Oodnadatta Track

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesMarree
FinishMarla
DifficultyDifficulty 2.5/5
Suitable for4WD AWD Bike 
Distance672.86 km
Minimum Days2
Average Speed69.47 km/hr
Driving Time9 hrs 41 mins
Article By: ExplorOz Team
Page Updated: 28 Aug 2016

Description

Following the Oodnadatta Track is a journey back to the days of early European exploration and settlement. The most obvious historical relics are the last remaining sleepers and ruins of the original Ghan railway that run alongside the track from Marree to William Creek.

The Oodnadatta Track is the name given to the stretch of good dirt road from Marree through to Oodnadatta, which follows a major Aboriginal trade route - the original track taken by the explorer Stuart, the Overland Telegraph Line and the Old Ghan Railway Line.

Along the Oodnadatta Track route there are mound springs, Kati Thandi (formerly known as Lake Eyre) which is Australia's largest salt lake, the biggest cattle station in the world (Anna Creek Station - owned by Kidman) and an ever-changing countryside that is both harsh and beautiful.

Track conditions are generally good enough for a 2WD vehicle to travel the route, however a 4WD will be more comfortable over the potholes and better equipped if the weather changes as rain will make the track slippery and some sections are prone to sudden washaways. It is also impossible to visit Kati Thandi (Lake Eyre) without an all-wheel drive vehicle with some sections being very sandy, particularly the Halligan Bay Track.

Kati Thandi (Lake Eyre) is an Australian identity and is the focal point of a trip along the Oodnadatta track. The lake is a giant basin where all the inland rivers (Diamantina, Warburton, Thomson, Barcoo, Cooper, Georgina, Eyre Creek, Peake, Neales, Macumba and Hamilton Rivers) converge into a pool of vast proportions, yet it can lay dry for many years on end as a crusty saltpan.

Typically a 1.5m flood occurs every three years, a 4m flood every decade, and a fill or near fill a few times a century. The water in the lake soon evaporates by the end of the following summer. Lake Eyre flooded for the first time in over 10 years in June 2000 and water could be seen from the shore. In March 2011, heavy local rain in the Stuart Creek and Warriner catchments filled Lake Eyre South, with Lake Eyre North about 75 per cent covered with water firstly from the Neales and Macumba and later from the Warburton River. But just as quickly as it can fill, Lake Eyre quickly evaporates under the scorching outback sun.

How to Use this Trek Note

Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places on each POI page.

If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
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  • You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
  • If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
  • If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.

Environment

The Oodnadatta Track lies on the western margins of the Great Artesian Basin. In many places the Basin water has squeezed to the surface in the form of natural springs. Many of the GAB springs are known as ‘mound springs’ because of the characteristic mounds associated with them. The mounds have been formed by mineralised material coming to the surface with the ancient water. You can also see extinct mound springs along the track, most notably at Hamilton Hill and Beresford.

You will see lots of different landforms along the Track. Floodouts and
watercourses are common. In between are vast sand and gibber plains and tableland dotted with mesas. In several places the Oodnadatta Track
passes through sand dune country where the dominant features are dunes and flat areas between them known as swales. There are salt lakes like Lake William and the greatest of them, Lake Eyre. The Peake and Denison Ranges in the north and Willouran Ranges close to Marree, the rocky outcrops at intervals along the Track and the dramatic shapes of Hermit and Pigeon Hill at Bopeechee provide further variations to the landscape. Each land type supports different vegetation.

The climate in this country is erratic. So, to survive, plants have evolved in many different ways. Soil types vary – ranging from clays to sandy loams;from sand plains to limestone and saline soils; from alluvial soils associated with swamps and watercourses to rocky ridges, hill slopes and hard gibber country. All are habitats for different plants where the distribution of nutrients varies greatly.

Australia’s largest salt lake, Kati Thanda (formerly known as Lake Eyre) has a catchment area from three states and the Northern Territory. The lake itself is huge, covering an area 144km long and 77km wide, and at 15.2 metres below sea level, it is the lowest point in Australia. Flood
waters cover the lake once every eight years on average. However, the lake has only filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years.

When there’s water in the lake, waterbirds descend in the thousands, including pelicans, silver gulls, red-necked avocets, banded stilts and gull-billed terns. It becomes a breeding site, teeming with species that are tolerant of salinity. Away from the lake, the park features red sand dunes and mesas. They rise from salty claypans and stone-strewn tablelands.

History

The road from Marree to Oodnadatta follows a line of mound springs known for thousands of years by the Aborigines until they were 'discovered' in the late 1850s by the explorers. The Oodnadatta track follows almost the same route as that taken by John McDouall Stuart when he successfully crossed Australia in 1862.

Stuart also had the proposed Overland Telegraph Line in mind as he travelled across the desert and eventually the 3178 kilometre telegraph line was completed in 1872 following much of his route.

Because of the availability of water, Stuart's route was also chosen for the steam-train powered Central Australian Railway - the original route of the Ghan and work commenced in 1878. Oodnadatta, Aboriginal for 'blossom of the Mulga' was proclaimed a government town in October 1890 in readiness for the coming railway. By 1891 the line from Port Augusta had reached all the way out to Oodnadatta which remained the rail head for the next 40 years. The town became an important centre and soon had a population of 150 people. The Ghan line was finally extended to Alice Springs in 1929. However when The Ghan stopped coming through in 1980, the population of Oodnadatta declined rapidly.

