Dalhousie Springs - Cities, Towns and Localities
The Dalhousie Springs is a popular oasis in the arid desert
region of northern most part of South Australia. Many travellers make the effort
to enjoy this unique region, on-route through the
Desert or from the well known
After travelling through spectacular country of gibber plains, sand dunes, stony
tablelands, flat-topped mesa hills, salt pans and floodplain country, the sight
of palms, reeds and native shrubs and trees fringing springs, is indeed a sight
Fed by the thermal waters of the Great Artesian Basin, the water in Dalhousie
Spring is an enjoyable 34-38ºC, where many travellers relax and have a swim
whilst the little Dalhousie goby nibble at their skin.
After enjoying the calm healing waters (Irrwanyere) of Dalhousie Spring,
visitors can enjoy exploring the surrounding, read the many signage providing
information about the flora, fauna and indigenous history of the area, then
returning to their campsite.
Located within Witjira National Park on the
western edge of the Simpson Desert, this is 4WD access, trailers, caravans and motorhomes are
not recommended east of Dalhousie Springs.
HELP PROTECT OUR NATIONAL PARKS
You can help to protect this and other parts of our magnificent natural heritage
by using the toilet facilities and keeping to marked tracks and roads.
Do not litter or wash in the springs or creeks. Do not use generators.
The animals that live here need the shelter provided by the trees growing around
the springs. Please do not take firewood from this area. Only use firewood that
you purchased or have brought into the national park.
Dalhousie Springs Attractions continue
Visitors to Dalhousie Springs are offered a couple of walks that take in the
surrounds of this wonderful country. Walks include:
- Idnjundura - Kingfisher Springs Walk
— 2 hour 6 km return (easy walk)
This is the start of the Idnjundura (Kingfisher Spring) Walking trail that
take you past several locations associated with Idnjundura Altyerre
(mythological story). The trail follows the spring tail of Irrwanyere to the
group of springs to the east.
Along the trail there are information signs that tell some of the Altyerre
(mythological stories) from this area. The signs provide only basic
information. For more information the local rangers will provide tours, as
time permits. Enquire at the Ulabah office (cabin by the campground).
- Irrwanyere Nature Walk
— 1 hour 700 m return (easy walk)
This walk takes you past several features in the area that were utilised by
the local people here for the last few thousand years. These include the
healing waters of Irrwanyere, local plants used the spiritual areas around
Along this walk there are views of the springs and landscape that were
significant to he local Lower Southern Arrente people.
The walk starts here by the healing waters of Irrwanyere (Dalhousie Springs) and leads to the
forbidden waters of Atyetyarr uthen (Rainbow Serpent Spring), then to the view from Medicine Hill, before returning here.
Please keep to the trail as there are several sensitive sites along the way.
All plants, animals and artefacts are protected by law. Pleas respect the
area and cultural history and do not disturb anything.
Idnjundura - Kingfisher Springs Walk
Dalhousie Springs - The Mound Springs
Imagine living under the relentless heat of the Dalhousie summer sun and
searching for food and shelter.
Witjira-Dalhousie Springs was an important resource for Lower Southern Arrernte
people and their neighbours the Wangkangurru of the Simpson Desert.
In times of drought the permanent water of the springs became an important
refuge providing a variety of foods such as: wengker duck, atnetyirt waterhen,
tyap grubs, aremay goanna, irtenng yams and ntang edible seeds. After rain they
would move out to the fresh water trapped in claypans, waterholes and rockpools,
feasting on ilkart melon, mbumuna fungus, bilbies, bandicoots, birds and
goannas, before returning to the springs as water supplies dried up.
The springs were also a desirable location for their ancestors in the Dreamtime.
Many tracks pass through the springs area where the ancestors camped and engaged
in activities as varied as "sorting out the pretty girls from the ugly ones,
hiding a firestick under the water, or throwing stones along a flat pavement.
These activities and the springs belonging to them were celebrated in many songs
People with strong ties to this land still live in this area. Please respect any
sites that you visit.
Witjira National Park signage
Preparation of Bush Foods
During ceremonies, families camped on the flats, away from the spring - this was
a waiting place where bush foods were prepared. The women ground grass seeds,
and collected witchetty grubs, lizards, rats, berries and other plant foods.
They would take food a short distance from both the main spring, Irrwanyere, and
Idnjundura (Kingfisher Springs) so the men could collect it.
