Oodnadatta Track / Oodnadatta - Cities, Towns and Localities
The iconic outback drive, the Oodnadatta Track,
is a drive into history, following the route that 19th century explorers
trekked, who themselves followed in the footstep of the Aboriginal people of the
region, who had used this as a trading route, following the artesian springs and
waterholes to be found along the way.
This region played an important part in the traditions and culture of the
Indigenous people, with dreaming trails crisscrossing the area. The Oodnadatta
Track crosses the traditional lands of three Aboriginal groups, and today a
number of Aboriginal people live in the region, together with descendent of the
Afghan cameleers, who had settled and married into the tribes, as well as
Europeans and white Australians.
Today, the track is a popular holiday route for visitors wanting a taste of
outback adventure and to explore the history and heritage.
One of the unique experiences of the region include the many artesian mound
springs. A short detour to Dalhousie Springs, permit the traveller to have a
soak and swim in the 'healing waters' of 'Irrwanyere'.
Tablelands, mesas, gibber plains, sand dunes, salt lakes and claypans
As you travel along the Oodnadatta Track, you will cross and pass a variety of
landscapes. Floodouts and watercourse are common. The sand dunes and swales, sometimes
with vegetation such as sandhill canegrass, is referred to as "the soft country".
Then there are the gibber plains, the "hard country", stretches of country
covered in small polished rocks and pebbles. Depending where you are along the
track the plains will appear black through to oxide red.
The stony tablelands and mesas are the remnants of an ancient plain that provide
an indication of the original level of the landscape. If you walk to the top of
he mesa on the western side of the track, you can get some good views over the
dunes and see how they are separated by flat areas called swales. Whilst some of
these are covered in gibbers, others are salt pans or claypans. There are salt
lakes like Lake William and of course, Lake Eyre.
Further variety is adding to the landscape with Peake and Denison Ranges in the
north and Willouran Ranges near Marree, the dramatic shapes of Hermit and Pigeon
Hill at Bopeechee, along with rocky outcrops at intervals along the Track.
As you travel along the Track you may notice small depressions where the ground
cover is denser and more diverse. This is because water and nutrients accumulate
there, being held for extended periods. These are gilgais (crab holes to the
locals) and can range from a few metres in diameter, up to 10 metres in the
In this dune country you may notice that the Oodnadatta Track follows the
swales (the flat areas between the dunes), every now and then crossing a dune to move into and along the next
There is a great document from the South Australian Tourism Commission called 'The Oodnadatta Track - String of Springs'1
and a similar document from the SAAL NRM Publication & Resources Factsheets and
Brochures2, which are available for download as a
Big dog, Mutonia Sculpture Park - Alberrie Creek.
Marree to William Creek
The track from Marree to William
Creek is approximately 203 km, with 8 disused railway sidings, a repeater
station, artesian mound springs and other ruins, relics of a bygone era.
Once a railway siding on the old Ghan line, Alberrie
Creek would have fallen off the map, except for the wondrous Mutonia Sculpture
About 50 km south-east of Oodnadatta,
at the Neales River Crossing is the Algebuckina Bridge. Spanning over half a
kilometre, this is South Australia's longest rail bridge.
|Artesian Mound Springs
The Oodnadatta Track passes through the incredible natural phenomenon known as
the artesian mound springs, that stretch from Marree, pass the popular
Dalhousie Springs and a number of others.
Known as Coward
Springs Campground and Heritage Area, Coward Springs today is privately
owned and managed. Once siding, part of the Old Ghan Railway it has a permanent wetland, providing an oasis for wildlife,
the 'natural spa', a self-guided heritage walk, and of course campground
Located next to Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park, the Coward
Springs complex has 12 active spring groups, including those in the neighbouring
conservation park. The springs were named by Peter Warburton in 1858, after
Corporal Thomas Coware who was one of the members of the exploration party. The
Aboriginal name is Pitha Kalti-kalti (after the crooked box tree which
once stood at the site). The springs were a resting spot for the Urumbula
people as they travelled north for trade.
With restoration of a number of Ghan
sidings by the Ghan Railway Preservation Society, that continue today, the Curdimurka Siding is also one of the locations used by the society to raise
funds with an bi-annual ball, held in October during the even numbered years.
Finniss Springs / Hermit Hill - Wibma-malkara
The Hermit Hill spring complex
contains 9 active spring groups and host a number of rare plants and organisms.
The Aboriginal word for this complex is Wibma-malkara (meaning
Initiation ground of the Dreamtime). This area was a burial ground and a
place of men's business, both the site and the surrounding vegetation remain
very important to the local indigenous people.
Along with Stuart Creek, Strangways Springs and Mount Margaret, Finniss Springs
was the first of the pastoral properties along the Oodnadatta Track. The station
was also home to a unique Aboriginal settlement, thanks to the extraordinary
lessee, Francis Dunbar Warren. By the 1930's the station was home to a United
Aborigines Mission school, a church and a community of up to 200 people. Access
is only available through agreement with the local Arabana people.
Hermit Hill is a typical spring of the Finniss Springs Group. From the road you
can see that most of these springs are not the classic 'mound springs' but
springs surrounded by vegetation dominated by Phragmites reeds.
