Simpson Desert WAA Line

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesDalhousie Springs
DifficultyDifficulty 4/5
Suitable For4WD Motorbike 
Distance489.57 km
Minimum Days3
Average Speed30.94 km/hr
Travel Time15 hrs 49 mins
Page Updated: 13 Nov 2013


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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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.

TrekID: 72


MUST READ: You are strongly encouraged to read the following articles prepared by the knowledge experts at ExplorOz for your safety and preparation before undertaking any published ExplorOz Trek - Outback Safety, Outback Driving Tips, Outback Communications, and Vehicle Setup for the Outback.


Please refer to Road Reports published by the local shire and/or main roads for the area you intend to visit. Road/Track conditions can change significantly after weather events. Travellers must be responsible for their own research on current conditions and track suitability.
Logistically, some people struggle with fact that towing trailers across the Simpson Desert is strongly discouraged. However with advanced planning, this is quite manageable. If you are doing your Simpson Desert trip as part of a longer journey, you are advised to drop off your trailer at either Mt Dare (west end) or Birdsville (east end) and conduct a loop trip (via Maree & Oodnadatta) or a double-crossing to retrieve your trailer.

UHF Channel 10 is the official channel for communications the Simpson Desert, however this is designed for checking oncoming traffic and is not to be used for general chit chat. For chatting you should respectfully select an unallocated channel. Also note there is a repeater on Ch 7 Duplex for contacting Pink Roadhouse, and Ch 6 (2 or 4) Duplex for contacting Mt Dare Hotel. Anywhere in the Diamantina Shire (comprising the towns of Birdsville, Betoota and Bedourie) you must not use 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.

For any dune driving you should fly a dune flag (sandflag) from the front of your vehicle to avoid head on collisions on dune tops. Why not get an ExplorOz Sandflag? These are sold in our online shop as flag only, or as a complete kit with rugged offroad pole and bracket. For safe travel, 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. Head on collisions do happen unfortunately, so take every precaution possible. Conditions of the desert tracks vary greatly from season to season, month to month and day to day. As a 4WDriver you have the capability to handle these conditions by using commonsense and good driving skills (if this is your first trip, check our 4WD Driving Skills & Rules article, (or do a 4WD Driver Training course). Driving in the desert requires that you use low tyre pressures and engage 4WD for the entire duration of your journey. Always stay on the main track and never venture off wheel tracks that traverse salt lakes. Official track reports are reviewed weekly and you'll always find the latest report in the ExplorOz Road Conditions section.


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:

Fuel Usage

4cyl 71 litres *4cyl 79 litres4cyl 98 litres
6cyl 86 litres *6cyl 100 litres *6cyl 86 litres
8cyl 75 litres8cyl 136 litres *
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

The Simpson Desert is CLOSED from 1 December 2012 to 15 March to ensure safety of visitors and emergency personnel. The closure affects the Simpson Desert Conservation Park, and Regional Reserve in South Australia.

Closest Climatic Station

Birdsville Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 193.61km E
Mean Max. °C40.
Mean Min. °C26.424.721.717.
Mean Rain mm20.933.
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended


