The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is located 700 km north of Adelaide in South Australia. The most common way to get there is by car, but a plane can be chartered from Parafield Airport in northern Adelaide.
The area’s first inhabitants where the Adnyamathanha tribe of Indigenous Australians. One of their dreamtime stories says that Arkaroo, a mythical monster, drank Lake Frome dry. He then crawled up into the mountains. When he urinated he created the waterholes that are a feature of the area. His movement over the land created Arkaroola Creek.
The first Europeans to visit the area was explorer Edward Eyre in 1840 and the surveyor George Goyder in 1857. There was a small failed settlement nearby, at the Yudnamutana copper mine, from 1860 to 1863. The drought of 1863 drove the miners away. Settlement didn’t occur again until 1903, when rubies and sapphires were discovered. By 1910 a copper smelter was built at Yudnamutana and uranium was also discovered nearby by Douglas Mawson, famous Antarctic explorer.
The land was always marginal and projects failed quickly. Uranium exploration persisted sporadically and led to the development of good roads by optimistic companies. The Arkaroola property was fenced by 1935 and a process of eradication of pests started. The land was covered with donkeys and camels. There was a failed health project in 1948.
Arkaroola was established by geologist Reg Sprigg in 1968 after he purchased the land. He had been involved in surveys in the area before that. He purchased 610 km² and began the conversion to a wildlife sanctuary. It was established on condition by the state government that the feral rabbits, goats and camels would be controlled in the rough terrain. In 1979 he was a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund due to his work in the protection of the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby.