Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve > Spring with no water

The Original ‘Alice Spring’ — on 11 March, 1871, when William Whitfield Mills first came across this waterhole he was to name it after Mrs Alice Todd.

Little did he know, it wasn’t really a spring. This spot that he was to name ‘Alice Springs’ was a depression in the riverbed where water gets trapped on top of some granite.

Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve
Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve

Mills was one of the surveyors planning the route for the Overland Telegraph Line. With two other men, he had gone ahead of the construction teams to find a way through the MacDonnell Ranges.

He wrote in his report to Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraphs:

‘I was successful in finding a pass about 30 miles east of Stuart’s track with numerous waterholes and springs, the principal of which is the Alice Spring which I had the honour of naming after Mrs Todd.’

Heavy rain had fallen in the weeks before Mills got here. The river flowed and filled the waterhole. Another interesting note, is Mrs Alice Todd never visited Alice Springs.

Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, 25 Feb 2010
Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve, 25 Feb 2010

After heavy rainfall in the region in late January to early February, 2022, locals woke up to the Todd River flowing. Visitors to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station enjoyed the sight of water flowing through the reserve.

Enjoying 'Alice Spring' at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, NT
Locals enjoying ‘Alice Spring’ at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, NT © CK Leel

Even after the rain had passed, water remained in the Todd River, in small catchment areas…

Pictured here is Lady Alice Todd, who was the wife of Superintendent of Post and Telegraph Sir Charles Todd. She had the honour of having a non-existing spring named after her and the town of Alice Springs, having never visited the region.

Lady Alice Todd (B 41086)
Lady Alice Todd, wife of Sir Charles Todd, Postmaster-General, 1869-1905 and Superintendent of Telegraphs, South Australia 1855-1905; they married in 1855, Lady Alice died in 1898 – Source: State Library of South Australia, B 41086

Footnote & References

  1. William Whitfield Mills, Flinders Ranges Research, https://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/mills.htm
  2. William Mills (surveyor), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Mills_(surveyor) (last visited Feb. 11, 2022)