Witjira National Park signage
Whilst we care is taken to pass on these stories, visitors should try to
experience the indigenous tours, that may operate in these areas. Information
available from the nearest local visitor centre. If we have made an error in the
retelling, just drop us an
email with the correction.
Thutirla Pula (Two Boys Dreaming)
This story is an extract from the publication Birdsville by Evan McHugh,
although not word for word, it is repeated here:
This is one of the most important stories of the Wangkangurru and other
people of Central Australia. Thutirla Pula is how the spirits of the
Dreamtime first crossed the desert they call Munga-Thirri (Land of Sandhills).
This story begins at Dalhousie Springs on the western side of the desert.
Here a great ceremony was held, a corroboree. At the corroboree it was
decided to take feathers as important decorations to their people on the
other side of the desert. To get there they needed to create water wells (mikiri)
along the way, crossing the centre of the desert all the way to Birdsville.
They engaged the services of the great serpent and the two kingfishers who,
with their father, were rainmakers. On the first day out the two kingfishers
were transformed into the 'Two Boys' and this is where the 'Two Boys
The story reveals how a Dreaming travels over the landscape and how it can
change from one location to the next. At one place the story is a Snake
Dreaming, travelling the waterholes and rivers. It is during this travel that it
becomes the King Fisher Dreaming story. At each location where there is a
waterhole, the story continues or there is a new storyline, until it crosses the
They came all the way across the desert, following the serpent (kumarri)
who travelled underground. Every time the serpent would find a suitable spot
for water he would surface and the boys would identify the place before
continuing. The old snake therefore put water right across the desert. There
came to be many wells: Parra Parra, Walpurkanha, Boolabutina, Tjilpatha.
From Tjilpatha across to Yalkari, Pulawani and Nulla-naringi where they run
into the Georgina River and Eyre Creek.
From there they moved to Birdsville where they celebrated crossing the
desert at what is now known as the Fish Hole. Not far away they established
a ceremonial site on two rocky out-crops, one for women, the other for men.
The Fish Hole is on the Diamantina River southwest of town. The rocky
outcrops are on the eastern edge of town.
So it is that the Two Boy Dreaming links a number of story lines from
Dalhousie Springs to Birdsville, like the original routes travelled by
Aboriginals and Aboriginal traders, weaving its way through the desert country.
The Snake in the dreaming travelling along the same route.
Even more significant was that the Dreaming story lines established a direct
route across the Simpson Desert, detailing the water holes along the way.
The significance of Thutirla Pula was that it established a direct route
across Munga-Thirri, the Simpson Desert. It was a short cut that took 600
kilometres off the journey around the bottom of the Simpson Desert to Lake
Eyre, then back up the Diamantina River.
Birdsville, Penguin Group (Australia), 2009, p212-213. Retrieved 30 July
Aboriginal Dreaming Paths and Trading Routes. The Colonisation of the
Australian Economic Landscape, Sussex Academic Press, 2010, 2012, p45. Retrieved
30 July 2012.
Irunpa / Perentie Story
Irruip ayey anem tyeperr Altyerr akngerr, kwaty nhenhel. Irrunp ayey
nhenh ila arntilem arrkwety map atherrarl ulepeth-ulepethilekari, arrkwety
akapert mperiker map antekerr ngekari kenh arrkwety akapert ltyer amp
ingkernari imperielhekari. Apert ltyerarey nheng rem nhenheng, alemnli akwel
anem arrkwety akapert ltyer ilarey ingkern imperielhekari. Utyerr ihern
lyentel, nheng lrrunp pmerel, irrunp ila akwel kwet akarelhemal ilari anem
The Irunpa (Perentie) story is one of the main Altyerre (mythological
stories) associated with the spring. The Irunpa story tells of the separation of
the light-haired women who were taken to the west and the dark-haired women who
were left behind. The dark stones seen here (on the Kingfisher Springs Walk)
represent the dark-haired women who were left behind. At the Witjira mound, also
known as the Perentie camp, Irunpa waited and kept a lookout for the women.
Uitjinga / Rainmaker Story
Altyerr ltnyuntereng anem Uitjingk ayey, Kwaty Merrilenh-ilenh ayey.
Kwaty merrilenh-ilenh ila akwel atyuty war anek nheng itelaremel ilenger ila
lheny leth apertekari kwaty merrilenyel akngerrepateiurr.
The main Altyerre (mythological story) at Idnjundura (Kingfisher Springs) is the
Uitjinga or rainmaker story. According to tradition, the rainmaker stayed there
while he decided when he had to go travelling to maintain the rainmaker's cycle.
Witjira National Park signage