Located 485 km north of Adelaide via Wilpena Pound, Blinman is a tiny, isolated settlement on the edge of the South Australian desert.
Copper was discovered at Blinman by a shepherd, Robert Blinman (who, unsurprisingly, gave his name to the township which grew up around the mine) in 1859. Blinman, who had a wooden leg, was known as 'Peg Leg'. It seems that the discovery occurred on land owned by a Dr Hayward. Dr Hayward's brother, Paul Hayward, was given some wethers (sheep) to graze on the land. Bored with the work he used to sit on a rock and make sure the sheep didn't wander too far. Eventually Paul Hayward handed the job (and his favourite rock) over to 'Peg Leg' Blinman who one day broke a chunk off the rock and found that it was good quality copper. Two butchers in Adelaide, Henry and Thomas Martin, contacted Blinman and by 1861 they had a mineral lease on the land. Copper mining occurred in the area from around 1862 through to 1918 when the ore ran out. In total around 10,000 tonnes of copper were removed from the area with most of it being mined in the years between 1903-1918 when the town's population peaked at around 2,000 people. The Yudnamutana mine was hugely profitable and eventually was sold to London interests for the staggering sum of £135,000. Others also made money but when the mine closed in 1918 it had been an economic failure for the investors. One of the greatest problems, which still exists today, had been transporting the copper economically from the mine to the nearest ports.
Today the settlement verges on being a ghost town. There is little more than a pub and a few houses with the main interest lying in the remnants of the old mines which exist in all their rusted glory.
Things to see
To the west of Blinman (about 1 km) is the sign out to Blinman Mines. On the hill above the town there are old smelters and bits and pieces which are remnants of the late 19th century when the town was alive with miners. To get to the top of the Blinman Mine area it is possible to drive in a 4WD or walk. It is not advisable to take conventional vehicles up the very rocky road.
Blinman is a very tiny little settlement with a hotel, a post office, a general store and very little else. That's literally about it. The Police Station dates from 1874 and the North Blinman Hotel has parts which date from the 1860s although there is a decidedly modern, glassed-in swimming pool next to the hotel which, given the size of the town, seems an extravagance out of all proportion to the rest of the town.
One of the town's main attractions is the Blinman Cemetery which lies at the southern end of the town. It is old and dilapidated but it tells a remarkable story of survival in this harsh land. Here are graves of women who died in childbirth, of men killed working with explosives near the mine, of little-known explorers like William Kekwick (1872 ) who was the second-in-charge to John McDouall Stuart when he crossed Central Australia.
This miner's cottage, made from weatherboards and a limestone fireplace, dates from 1862. It is an old wattle and daub cottage at the Arkaroola end of Blinman's main street. It will seem to visitors that the most important building in town is the Captains Cottage but this old, unused mud and daub cottage is as old as the town.
In the Area
Great Wall of China
These unusual formations (basically lines of rocks topped with ironstone which rise up from the surrounding countryside and look a little like the Great Wall of China) appear in a number of desert areas of Australia. This interesting example can be found 10 km south of Blinman on the road to Wilpena.
Definitely worth the effort. This is a delightful waterhole in the middle of the desert ranges between Blinman and Arkaroola. Located about 80 km from Blinman (you leave the main Blinman-Arkaroola Road about 64 km from Blinman) it is exceptionally beautiful and peaceful. A good place for camping with some excellent Aboriginal rock art. The art exists in one of the gorges off to one side from the main gorge and can be accessed by driving about 8 km up the gorge. At that point you will notice a small gorge to your left. The rock art is up that gorge. It is rock carving rather than painting.
The road between Blinman and Parachilna is particularly beautiful cutting through dramatic desert gorges which are characterised by the harsh, spectacular colours of this part of the outback.
Flinders Ranges & Outback InformationBlinman SA
Telephone: 1800 633 060
Facsimile: (08) 8223 3995