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Simpson Desert From:
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You will need a Desert Parks Pass which is a permit that covers all access and camping. It is advisable to arrange this permit well in advance as it contains specific and comprehensive travel planning information, including a set of maps and booklets. Desert Park Passes can NOT be forward dated. This means, they have to be dated with the date they are purchased. A Desert Park Pass can be purchased online directly from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources SA here: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Park_Entry_Fees/Parks_Passes
Things to See & Do
Your vehicle will need to be extensively prepared for remote area travel, with all fuel, water, food and vehicle repair equipment and spare parts.
All travellers should read the 4WDriving Topic for related articles and checklists for vehicle setup and driver awareness.
We advise that you refer to the latest information and advice about outback communications in the Communications Topic. All drivers should set their UHF radios to scan all stations, but take note that Channel 10 is the offical channel for the Simspon Desert. Anywhere in the Diamantina Shire (comprising the towns of Birdsville
and Bedourie) you must not used UHF Ch 8 and 38 as these are to be reserved for emergency calls only - these channels are monitored by the Clinics, Police and station operators and must remain clear.
For any dune driving you should fly a dune flag from the front of your vehicle to avoid head on collisions on dune tops. Additionally, the lead vehicle in any direction should periodically make calls on Channel 10 from the top of large dunes on the UHF radio
to advise oncoming traffic of your position.
You will also need a Desert Parks Pass - a permit that covers all access and camping. It is advisable to arrange this permit well in advance as it contains specific and comprehensive travel planning information, including a set of maps and booklets. Desert Park Passes can NOT be forward dated. This means, they have to be dated with the date they are purchased. ExplorOz are agents for the sale of the Desert Parks Pass.
Please take particular note that the Desert Parks Department strongly disapprove of trailers being towed across the Simpson Desert
. Travellers are advised to drop off trailers and conduct a loop trip or a double-crossing to retrieve the trailer later.
Fuel Supplies & Usage
||Diesel||4cyl 90 litres *
||ULP||4cyl 115 litres *
||LPG||4cyl 113 litres|
|6cyl 96 litres *||6cyl 128 litres *||6cyl 100 litres|
|8cyl 92 litres *||8cyl 94 litres|
Services & Supplies
The following locations have various services and supplies: Birdsville
There are supplies at Oodnadatta
and Mt Dare but these locations are not on this route.
Camp Sites & Accommodation
The Simpson Desert
is the driest region of Australia
and it is a dunal desert - a sea of parallel red sand ridges around 300-500 kilometres long covering a total area of 170,000 square kilometres.
The Approdinna Attora Knolls
were once the highest peaks in the desert, but are now simply two gypsum outcrops. Note - camping is not permited within 1km of the "Knolls".
There are numerous salt pans and lakes throughout the Simpson Desert
and these can flood after rains and close the desert to vehicle traffic. Camping around the salt lake areas near the Erabena Track Junction/French Line is most rewarding because the gidgee woodlands provide shade, shelter and soft ground for camping. There are increased wildlife viewing possibilities and you'll see great colours over the lakes at sunset.
Dalhouse Springs is an enormous natural spring-fed billabong at 38 degrees in natural surrounds. It is a carefully managed area that allows tourism, with minimal impact. Day visitors may enter from the western edge of the Desert, however a Day Pass from the Ranger will be required if camping. Note - those travellers doing a desert crossing will be covered for camping here within the full Desert Parks Pass.Purnie Bore
is not a natural watering hole, however a borehead here allows some water to be released from the artesian basin to sustain the wildlife that have come to rely on this area being an "unnatural watercourse" for many years whilst the borehead was allowed to overflow, creating a large lake. Friends of the Simpson Desert
have created a bird hide from which to observe wildlife here and it's a popular camp site with good facilities.
Along the Rig Road stands a lone box eucalypt (colloquially known as the Lone Gum Tree
). The box eucalypt is actually a member of the Coolibah family, which generally grows in the clay soils of flood prone areas yet is thriving in the middle of the Simpson Desert
dunes, far removed from the nearest watercourse.
Rains normally occur in the heat of summer (late December through to early early March), although floods have been known to remain as late as July. Each season is different and you must plan your trip by keeping an eye on weather
conditions and road reports .
