Finke Gorge National Park covers an area of 46,000 hectares—which somehow sounds a lot more impressive than 177 square miles, though the two figures represent the same area. At the center of the park is the ancient, rocky, and usually dry Finke River. The river is wonderful, but the real reason we bounced and lurched along its rough bed, after leaving Kings Canyon, was to visit what is considered one of the most impressive features of the park: Palm Valley.
Palm Valley is impressive for a number of reasons. It’s lovely. It has a spring, which makes it an oasis in this arid region. And it is home to a diverse range of plant species, many of them rare and unique to the area. The plant that gives the valley it’s name is among those rare and unique species of flora—the Palm Valley Palm, also known as the Red Cabbage Palm or Central Australian Cabbage Palm.
Livistona mariae subspecies mariae, or Palm Valley Palm, is a fan palm that can grow to sixty feet in height. It grows here and nowhere else. The entire population of these rare palms is around 3,000 adult plants. There are other Livistona species elsewhere in Australia (though none of them is close to Palm Valley), but this is the only place you can find this particular subspecies of palm.
Below is a photo of the entrance to Palm Valley. You can see our 4WD on the floor of the canyon, as we look back to the spot where we started our climb. We were to see far more palm trees and water as we continued our hike into the valley.