The Rig Road crosses the southern part of the Simpson Desert
and was once capped by clay to make access easier for heavy drilling and earth moving equipment that was transported along this road between oil wells during the early 1960's.
It has never been maintained since that time and with regular 4WD traffic each season and some heavy rainfalls in recent years, this track is beginning to show signs of significant disrepair from erosion.
Experiencing the Rig Road is the way to see another part of the Simpson Desert
as it is quite different to what you see in the north.
Along the lowest sections near the Warbuton Crossing there are numerous salt lakes and long dunes of stark white changing to yellow and gradually they become red as you move further north.
To pick up the start of the Rig Road from the east side of the desert, you can drive either the Inside Track
down from Birdsville
or the main Birdsville Track
to a point 11km south of the Clifton Hills Station. If you drive the Inside Track
then continue on for 14km after rejoining the Birdsville Track
. The turnoff you're looking for is actually called the Yelpawaralina Track (YLP) and it is on the right (west).
Interactive Route Map
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Simpson Desert Rig Road From:
Birdsville Tk & Yelpawaralinna-Warburton TkTo:
This trek supports moving map, to take a virtual tour click on the Play button.
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
Camels, Salt Lakes, Yellow-White Dunes, Clay-topped roads, abandoned oil exploration sites, the Lone Gum Tree
, Mokari Airstrip
and Pecanek's Grave, wild camels and remote desert country
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.
Fuel Supplies & Usage
||Diesel||4cyl 59 litres *
||ULP||4cyl 78 litres
||LPG||4cyl 97 litres|
|6cyl 76 litres *||6cyl 89 litres *||6cyl 85 litres|
|8cyl 74 litres||8cyl 109 litres *|
, Maree, Mt Dare, Oodnadatta
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.