The WAA line is an east-west seismic line similar to the French Line. It is un-clayed and has relatively few people travelling on it. The dunes are less prominent than on the French Line but often contain blow outs (large holes in the sand hills caused by sand being blown out by winds). Blowouts can be a problem for vehicles with poor articulation and generally there are diversion tracks around the worst.
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Simpson Desert WAA 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
Heading east from Dalhousie Springs
, the best way to get onto the WAA Line is to travel 221km until you meet the Colson Track. It takes about an hour after leaving Dalhousie before you reach the first dune and in all it will probably take you most of the day to get to the Colson, unless of course you choose to take it even easier.
The main stopping points along the way are at Purnie Bore
(toilet, shower, water), Freeth Junction
(start of and ) and there are numerous good camping options in the last 10km towards the Colson intersection.
From Freeth to the Colson (37km) will take about 1 hr 40m over sandy dunes - the general rule is low range (4th) rather than high range. There's nothing too steep or difficult but most dunes have twists at the top in softer sand and you need the lower gear ratio rather than speed. These are just single lane narrow tracks so using a desert flag and using your radio to periodically check for oncoming traffic is very wise.
You won't find the intersection well signed - for these days, the wonderful signage system of the desert (painted tin lids) are fading and vandals have taken the important track makers that the Desert Parks handbook refers to. You must rely on good maps for your desert navigation and we recommended those listed above in our Resources or even better you can pre-load your GPS unit with your route file if you are up-to-the-minute with the latest in.
The next 53km is very slow going - bumpy, small dunes full of blowouts and diversion tracks. Please travel with low tyre pressures and don't contribute to the problem of corrugated dune run-ups.
When you finally reach the next intersection you have reached the Erabena Track. You've just crossed the same number of dunes as you would have if you were on the French Line, only you are crossing them at a point further south where they are considerably smaller.
Make a point of stopping at the Approdinna Attora Knolls
- two gypsum outcrops that were once the highest peaks in the desert. 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 providing the first option of shady camping. Note - camping is prohibited to 1km from the Knolls. The Knolls can be easily climbed giving a nice view, while the nearby salt lakes add to the atmosphere, especially in the light of sunset.
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 71 litres *
||ULP||4cyl 79 litres
||LPG||4cyl 97 litres|
|6cyl 86 litres *||6cyl 99 litres *||6cyl 86 litres|
|8cyl 75 litres||8cyl 135 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 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.