Finke River (near Glen Helen) with the West MacDonnell Range in the background.
Some 15 million years ago the Finke River would have drained into Lake Eyre
by cutting through the sediments of the Amadeus Basin. Now it releases into the
sand plains of northern South Australia (Kerle, 1996).1
The Finke River also winds pass
Palm Valley, in fact, those visiting Palm Valley will find that part of the
route is along the
dry river bed of the Finke River. During times of the rare heavy rain in the region, water flows
through Palm Valley to feed into the Finke River. Check out some of our water
The Finke River, like many rivers in Central Australia, appear to be just a dry river bed.
It is generally a broad sandy river bed with waterholes dotted along its length.
There are nine permanent water holes along the route, important sources of water
for local wildlife.
In flood, the formerly dry river becomes a large, powerful torrent of water, sweeping
debris, boulders, pebbles and sand in its path. The body of water could be short lived,
flowing only for short periods, from hours to a
couple of weeks, depending on the amount of rain, and where the water is flowing
The Finke River was named by John McDouall Stuart on 3 April 1860 during his
fourth attempt to cross the Australian continent from south to north. Stuart
named the Finke River ‘after my sincere friend William Finke, Esq. of Adelaide,
South Australia - one of the liberal promoters of the different expeditions I
have had the honor to lead’.2
In parts of the Northern Territory the indigenous name for the river is ‘Larapinta’.
Depending on your source there appears to be a number of meanings for ‘Larapinta’
including snake and dry river bed. Another interpretation for the word ‘Larapinta’
or ‘Lirambenda’, is ‘creek with permanent water’. The Western Arrernte
name for the river is spelt ‘Lhere-pirnte’, with ‘Lhere’ meaning
‘river’ and ‘pirnte’ meaning ‘salt’, hence ‘salty river’.