Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island
This leg-shaped region of low relief and gently undulating terrain has been a major source of mineral wealth. It is now one of Australia's prime barley growing areas, with a coast popular with holiday-makers. Structurally, the area is a peneplain of ancient rocks of Precambrian to Paleozoic age, with Permian glacial till occurring widely towards the southern end of the peninsula and younger, Tertiary, deposits along the eastern coast. Most of the soils are calcareous, easily cultivated and highly productive by South Australian standards. An extensive system of salt lakes and seasonal swamps between Yorketown and Warooka separates the cereal growing lands of the north from the predominantly pastoral and sparsely populated 'foot' of the peninsula. The near-encirclement of the peninsula by gulf waters promotes an equable climate, especially favourable for barley growing as moist breezes in early summer retard ripening.
It is not clear when the first Europeans set foot on Yorke Peninsula. Extensive scrub cover discouraged all but a few pastoralists before the discovery of rich copper ore at Kadina in 1859 and Moonta in 1861. Agricultural settlement was encouraged by the Waste Lands Amendment Act of 1869 which promoted land sales on credit terms. By 1871, farmers were cropping small areas of wheat around Stansbury, Yorketown, Edithburgh, Ardrossan and Maitland. From the 1880s technical advances accelerated the clearing of farmland. The 'mullenising' process was adopted whereby mallee was rolled and burnt rather than chopped, and the stump-jump plough was invented. From the mid-1890s superphosphate was sown together with wheat seed. The region soon earned a reputation for reliable cereal growing. Since the 1950s, barley has replaced wheat as the primary source of farm income. Yorke Peninsula produces 6% of the value of the State's farm production - 49% of it from barley, 22% from wheat and 20% from sheep.
In the nineteenth century many small ports shipped bagged grain, but with the advent of bulk handling only Ardrossan and Wallaroo remain as grain handlers, together with a new port completed in 1970 at Giles Point to serve the southern part of the peninsula. Dolomite is quarried near Ardrossan, Wallaroo has been manufacturing superphosphate since early in the century, initially as an adjunct to operations at its great copper smelting works. The salt lakes in the Edithburgh-Yorketown district became the State's centre for salt production in the 1890s before evaporating pans were established at Port Price, near the head of Gulf St Vincent. At the southern end of the peninsula, areas around Lake Fowler and Stenhouse Bay were once important sources of gypsum.
Kadina, the largest town on Yorke Peninsula (2943 in 1918), thrived with copper mining after 1860. It declined when the mines closed in 1923, but has now revived as an important agricultural and regional service centre. In the three towns of the former 'Copper Triangle' - Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo - modest land and housing prices have recently attracted the retired and the unemployed. The Copper Triangle's mining relics, museums, old stone buildings and biennial Cornish festivals have proved attractive for tourists.
With an area of 4350 square kilometres Kangaroo Island is the only significant island off the South Australian coast, and third in size off the Australian coast after Tasmania and Melville Island, Northern Territory. Much of the island is a low plateau rising to between 100 and 300 metres, incised by streams on its northern and southern edges, and capped by an ironstone crust known as laterite.
During the past times of lower sea levels the island was connected to the mainland. Its most recent separation was probably at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.
Stone tools have been found widely on the island and Aboriginal occupation may have persisted until about 2000 years ago. The place was unoccupied when Matthew Flinders landed there in 1802 - he noticed there were no fires, and extraordinarily tame kangaroos.
Although Kangaroo Island saw the first European settlement in South Australia, the predominant gravelly ironstone soils with their impermeable clay subsoils discouraged development away from the north-eastern coastal fringe around Kingscote and Penneshaw. It was not until after the Second World War, with the use of heavy scrub-clearing machinery and dressings of superphosphate with added micronutrients, that the scrub was replaced by pastures of subterranean clover. Sheep and cattle grazing is now the main activity. Wool and livestock sales contributed almost 80% of the value of farm produce in 1981, oat and barley cereals only 7%. Land clearance has left growing problems of winter waterlogging and soil salinity.
Most of the island's people (3515 in 1981) live in the small coastal towns of Kingscote and Penneshaw, and in the central area at Parndana. Kingscote, the main commercial centre, was the first landfall for most of the South Australian Company’s ships in 1836. Its population is now about 1300. With increasing numbers of tourists, including many day-trippers from the mainland, unsealed roads are often enveloped in red dust in summer. The main attractions are the wildlife. Seal Bay Conservation Park, the Flinders Chase National Park and the coastline, which is always interesting, and in many places dramatic.