The South Australian section of the Simpson Desert
is divided into 3 protected areas, Simpson Desert
Conservation Park, Simpson Desert
Regional Reserve and Witjira National Park managed by the South Australian Desert Parks department of the SA Department of Environment and Heritage
. A permit (the SA Desert Parks Pass) is required for all travel and camping.
The majority of the plant life you'll see is spinifex and upside down trees! Desert vegetation depends on seasonal conditions. In particular after rain the Simpson puts on an incredible show of desert wildflowers including billy buttons, poached egg daises, cunningham bird flower. Most are short lived, and during the peak travel season most people have missed their chance of seeing the desert in bloom.
Of all the wildlife you'll encounter in the Simpson Desert
, you'll become the most acquainted with the bush fly - annoying but thankfully gone after sundown. " Eagles" are the most commonly seen of the birds in the desert area although there are some 150 different species of birdlife including the Bustard, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Falcon, budgerigar and Zebra Finch. Around the floodplains you could see Black Kites, Crested Pigeons and Galahs. Many creatures are nocturnal, so they are not easily seen or photographed. These include small marsupials but there are also some feral animals such as rabbits, foxes, camels and donkeys. Dingoes and camels are very common throughout the Simpson with the highest population
of camels being in the southern parts so the Rig Road is the best place to spot
them. If you get out of your vehicle during the day you might see some reptiles such the Perentie (goanna), Western Brown Snake, Woma Python and the Banded Skink.
In the 1800's, the Simpson Desert
was inhabited only by Aboriginal tribes. In 1845 explorer Charles Sturt was the first European to see the Simpson Desert
but it was not named until the 1930s when another Australian explorer and geologist, Cecil Thomas Madigan, named it after Allen Simpson, the sponsor of his subsequent expedition.
An interesting natural feature in the Simpson Desert
is The Approdinna Attora Knolls
found along the AAK Track. The "Knolls" are two gypsum outcrops that were once the highest peaks in the desert. The first European to set eyes on The Knolls was the Australian explorer David Lindsay on 11 January 1886.
The first successful crossing of the desert occurred in 1936 by E A (Ted) Colson and the first motorised crossing, wasn't until 1962 by geologist Reg Sprigg and his family.
10 months later and using pegs laid out by Reg Sprigg, the oilworkers of CGG (Compagnie Generale de Geophysique) the prime contractor of French Petroleum, forged a track now known as the "French Line" with their Land Rovers, supply trucks and Blitzwagon semi-trailers in 1963. This path was built with the sole purpose of oil exploration.
However, oil discovered in the Simpson was of poor quality and therefore of no commercial value and after a clean up, the expedition was abandoned.
The Mokari airstrip
was used extensively during the oil exploration days of the 1960s. Nearby is a monument to Jaroslav Pecanek who provided essential supplies for the isolated exploration crews. He is buried elsewhere (unknown) in the desert.
In 1973, Charles McCubbin and Warren Bonython, harnessed to a lightweight aluminium cart of their own design and armed with ski sticks, were the first to cross the Simpson Desert
on foot! It took them 32 days.
Since then, the Simpson Desert
has become a focal point for modern day explorers
crossing on all forms of transport - including bicycles. The French Line and associated access tracks for the oil exploration activities still remain the only routes throughout the desert and it is unlikely that tar is ever possible (or wished) to be laid across this part of the country.
An interesting natural feature in the Simpson Desert
is The Approdinna Attora Knolls
found along the AAK Track. The "Knolls" are two gypsum outcrops that were once the highest peaks in the desert. The first European to set eyes on The Knolls was the Australian explorer David Lindsay on 11 January 1886. The atmosphere in this area is quite different to other parts of the desert, with a salt lake (Lake Tambyn) and a significant gidgee forest. Please note that camping is prohibited within 1km of the Knolls.
Poepells Corner is for many people a great highlight of their Simpson Desert
adventure. Here you can see a surveyor's peg marks the spot
of a tri-state junction - the borders of South Australia
and the Northern Territory
. This is not the original peg (it is preserved in a museum). Not far away you might find some of Poeppel's original mile posts and historic markers.