Desert - Australia
4x4 Travel - climbing Big Red
excellent range of maps and guides for the Simpson Desert
Desert is a remote, 4wd challenging, region, that is
located in the northern areas of South Australia, southern sections of
the Northern Territory and up into the South West of Queensland.
The area is considered remote and extensive planning is required if you
intend to journey into it. A well prepared vehicle is essential and it
is recommended that you travel in convoy with at least one other
vehicle. The towing of a trailer is not recommended, although many do.
is allowed within 100 metres either side of the public access tracks,
however there is nothing in the way of facilities most of the
are gidgee woodlands in the central region of the desert that provide
some shade and shelter for camping.
Recently introduced regulations see the Simpson Desert closed to
travellers from the end of November until March 16th each year.
4x4 Travel runs 4wd tag along tours through the North Simpson and
Simpson Deserts, the trips are for either 12 or 14 days and will take
in many of the iconic towns and places throughout this Outback region.
The 14 day
trip will take you through the remotest Simpson
Desert crossing in
where very few have ever been, much of it without visible tracks - this
is your chance, follow the Never Never track button for more details
The desert covers an area of
approximately 170,000 square kilometers with an average annual rainfall
of less than 150mm. Beneath the desert’s surface is The Great Artesian
Basin, a natural water storage area. The water rises in places to feed
natural springs, the best known being Dalhousie Springs which is the
starting point and entry into the Simpson from the west.
Over the years bores have been drilled along the stock routes to water
the stock as well as several around the oil exploration tracks and areas
first European explorer to visit the area was Charles Sturt in 1845
when he came across the Eyre Creek to the east, but it was not until
1936 that it was first crossed completely by Ted Colson
Mount Dare Homestead. It can also be
obtained on the internet from various sources around the country
On the eastern perimeter of the park he is known to have sighted the
remains of the 800 km long rabbit fence put up some 50 years previously
by the Vermin Control Board to stem the spread of rabbits, in which it
was unsuccessful. The fence was maintained up until the early 1930’s
when it was abandoned.
first motor vehicle crossing of the desert was undertaken by Reg Sprigg
in 1962. Little did he know what a precedent he was setting for the
modern four wheel drivers of today.
several other explorers traversed various parts of the desert
subsequently it wasn’t until the late 1950’s that the Simpson Desert
gained notoriety by becoming a major search area for oil and gas.
search resulted in many new tracks being established, several off which
are still in use today. The main major routes through the desert today
being the WAA Line, the French Line, the Rig Road and QAA Line
The most sort after trek across
the Simpson these days is between Oodnadatta, in South Australia, and
Birdsville in Queensland covering approximately 650 kilometers,
depending on your route, and is best undertaken between April and
October, The summer months are considered too hot with temperatures
exceeding 50 degrees C.
Convoy on The French Line
The French Line close up gives a
better idea of the track surface
You must obtain a Desert Parks
Pass and the trip can be done in, on average, around 5 days. You can
spend a lot more, or even less, time here depending on how long you
decide to linger
at the various attractions. It’s up to you! There is a lot to see and
do if you want to. Whatever you do don’t deviate from the existing
tracks. To do so will be to place your life and those with you in
The Deserts Pass pack can be
by ordering from The Department for The Environment and Heritage Office
at Port Augusta (Phone 08 8648 5300 or Freecall 1800 816 078.
you may purchase it at the Pink Roadhouse or the Oodnadatta Hotel or
|The Simpson Desert has some of
the world’s longest sand dunes, which mainly run in a
north south direction and gaining in height as you travel
dunes are known to be up to 200 km long and they are often spaced about
a kilometer apart. Areas between the dunes are often claypans and
saltpans with gibber-ironstone flats towards the eastern areas of the
desert. The area between two dunes is known as a swale.
crests of dunes are constantly moving which can cause steep drops and
extreme caution needs to be taken at all times when crossing them. As
from March 16th 2014 a sand
flag is now mandatory and should always be attached to your vehicle to
drivers coming in the opposite direction. A mine spec
flag fulfils the current requirement, the old triangular flags are no
can be experienced at anytime of the year but seldom lasts long and
doesn’t form catchments on the ground.
people have a vision of the desert being mostly sand but The
Simpson Desert has vegetation, although quite sparse in places, is
quite varied and is home
to a variety of wildlife.
