lake eyre - background information

In August 1841, an expedition led by the famous explorer Charles Sturt, left Adelaide to find out if there was an Inland Sea in the interior, and to discover the country’s geographical centre.  Sturt’s expedition headed north into some of the country’s most inhospitable territory, across the great gibber plain now known as Sturt’s Stony Desert, and then into the Simpson Desert.  The lack of water finally took its toll, and the expedition turned back.

A year earlier a drover turned explorer, Edward Charles Eyre, was the first European to see the region surrounding Lake Eyre.  Lack of water and a severe dust storm welcomed the party.  Before returning Eyre did chart large areas of the unexplored country in the hot, dry and arid interior.  Writing later he described the region as “Hell on Earth”.

In the warm, humid climate that existed between 20,000 and 40,000 year ago, Lake Eyre was a massive freshwater lake brimming with life.  This ancestral lake, called Lake Dieri after the Aboriginal tribe that once inhabited the region, was three times the present size, at least 17 metres deep.  The luxuriant tropical vegetation that grew on the shores was grazed by many animals, including the ‘herbivorous diprotodon’, which resembled a giant wombat.

About 20,000 years ago, the climate became drier, the rivers and streams that fed the huge lake petered out and it began to shrink.  Strings of much smaller, salty lakes gradually assumed their present shape as they were left scattered across the flat plain.  Lake Eyre is both a great salina, or dry salt lake, and a great playa lake, a lake that occasionally floods.  The contrast between the dry and wet is staggering.  When the rivers run in torrents and the lake fills with this water, it becomes Australia’s largest lake.  When it is dry it is the biggest salt pan in the world.

Fish washed down the feeder streams attract vast numbers of water birds to feed and breed in this rare smorgasbord.  The birds have been known to breed up to three times in a big flood year. 

At the lowest point the land is 16-metres below sea level, making it the lowest part of Australia.  When dry the salty crust is thick enough to take the weight of vehicles. In 1964, Sir Donald Campbell set a new land speed record of 403.1 miles per hour in his famous jet powered “Bluebird”.

Lake Eyre National Park covers 1,225,000 hectares of arid desert wilderness, including all of Lake Eyre North, and the adjoining Tirari Desert, this is one of the world’s great arid regions.

The "Flight to Eyre" 2-day tour developed by River Country Adventours gives the modern traveler a unique opportunity to witness something very special. The tour is easy paced, well organized and a most memorable experience in the outback.

For Bookings and further information please contact us at River Country Adventours - Rob and Joan Asplin - phone: 61 3 5852 2736 -