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Dalhousie Springs to Umbutchera Lookout Turnoff
Driving: 6.49 km
Heading: 76°
Avg Speed: 39.53 km/hr
EST Time: 09:51
Umbutchera Lookout Turnoff to Freeth Junction
Driving: 46.96 km
Heading: 78°
Avg Speed: 47.87 km/hr
EST Time: 58:51
Freeth Junction to French Line & Alka Seltzer Bore Access
Driving: 8.26 km
Heading: 58°
Avg Speed: 48.17 km/hr
EST Time: 10:17
French Line & Alka Seltzer Bore Access to Purni Bore
Driving: 9.36 km
Heading: 78°
Avg Speed: 37.64 km/hr
EST Time: 14:55
Purni Bore to French Line & Rig Road
Driving: 27.68 km
Heading: 78°
Avg Speed: 46.45 km/hr
EST Time: 35:45
French Line & Rig Road to French Line & Colson Tk
Driving: 38.29 km
Heading: 78°
Avg Speed: 23.55 km/hr
EST Time: 01:37:33
French Line & Colson Tk to Colson Track & Oolarinna Oil Well Access
Driving: 9.78 km
Heading: 160°
Avg Speed: 31.36 km/hr
EST Time: 18:42
Colson Track & Oolarinna Oil Well Access to WAA Line & Colson Track
Driving: 10.21 km
Heading: 159°
Avg Speed: 33.14 km/hr
EST Time: 18:29
WAA Line & Colson Track to WAA Line & Erabena Tk
Driving: 52.07 km
Heading: 90°
Avg Speed: 21.88 km/hr
EST Time: 02:22:47
WAA Line & Erabena Tk to WAA Line & Knolls Tk
Driving: 29.88 km
Heading: 90°
Avg Speed: 20.38 km/hr
EST Time: 01:27:58
WAA Line & Knolls Tk to Approdinna Attora Knolls
Driving: 30.61 km
Heading: 354°
Avg Speed: 24.46 km/hr
EST Time: 01:15:05
Approdinna Attora Knolls to French Line & Knolls Tk
Driving: 3.86 km
Heading: 346°
Avg Speed: 21.83 km/hr
EST Time: 10:36
French Line & Knolls Tk to French Line & Thomas Track
Driving: 14.08 km
Heading: 85°
Avg Speed: 21.84 km/hr
EST Time: 38:40
French Line & Thomas Track to Poeppel Corner
Driving: 26.02 km
Heading: 83°
Avg Speed: 22.05 km/hr
EST Time: 01:10:48
Poeppel Corner to QAA Line & Access to French Line
Driving: 18.71 km
Heading: 340°
Avg Speed: 38.51 km/hr
EST Time: 29:09
QAA Line & Access to French Line to QAA Line & K1 Line
Driving: 3.32 km
Heading: 96°
Avg Speed: 20.42 km/hr
EST Time: 09:45
QAA Line & K1 Line to Narrow-Leafed Hop Bush
Driving: 9.13 km
Heading: 95°
Avg Speed: 28.7 km/hr
EST Time: 19:05
Narrow-Leafed Hop Bush to Gypcrete Interdunes
Driving: 10.14 km
Heading: 97°
Avg Speed: 27.29 km/hr
EST Time: 22:17
Gypcrete Interdunes to Salt Bush Flats
Driving: 13.08 km
Heading: 95°
Avg Speed: 25 km/hr
EST Time: 31:23
  • Drive east on QAA Line. for: 13.08 km time: 31:23
Salt Bush Flats to Georgina Gidgee Interdunes
Driving: 21.54 km
Heading: 95°
Avg Speed: 25 km/hr
EST Time: 51:41
  • Drive east on QAA Line. for: 21.54 km time: 51:42
Georgina Gidgee Interdunes to Spinifex Dune
Driving: 17.55 km
Heading: 94°
Avg Speed: 25 km/hr
EST Time: 42:07
  • Drive east on QAA Line. for: 17.55 km time: 42:07
Spinifex Dune to Simpson Desert NP East Boundary
Driving: 2.11 km
Heading: 94°
Avg Speed: 40.56 km/hr
EST Time: 03:07
Simpson Desert NP East Boundary to QAA Line & Annandale Ruins Access
Driving: 16.42 km
Heading: 84°
Avg Speed: 35.49 km/hr
EST Time: 27:45
QAA Line & Annandale Ruins Access to Eyre Creek, QAA Line
Driving: 0.12 km
Heading: 264°
Avg Speed: 30.63 km/hr
EST Time: 00:14
Eyre Creek, QAA Line to Big Red Sand Dune
Driving: 20.39 km
Heading: 84°
Avg Speed: 25 km/hr
EST Time: 48:56
  • Drive east on QAA Line. for: 20.39 km time: 48:56
Big Red Sand Dune to Birdsville
Driving: 43.51 km
Heading: 94°
Avg Speed: 42.66 km/hr
EST Time: 01:01:11
Distance is based on the travel mode shown (Driving, Straight, Cycling, Walking etc), Direction is straight line from start to end, Avg Speed & EST Time is calculated from GPS data.

What to See

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.


Where to Stay

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Services & Supplies

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