It is estimated that over 180 species of bird
life alone can be found here as well as a variety of other fauna.
most popular crossing direction is west to east as the dune approaches
are not as steep in this direction. This route
would take you from dalhousie Springs in the west past Purni Bore, onto
the Freench Line and then the QAA Line into Birdsville.
start their trip from Marree in the Soiuth Australian Outback and head
for Oodnadatta, a town founded in 1890, due to the
construction, and imminent arrival, of a railway line, and flourished
for the next 40 years or so. From here camel trains, driven by the
Afghans, carried supplies north to Alice Springs and other inland
late 1920’s the railway line was extended from here to Alice Springs
and was known as The Ghan. In the 1980’s a new line was constructed
west of Oodnadatta and, had it not been for the popularity of the town
to 4wd’ers, the town would have disappeared into obscurity.
you will find the turnoff to Mt Sarah Homestead on the right, and later
Hamilton Homestead. By now you will be a little over 100 km north of
|There are many historical
landmarks and museums in the area including the Pink Roadhouse, where
fuel, food and local information can be readily obtained.
start your trip head north out of town and veer right at the road split
about 18km ahead to Hamilton Station. Left goes to Marla, heading about
190 km west and the Stuart Highway.
you will come to the Alberga River crossing which should normally be
dry. Further on you will reach Fogarty’s Claypan, which should also be
dry. Failing which you are able to take a bypass track to the west that
will go around the claypan.
The Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta
little north of Hamilton Homestead you will cross Hamilton Creek there
is a signposted track heading east which leads to Pedirka Siding on the
old Ghan Line.
have become complacent to the ‘road’ conditions up to now the track
approach to Pedirka Siding deteriorates, but not to the extent that you
will experience before your trip is over.
is a well laid out camping area to the north of the homestead adjacent
to the springs that has toilet facilities.
Dalhousie Homestead Ruins
|About 45 km north of Pedirka and
into the Witjara National Park, you will come across the ruins of the
Dalhousie Station homestead, developed by Ned Bagot. There are many
date palms around here the history of which is unknown, but almost
certainly planted by Ned or by the camel drivers of the time.
the Dalhousie Springs there are many natural water outlets stretching
through the area, known as ‘mound springs’ Their flow from the Artesian
Basin which has brought with it earth deposits forming the mounds.
ruins are quite substantial and the original homestead was used by an
explorer, David Lyndsay, on his trips into the vicinity.
Dalhousie Springs you could detour north towards Mount Dare, a distance
of around 120 km and 90 km from the French Line junction, where you are
able to get supplies of fuel and provision, some travelers, though,
will head towards the east and The French Line if they are able
to carry sufficient fuel.
warned, though, there are no fuel or provision suppliers between here
and Birdsville. As your journey could see you traveling in excess of
700 km at the worst and about 600 km at best, depending on your route,
you must ensure that you have adequate fuel, water, supplies and
communication equipment for the journey.
across the desert.
|A little under 20km on from
Freeth Junction and you will arrive at Purni Bore. There is a camp site
here, with toilets and showers, and you may decide to stay a while to
view the variety of birdlife that flourishes in the wetlands produced
by the water from the bore as well as enjoy swimming in the warm water
Purnie Bore, heading east, and out of the Witjira National Park and
into the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve for about 30 km you will come
across the junction of The French Line the WAA Line or about 40 km
further along The French Line the junction with The Rig Road.
Depending on your time available
you have choices of the route you will
way is to turn onto the WAA Line and continue to the The Rig Road which
then heads south before continuing east until you reach either Knolls
Track heading north towards Lake Tamblyn and the French Line or heading
further on to the K1 Line where you start heading noth to join the QAA
Line at Poeppel Corner and then east again to Birdsville.
popular choice is instead of turning right onto Rig Road continue along
The WAA line which is considered easier than the French Line but harder
going than Rig Road. However it does offer more places of interest to
visit and more diverse scenery.
13km south of this intersection, on the Rig Road,is the Mokari Airstrip
that was used during the oil exploration days of the 1960’s. Whilst he
is buried somewhere else in the desert there is a monument here to
Jaroslav Pecanek who supplied provisions to the isolated exploration
crews in the region.
The Lone Gum
the Rig Road, in the Simpson Desert Conservation Park, you will come
across the Lone Gum, which is a box eucalypt. This species are normally
found in clayey soils near waterways, how this lone tree has survived
here for a considerable length of time remains a mystery.
was fenced off in 1966 to stop vehicle coming too close and causing
damage to its root system. Since then new seedlings have been seen to
sprout around the tree.
you had continued along the French Line to the junction of Rig Road you
would have seen the Coulson Track off to the left, and north, at the
junction. This track ultimately ends up at Alice Springs
Convoy setting up Desert Camp
"Under the shade of a coolibah
Simpson Desert Sunset
50 km further along the French Line are the Approdinna Attora Knolls
which are located in the Simpson Desert Conservation Park. The first
European discovery of the Knolls was by David Lindsay in 1886. They are
rare gypsum outcrops and are fragile by nature as well as being
considered of great scientific significance. They also provide the
highest vantage point in the area.
