Beltana has such rich historical significance that the whole township was registered as a State Heritage Area in 1987. It is important for its connections with The Overland Telegraph, the Transcontinental Railway, mining, outback services, the Australian Inland Mission and as an important hub for camel-based transport during the 19th century. People of Aboriginal, Afghan and European descents all regard Beltana as an important place in their cultural heritage.
Beltana state heritage area map
Department of Environment and Resources
Eyre discovered a waterhole hear the site of Beltana on his 1840 expedition, and this made it a likely stopping place for miners, carriers and travellers.
Aboriginal men travelled past Beltana on their way from the north to mine ochre at Parachilna. The easy food offered by sheep and cattle appealed to them, which led to conflict and in 1863, a number of them were killed near Beltana.
Beltana township was surveyed in 1873. It was set out around Martin’s Eating House (1871) which served traffic to and from Sliding Rock Mine. and a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph line. Many of the people who left Sliding Rock when it closed down came to live in Beltana.
A number of small mines around Beltana sent their ore to market through the township. The main one was at Ediacra, where copper, silver and lead were mined for a time from the late 1880s. A small township was surveyed in 1891.
It is only 3km away from Beltana Station, owned by the influential Thomas Elder, one of the most famous of the Flinders pastoralists. Elder’s land holdings were eventually bigger than his native Scotland but headquarters were at Beltana. Here he bred camels and horses. Several explorers used camels from Beltana on their journeys into the deserts west and north of the Flinders.
A weekly coach service from Port Augusta dwindled after the railway came to Beltana in 1881. By then the township had two hotels, a police station and a brewery.
When the nearby Leigh Creek coalfield opened in the 1950s, Beltana dwindled. A new railway was opened a few km to the west of Beltana, and the hotels and police station closed soon afterwards – families could find work and schooling in Leigh Creek. The Beltana school closed in 1967.
- Barker, S, M M McCaskill and B Ward, eds. c.2005 Explore the Flinders Ranges. Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (S.A Branch).
- Nicol, Stuart 1998 Flinders Ranges and the Mid North . Adelaide. Royal Automobile Association of South Australia.