Known colloquially as the ‘Oodna’ Track’, the Oodnadatta
Track is one of the iconic Australian outback drives. The track follows an old
Aboriginal trading route, who passed through this semi arid desert country by
following a 'string of springs'. This route was then used by 19th century
explorers such as John McDouall Stuart, paving the way for the Old Ghan Railway
line towards Alice Springs. Today, this track is used by mainly travellers eager
for some history or after a taste of adventure and the outback experience. Our modern day explorers follow the route, passing disused railway sidings and
other ruins, artesian springs and waterholes and the magnificent gibber plains,
desert dune and flat-top mesas landscape.
The Oodnadatta Track officially starts from
Marree in the south or
Marla in the
north. Some maps show it starting from
Lyndhurst, south of Marree, whilst many
Leigh Creek and
their starting point. The Oodnadatta Track closely follows a section of the route of Charles Todd’s
Overland Telegraph Line which ran from Port Augusta to Darwin. This same section
of the route was that of the Old Ghan, before the current new Ghan Route of
today that detours to the west.
For those planning to do the Oodnadatta Track starting from Marree, there are warning and
information signage, for those unfamiliar with travel in this part of the South
Australian outback. Preparation and knowledge is important before setting out.
Marree was once the most northern railhead with the Afghan cameleers being based
here, providing at that time the most reliable form of freight transport to the
remote properties. Just out of Marree are the Hergott Spring, the first of many
hundreds of springs along the Oodnadatta Track.
Oodnadatta is an aboriginal word meaning ‘blossom of the mulga’.
The Oodnadatta Track crosses the traditional lands of three Aboriginal groups.
In the south, between Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre are the Kuyani people;
most of the west of Lake Eyre has been traditionally occupied by the Arabana
people; and to the north is the land of Arrernte people. Now may people
from further west, Antikirinya people, live here too.1
More information about
the many locations along the route.