The Simpson Desert

The Oodnadatta Track and Dalhousie Springs

Crossing the Simpson Desert

The Birdsville Track

Simpson Desert Trip Photo Gallery

Bird Watching along this route

Crossing the Simpson Desert

Since this was our first crossing of the Simpson Desert we decided to follow a route which gave us a taste of each of the tracks that have been cut across the dunes.  During the 1960s, oil and gas exploration occurred throughout the desert and the tracks cut by the exploration companies provide access to the desert for 4WD vehicles. 

The crossing usually takes a minimum of three to four days and you're advised to take only the recommended tracks and to travel from west to east to avoid the steeper dune climbs.  Conditions were excellent for our trip, but be well prepared for any emergency.  Make sure you have a UHF radio and place a flag high on the front of the car to warn approaching vehicles at the tops of the dunes.  Please read carefully the guidelines provided in the Desert Parks Pass before embarking on the crossing.

Desert Vista

The main feature of the desert is the series of parallel sand dunes, stretching for some 200-300 km and running south-east to north-west. Another feature of the Simpson, particularly in the central and eastern sections, is a series of clay playa lakes or clay-based pans, many of which have a salt crust. The French Line is the shortest and straightest route, with characteristic sandy dunes and playa lakes.  The Rig Road is another popular route, since it passes through more diverse environments.  There are a number of abandoned oil wells and an airstrip to explore along the Rig Road.  Other tracks are the WAA Line, and the three north-south roads, the Colson Track, the Erabena Track and the Knolls Track.  These last three tracks tend to travel between the dunes and are easy going, and attractive detours.

Finally you travel the QAA Line into Birdsville, crossing the largest and most challenging dune at the end of the journey.  Whichever route you travel, it is a most amazing place!  We were very lucky to see the Simpson Desert carpeted with flowers.  We were constantly astounded by the beauty in the sands, the flora and the enormous blue sky. 

Spring Creek Delta

The first section of the track leaves Dalhousie and heads over a plateau of gibber plains and finally crosses the Spring Creek floodplain.  There is a lookout area which gives you a panoramic view of the delta region.  Travel a little further and you will gradually find sandy dunes to cross.

Purnie Bore

Purni Bore soon appears on the right.  The waters of the bore are not suitable for swimming since the flow has now been restricted to preserve the underground water resource.  Purni Bore is an oasis, with many bird species making its waters their home.  The small trees surrounding the bore also provide homes for birds.  The camping area is situated right on the water's edge, with a toilet and shower provided. 

Mokari Airstrip

The Rig Road heads south a little after Purni Bore and as the track turns east you will find Mokari Airstrip.  Other places to explore along the Rig Road are the Macumba Oil Well and much further on is the Lone Gum Tree.  As its name suggests, it is a lonely Coolabah tree surrounded by shrubs and grasses.  

Approdinna Attora Knoll

An interesting diversion along the Knolls Track is the Approdinna Attora Knolls.  These small rocky knolls seem to be out of place in the desert.

Poeppel Corner replica post

We continued along the French Line to Poeppel Corner where South Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland intersect.  A replica of the original survey marker has been placed close to the official survey point.  Heading north-west from Poeppel Corner, we travelled through the Northern Territory along the edge of Lake Poeppel before turning right on to the QAA Line.  

QAA Line

This section of the crossing features much wider plains with taller growth.  Well-spaced dunes and wide flat plains are a feature of the QAA Line.  The track crosses the floodplain of Eyre Creek, which occasionally carries flood waters through the desert and can be difficult to cross. It is a shady area with trees lining the creek and would make an interesting stop for anyone interested in bird watching.

Big Red Dune approach

The outstanding dune called called Big Red is in fact the last dune that is crossed before heading straight into Birdsville.  It is an amazing dune and definitely the most challenging for drivers.  The top of the dune is ever-changing, since it has little growth to hold its sands in place.  


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