commonly known as shrubland over hummock or tussock grasslands. Acacias are the most dominant species of the woodland on the lower elevations, being replace by various mallees on higher ground.

As an ancient inland mountain river system, the Finke River area also provides excellent opportunities for quantitative paleoflood hydrology both in Australia and other arid environments where extreme events define the morphology of the riverine system.  The history of the drainage evolution of the region is contained in paleomeanders:  the Finke exhibits well-defined paleomeanders associated with at least two previous locations of the river channel, and additional paleomeanders exist in both the Missionary Plain and Palm Valley.  Unfortunately, topographic information has been inadequate for either regional or local studies. Because both low relief plains and mountain ranges are located in close proximity, it is important to provide the overall regional topography and the higher spatial resolution elevation information as well. Thus, the Finke River area is an excellent site for developing a variable resolution DEM based on ERS repeat pass and JPL TOPSAR interferometric data. 

Two CSR projects are focusing on development of the methodologies to support analysis of flooding events:  1)  An Army Research Office funded study whose goal is to develop and apply image analysis techniques to geologic studies; and 2)  A NASA funded effort to develop and test remotely sensed derived inputs for hydrological models.   


Finke River Gorge
1Wildlife Research Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, "Vegetation and Soil Survey in the West MacDonnell Ranges"


Last Modified: Wed Apr 14, 1999