The French Line (or shot line as it's 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 Springs 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.
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:-
- Ideal solution - download the ExplorOz Traveller App from Google Play or the App Store. The app enables you to carry the ExplorOz Places, Treks, & Maps data offline in your mobile device ready for your adventures. It is a complete mapping, navigation and tracking app. For more details, read our ExplorOz Traveller page.
- 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.
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, unless you are fortunate to travel in a season that has seen rain in May.
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.