Devils Marbles, Northern Territory

Devils Marbles, NT. © Tourism Australia

Devils Marbles, Northern Territory

The Devils Marbles are huge granite boulders scattered across a wide, shallow valley, 100 kilometres south of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.

The Devils Marbles are located in the traditional country of the Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra and Warlpiri people. They call the Devils Marbles Karlu Karlu, which literally translates as ‘round boulders’.

Formed by erosion over millions of years, the Devils Marbles are made of granite, which surfaces like an island in the desert. They vary in size, from 50 centimetres up to six metres across.

Many of the giant stones are precariously balanced on top of one another, appearing to defy gravity. They continue to crack and erode today, creating an ever-changing landscape.

The Devils Marbles have great significance for the Aboriginal people. Most of the conservation reserve is protected under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act.

Ancient creation legends surrounding Karlu Karlu are passed from generation to generation by the traditional owners. Many of these stories are secret and only a few can be shared with visitors.

One of the main Dreaming stories for the area which can be told to non-Aboriginal people relates to how the Devils Marbles were made. This tradition tells of 'Arrange', an ancient ancestor, who walked through the area. He made a hair-string belt, a type of traditional adornment, worn only by initiated Aboriginal men. As he was twirling the hair to make strings, he dropped clusters of hair on the ground which turned into the big red boulders. Arrange finally returned to his place of origin, a hill called Ayleparrarntenhe, where the legend says he still lives today.

There are no official walks at the Devils Marbles, just a network of informal self-guided tracks on the eastern side of the reserve. Follow the network of walkways and learn how the geological marvel was formed and has withstood the elements of nature. Every marble looks different. You can walk around for a long time and find new and interesting views. Between May and October each year park rangers offer a program of live events at the site as part of their Territory Parks Alive Program.

At sunrise and sunset, the boulders appear to glow and change colour, from pink to bright red, similar to the other geological wonders in the Northern Territory, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

To see the Devils Marbles at sunset, you will need to stay the night. The only accommodation in the Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is a simple camping area with fireplaces. Campers should be well equipped and carry their own fuel and water.

The Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve extends along both sides of the Stuart Highway approximately 393 kilometres north of Alice Springs and 100 kilometres south of Tennant Creek. The marbles are scattered through the valley on both sides of the highway. The nearest settlement is Wauchope, 9 kilometres to the south. If you’re going north or south between Darwin and Alice Springs, you will drive right through the middle of the Devils Marbles.

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