The darker patches that can be seen on the top of small mounds near Lake Eyre
South or at Hermit Hill, are the remnants of the ancient seabed. If you stop and
take a look, you will see these sedimentary stones are quite distinctive in
appearance and texture.
Declared a government water reserve in 1860, Hergott Spring is located about 1.5
km just to the north out of Marree.
The sheer size of Lake Eyre is
mind-blowing. For many years, white explorers thought that Lake Eyre was
connected to Lake Torrens, forming an impenetrable 'horseshoe'. The myth was
dispelled after Corporal Alfred Burtt rode through the land corridor to meet
Warburton's exploration party in 1858.
As Australia's largest lake and the world's largest internally draining
catchment, the rivers that feed the lake cover an area of 1.2 million square
kilometres. Yet for the most part, Lake Eyre is usually a dry salt lake.
Halligan Bay is the lowest pin at 15.2 m below sea level, providing a vantage
point for viewing at Lake Eyre North.
Lake Eyre is actually two separate depressions named Lake Eyre North (some 8,430
square km in size) and Lake Eyre South (which is 1,260 sq km in size). Lake Eyre
South can be seen from
the Oodnadatta Track, about 40 km south of Coward Springs.
When the lake fills with water, it brings with it, an influx of birds and other
life, providing one of natures spectacular sights, bring visitors from around
the world. The floods are generally due to large monsoonal rains in Queensland
which flow south via the Cooper's Creek or Georgina-Diamantina river system.
The Lake Eyre Basin is considered one of the world's last unregulated wild river
systems. These rivers sustain wildlife and pastoral enterprise throughout the
Channel Country of south west Queensland, and the north of South Australia.
The Oodnadatta Track crosses almost all of Lake Eyre's western rivers. These
rivers flood infrequently. Although it may be difficult to image the creek beds
along the track as watercourses, the reality of their swelling is borne out by
the many old railway bridges which can still be seen today. In the end, it was
these floods that caused the Stuart Highway and the Adelaide to Darwin rail line
to be relocated further west.
Why does Lake Eyre have a salty crust? As waters from past floods evaporated,
the dissolved salts have remained behind. When the lake flooded in 1950, a 30 cm
layer of salt was left in its wake once the water had gone.
WARNING: Please do not drive on the salt lake - as you will get bogged and you
will ruin the pristine nature of this landscape.
Originally named Hergott Springs,
Marree was once the most northern railhead and Afghan cameleers were based here
for many years, as it was the most reliable form of freight transport from the
railway to remote properties. The town still has a strong Afghan-Indigenous
heritage, with some of the afghan cameleers having settled down here and
marrying into the Indigenous community.
There are the Hergott Spring about 1.5
km just to the north of Marree.
Strangways Springs is located between Wabma Kadarbu Mound
Springs Conservation Park and William Creek, along the popular outback
Oodnadatta Track, Strangways Springs is a nationally significant heritage site.
Strangways Springs was one of the earliest pastoral leases in the area.
It is the
location of the Strangways Springs Overland Telegraph Station, an essential link
in the Overland Telegraph constructed between Adelaide and the north coast of
Australia, in 1870-72.
Strangways Springs is one of the many clusters of mound springs in South
Australia's far north.
owners were also one of the first to learn the harsh realities of drought, when
from 1864 to 1866, some 6,000 sheep were to die, two-thirds of the stock.
Throughout the district, some 30,000 animals perished from the drought.
Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park
Access to the conservation park is
via the Oodnadatta Track, with the entrance about 6 km south-east of Cowards
Springs. Vehicle access within the park is limited to the several km long
entrance road to the parks start attraction, the Blanche Cup and The Bubbler
mound springs. Both springs are great examples of natural artesian springs.
Hamilton Hill, a large hill in an otherwise flat landscape is an extinct mound
spring and another significant feature of this extremely fragile and arid
of Environment and Natural Resources
The smallest settlement in South
Australia, William Creek is said to have a permanent population of 3 humans and
a dog. The halfway point for travellers along the Oodnadatta Track, William
Creek is sat on the biggest cattle station in Australia. With Lake Eyre just up
the road, this is the place for your Wrightsair scenic
flights and memories of a lifetime.
Witjira National Park
Located on the western edge of the
Simpson Desert, Witjira National Park is a huge in one of the driest regions in Australia.
The park encompasses a variety of habitats from gibber plains, sand dunes, flood
plains, salt pans and numerous thermal artesian springs, often surrounded by
The traditional country of the Lower Southern
Arrernte and Wangkangurru people, it holds a special cultural significance. The
park contains a wide range of important cultural features and evidence of past
National Heritage Listed in 2009, the national park is home to a range of
Mount Dare Homestead complex, Dalhousie Ruins and the Dalhousie Thermal Mound
Springs, the largest and most active artesian springs in Australia.
You can access the park from Oodnadatta, travellers can follow the Oodnadatta
Track from Marla, William Creek and Coober Pedy. The turn off to the park is
approximately 17 km north of
Oodnadatta. 4WD vehicles are recommended. A Desert Parks Pass is required.
The historic Curdimurka Railway
Siding is transformed every two years
(even numbered) to host an Outback Ball under a canopy of glittering
stars. A show not to be missed.