Management and conservation measures have been undertaken in the area
to minimize damage caused by vehicles and local animals. There is also
a designated camping area here.
few kilometers east of the Knolls, and just past Lake Tamblyn, you will
come to the junction with the K1 Line and on to Poeppel Corner.
at Poeppel Corner, which is at the intersection of 26 degrees south and
138 degrees east you can just about stand at the point that marks the
meeting point of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
There is a post there marking the point surveyed by Augustus Poeppel in
1876 whilst surveying the Northern Territory and South Australian
border. The original peg is now located in the South Australian Art
you are a little over 90 km from the Simpson Desert National Park exit,
about 175 km from Birdsville and you will have traveled around 300 km
from Dalhousie Springs, depending on which route you took.
Poeppel Corner you will travel on the QAA Line for the rest of your
journey to Birdsville.
after leaving Poeppel Corner you cross Poeppel Lake, which is a
distance of 2km. If it looks at all wet take the detour to the north as
this is not a good place to get bogged. By the time you are at the
other side of the lake you will have had a brief spell in the Northern
Territory and then you will have entered Queensland and heading almost
due east, on the home run, to Birdsville.
out of the park the QAA Line runs through privately owned pastoral
lands and, unless you have permission from the land owners to do
otherwise, you must stay on the track. Camping is allowed either side
of the track as indicated indicated.
The Salt Flat
15 km from exiting the park, and a little over 100 km from Poeppel
Corner, you will cross the Eyre Creek having crossed a series of
floodplains between the sand dunes. If the creek is in flood your
safest route is to the north where there is a rocky crossing, although
there is another crossing to the south if the creek is only
experiencing minor flooding.
creek area is popular for campers and, after any rainfall, plentiful in
a variety of birdlife.
20 km from Eyre Creek is the Big Red dune, the largest
dune in the desert and many drivers find it hard to cross. There are a
couple of alternative crossings to the south of the main Big
Red crossing and others further south at Little Red.
Stangely Big Red is one of the few dunes that is easier to cross east
to west rather than west to east.
are spectacular views from the top of the dune and it is worth allowing
some time to take in the surroundings. It is also
not uncommon to have spectators along the top viewing those attempting
to drive up to the top.
trip is nearing its end now but not before you cross Lake Nappanerica.
A short drive south along the edge of the lake to Little Red and then a
left hand turn and, from here, you are about 30km from Birdsville and
on a much improved
road. As you enter town the Birdsville Pub is on the left, with lots of
cold beer on tap, and the camping area a little further on the right
behind the Birdsville Roadhouse.
had its first settlers in 1867 and, whilst it was called Diamantina
Crossing for a short, was named after the first shop keeper in the
area, E A Burt
was the starting point for drovers taking cattle from Queensland to
town was severely damaged by a cyclone in 1905 and, with the closing of
the customs post following the abolition of border duties that were
levied on the cattle passing through, the town almost disappeared.
its is a thriving tourist destination with the highlight of the year,
The Birdsville Races, taking place in September.
pictures from along the
|Only leave your tracks in the
please take all of your rubbish out with you
Pea is native to many of Australia's arid regions.
It is found in all mainland states except Victoria and was named after
Charles Sturt who reported having seen vaste stretches of them during
his trip into Central Australia
fate of many desert animals - particularly during drought - This one ?
Probably a camel
conditions can vary widely between loose sand to ironstone rock
on the way to Lake Eyre
Corner which is the furthermost north west point of New South Wales
where the borders of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia
dingo fence can be seen at Cameron Corner which stretches from Jimbour
in Queensland down to the Great Australian Bight. It is maintained by
crews that are located at intervals along the 2 metre high fence
information provided on this web page is for use as a guide only. If
you are planning to undertake this trip you must seek out other
authorative advice and information. Desert travel can be very hazardous
and should only be undertaken after lengthy and careful planning. The
owners of this website shall not be held responsible for any damage or
injury that you may experience during any four wheel drive trip, desert
or otherwise. Distances between places mentioned on this page are as a
guide only. You must verify these details yourself using professional
maps and/or mapping equipment before you set out on a Desert trip. Do
not attempt to access the Simson Desert in an ill-prepared vehicle and
without adequate communications equipment. Do not under estimate the
limited supply of fuel, water and provisions in the Simpson Desert area
as well as the possibility of encountering extremely harsh elements and
conditions. If you do so you will place yourself into an 'extreme risk'
Policy | Copyright
Australian 4x4 Travel 2014
or Amanda a call today
4739 8034 or Mobile 0408 245892 for your enquiries and purchases
Australian 4x4 Travel operates 12
day Tag Along Tours that include the Simpson, North Simpson, Hay River
and many other iconic Outback places and regions in four
trips are relaxed and informal and probably
represents the best value you will find anywhere