The French Line (or shot line as its called) is the shortest and most direct route across the Simpson. The route crosses the dunes at right angles and there's about 1200 of them in all.
The track is crossed in both directions and because its only single lane wide, head on collisions are a reality but they can be avoided if you take the necessary precautions. These precautions include flying a dune flag from the front of your vehicle (lead vehicle in your party), carrying a UHF radio
and scanning all stations plus periodically making a warning call of your position from the tops of high dunes to warn any oncoming traffic.
Distances are often calculated from either Mt Dare Homestead or Oodnadatta
because they are your last stops for fuel (diesel and petrol) water, a telephone and your last chance for supplies (although very limited). The trip across the French Line from Dalhousie to Birdsville
is regularly done by tourists with just 2 to 3 camp stops. There are no designated camp sites in the desert (other than Dalhousie and Purnie Bore
) but there's plenty of wide open spaces to find a place all to yourself.
Select a camp site in the swales between the dunes where the ground is flat. There is very little shade as most trees are too low to offer any significant shade. There is plenty of dead mulga wood lying around for campfires but only burn small fires for cooking and make sure you carefully extinguish and cover it up with sand before you depart. It's ok to burn little bits of paper and cardboard rubbish including toilet paper but bag the rest and take it out of the desert with you.
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Simpson Desert French Line 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.
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. We advise that you refer to the latest information and advice about outback communications in the Communications Topic.
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.
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.
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 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. 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 .
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.
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.