One of Central Australia's unique habitats are the 'claypans'. Some great
examples are the ones found at the base of
Rainbow Valley and those of the Lake Armadeus system, that can be viewed
on-route to Uluru from the
Mount Connor Lookout along the Lasseter Highway. Even closer are the
Claypans, just south of the
West MacDonnell Ranges, approximately 15 km south east of
the town of Alice Springs.
Located at the western end of the Ilparpa Valley, the twelve interconnected
ephemeral claypans form part of the Roe Creek catchment.
Usually just dry arid
sandy group of claypans, during those times
when Central Australia gets some decent rain, this very scenic
locale becomes 'Alice Springs Lake District'... although it is known to the
locals as just 'the claypans'. Similarly, there is another popular spot known as
Alice Springs Beach, a permanent waterhole which even has it's a lifebuoy
for use in emergencies.
'The claypans' is home to a fragile ecosystem and is listed as a 'Site of National Botanical Significance'
due to the presence of significant ephemeral plants and a wide diversity of
plant species and communities. When conditions are right, the place comes alive
such as the delicate
Tiny Purslane, the striking
Golden Everlasting. It is a sanctuary for local wildlife
ranging from kangaroos, snakes and a variety of species of lizards. It is also registered as an Aboriginal Sacred
Site, that is an important cultural place, especially for the Arrernte Custodians.During times of rain and flood, the area becomes a wonderland as the claypans
fill with water. The water takes on a soft chocolate brown colour, as a result
of the red clay and silt. It also heralds the appearance of a number of other living
creatures, ranging from tiny aquatic creatures, to the larger
shield shrimps and frogs
species, such as the
Spencer's Burrowing Frog and the
Desert Trilling Frog.
Set against the
magnificent backdrop of the ranges, and because of the close proximity to
town, this area is popular with the locals, providing a great spot from where to
enjoy the natural landscape, a great place to take photos, walking your dogs,
and even horse riding. When the claypan fills with water, many families bring
their young children to enjoy the opportunity of a little aquatic play.
Due to its fragile nature visitors are asked to treat the area with care and
respect, ensuring that they also take all rubbish with them when they leave, and
to not scare the wildlife.