Sheep, eco-tourism co-exist at Rawnsley Park

Sheep, eco-tourism co-exist at Rawnsley Park

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Since Tony and Julieanne Smith took on the operation of Rawnsley Park Station from Tony's parents in 1985, their focus has always been on finding a balance between running sheep and eco-tourism.

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Since Tony and Julieanne Smith took on the operation of Rawnsley Park Station from Tony's parents in 1985, their focus has always been on finding a balance between running sheep and eco-tourism.

They have transformed the Flinders Ranges operation from a struggling sheep station to a destination attracting more than 20,000 tourists each year, which has won a number of awards.

While the tourism side of their operation has grown to be more prominent, Tony and Julie still run a herd of 2000 Merino-Dohne cross sheep.

"I started with Dohnes in 2010 and I am quite happy with them," Mr Smith said.

"Wool production has dropped about one kilogram per sheep, but lambs are two to three kilos heavier and get to weight easier.

"We take about 100 of the lambs for slaughtering to Jamestown Meats and bring the meat back for use in the restaurant and for sale in the caravan park shop.

"The Dohne meat has good colour and texture and is a great attribute at the restaurant. We have been providing takeaway at the restaurant since we re-opened, starting full service from July 1.

"We market fat lambs usually through Thomas Foods International or direct to abattoirs at 10 months.

"Last year we sold wether lambs on-property at three months to Mid North farmers, due to dry conditions. Average annual rainfall should be 300 millimetres but has been 200mm for the past 10 years.

"Ideally we will rotate stock in the paddocks to allow spelling. The last three years we have been feeding more hay and grain to keep ewes healthy and before lamb sales.

"This year we fed hay at mating during February and will feed hay and grain to ewes during lambing.

"We stock conservatively with the objective of being able to spell paddocks for around six months in each 12 months."

It was 52 years ago, Clem and Alison Smith had the foresight to see that only running sheep on Rawnsley Park Station was not going to be enough.

In 1968, the Smiths saw an opportunity to branch out into tourism, opening a cabin and offering sheep shearing demonstrations.

They could never have imagined that tourism would out-weigh their sheep enterprise the way it does today.

Welcoming approximately 20,000 visitors a year and winning multiple tourism awards, a lot more is going on at Rawnsley Park than just shearing demonstrations.

Tony and Julieanne Smith took over from Tony's parents in 1985 and have not looked back.

Rawnsley Park now has 43 accommodation units and 120 camping sites, and in school holiday periods has up to 500 people staying at a time.

"Rawnsley Park has a range of accommodation and activities that appeal to a wide cross section of visitors," Mr Smith said.

"Domestic visitors come between March and November and we normally get quite a few International visitors over the summer.

"With COVID-19 restrictions, international travel is not likely until 2021. We have plans to add to the self-contained units and would like to add a swimming pool at the units. However, everything is on hold until we understand how things will settle over the next 12 months."

Part of the tourism aspect includes Rawnsley Park's eco-villas, which are environmentally-friendly designed and feature uninterrupted views of Wilpena Pound and surrounding ranges.

"We wanted to develop some environmentally sensitive accommodation that shows off the landscape of the Flinders to the best advantage," Mr Smith said.

"We encourage guests to be eco-friendly mainly through educating them on the attributes of the Flinders.

"The area features well-preserved examples of sedimentary layers displayed in places like Brachina Gorge, while there is evidence of stromatolites, Ediacaran Fossils (re-Cambrian) and early Cambrian fossil reefs."

As well as kangaroos and emus, the area features birds including the Ringneck Parrot, Elegant Parrot, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Whistling Kite and the Short-tailed Grasswren.

There are seven marked walking trails and a cycle track at Rawnsley Park where visitors get to see this wildlife first hand.

"The walking trails to Rawnsley Bluff and other view points on the property are a major attraction for visitors," Mr Smith said.

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