Some of the visible remains of the Ghan railway are the many bridges and Fettler Cottages. Some can still be seen at Marree, Wangianna, Curdimurka, Margaret, Beresford, Anna Creek, Boorthanna, Edwards Creek, Warrina, Peake Creek, Algebuckina and Mount Dutton.

Lake Eyre was named in honour of Edward John Eyre, who was the first European to see it in 1840. The lake's official name was changed in December 2012 to combine the name "Lake Eyre" with the indigenous name, Kati Thanda. Native title over the lake and surrounding region is held by the Arabana people.

Preparation

Your vehicle will need to be prepared for remote area travel, with all fuel, water, food and vehicle repair equipment and spare parts.

Permits

Access to Lake Eyre is via the Halligan Bay track or Level Post Bay track and both require a permit to enter the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park. Day permits can be purchased from the William Creek store and Marree Post Office. For longer term travellers, the Desert Parks Pass includes access to Kati Thandi - Lake Eyre National Park - this permit is available online directly from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources SA here: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Park_Entry_Fees/Parks_Passes/desert-parks-pass

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel Symbol
DieselULPLPG
4cyl 80 litres *4cyl 109 litres4cyl 135 litres
6cyl 117 litres *6cyl 107 litres *6cyl 191 litres *
8cyl 103 litres8cyl 112 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Closest Climatic Station

Oodnadatta Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 110.21km N
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C37.936.633.728.523.219.919.622.126.630.333.736.3
Mean Min. °C23.022.319.214.49.76.55.87.411.415.118.621.2
Mean Rain mm22.932.214.310.912.711.710.08.19.913.913.017.1
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

Marree is a good place to stock up your supplies, with supermarkets, caravan parks, a pub and some interesting bits of local history that fill in the gaps you missed in history class.

Map

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What to See

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Save time and download all digital map data for this trek (all places are included in the trek download).
This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.
For a taste of what you can expect to see along the Oodnadatta Track, please enjoy this 30 second film by Member - George Royter, made exclusively for ExplorOz.com

Showing 23 Places

Where to Stay

Download Trek
Save time and download all digital map data for this trek (all places are included in the trek download).
This list may not be complete for the entire region. Places listed here are directly located along the plot file associated with this Trek Note. You can locate other nearby Places by browsing the map or searching Places.

Showing 13 Places

Directions

LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Marree to Callanna14.56 kmW272° 12 min
Callanna to Wangianna23.55 kmW267° 46 min
Wangianna to Alberrie Creek - Mutonia Sculpture Park17.35 kmW281° 17 min
Alberrie Creek - Mutonia Sculpture Park to Bopeechee Junction15.23 kmW281° 10 min
Bopeechee Junction to Lake Eyre South Lookout21.46 kmNW305° 14 min
Lake Eyre South Lookout to Curdimurka11.48 kmW275° 7 min
Curdimurka to Margaret Siding9.77 kmW280° 7 min
Margaret Siding to Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park13.83 kmW284° 10 min
Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park to The Bubbler and Blanche Cup5.04 kmSW219° 4 min
The Bubbler and Blanche Cup to Coward Springs11.92 kmNW319° 11 min
Coward Springs to Strangways Siding37.83 kmNW319° 33 min
Strangways Siding to Strangways Springs (Ruin)0.25 kmNW324°
Strangways Springs (Ruin) to Irrapatana Siding16.64 kmNW332° 11 min
Irrapatana Siding to William Creek20.29 kmNW312° 15 min
William Creek to Duff Creek Rail Bridge68.37 kmNW312° 1 hr
Duff Creek Rail Bridge to Edward Creek Siding24.77 kmN355° 30 min
Edward Creek Siding to Warrina Siding15.78 kmN352° 13 min
Warrina Siding to Old Peake21.09 kmNE30° 31 min
Old Peake to Oodnadatta Track - Old Peake Turn Off16.18 kmSW227° 29 min
Oodnadatta Track - Old Peake Turn Off to Peake Creek Siding16.48 kmN349° 12 min
Peake Creek Siding to Algebuckina Bridge 23.28 kmN37 min
Algebuckina Bridge to Mt Dutton Siding15.81 kmNW317° 14 min
Mt Dutton Siding to Oodnadatta43.12 kmNW318° 33 min
Oodnadatta to The Angle Pole Memorial8.41 kmNW330° 11 min
The Angle Pole Memorial to Six Mile Creek Floodway1.61 kmNW310° 1 min
Six Mile Creek Floodway to Oodnadatta Tk & Oodnadatta - Hamilton Tk8.72 kmNW328° 5 min
Oodnadatta Tk & Oodnadatta - Hamilton Tk to Airstrip47.09 kmW292° 33 min
Airstrip to Olarinna Creek32.84 kmW291° 25 min
Olarinna Creek to Coongra Creek / Oodnadatta Track25.48 kmW268° 20 min
Coongra Creek / Oodnadatta Track to Welbourn Hill Airstrip35.5 kmSW235° 27 min
Welbourn Hill Airstrip to Marla49.13 kmW276° 43 min
Marree to Marla672.86 km  9 hr 41 min
Distance is GPS recorded driving distance (not straight line), Direction is straight line from start to end, Time is calculated from actual GPS driving data.

Related

Nearby ExplorOz Treks

Travel Journals

The following are links to Members' Blogs that contain the words Oodnadatta Track. Creating Blogs is restricted to Members only. Not a Member? Join here.

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