Beltana is a semi-ghost town 540km north of Adelaide, that has struggled on refusing to lie down and die long after the reasons for its existence have vanished. The towns history began in the 1870s with the advent of copper mining in the area, construction of the Australian Overland Telegraph Line and The Ghan railroad and began to decline in 1941 with the beginning of coal mining at Leigh Creek. The fortune of the town was sealed by the 1983 realignment of the main road away from the town. The town, adjacent cemetery and railway structures are now part of a designated State Heritage Area declared in 1987.
Beltana has important links with the overland telegraph, transcontinental railway, mining, outback services, Australian Inland Mission and also has Afghan sites relating to it’s past as a camel-based transport centre.
The town has had horse racing since 1876, and the annual picnic races and gymkhana and biennial pastoral field day are still continued. There are no services or accommodation available although there is an interpretive history trail and self-guided tour around the town. The Beltana roadhouse, now 12km from Beltana on the main highway between Parachilna and Leigh Creek, acts as the towns’ local store.
Beltana was originally the name of a sheep station, west of the current town, which provided a stopover point for travellers, missionaries, explorers, and miners. The name Beltana may have come from the Adnyamathanha for running water or crossing of the waters or may be an adaptation of veldana for skin or cloak. It may also have come from the village of Beltana, Tasmania, or a word about bravery or courage from Ireland, and finally one of the station managers believed it simply indicated the place where the station bell was rung.