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Information about Dalhousie Springs

dalhousie springs discovery    

So wrote Overland Telegraph Line workerAlfred Giles in 1894 on the European discovery of Dalhousie. Dalhousie Springs lie in Witjira National Park, on the western edge of the Simpson Desert, 50 kms east of the first sandhill and around 120 kms north of the town of Oodnadatta. They are the largest natural surface expression of water in the Great Artesian Baisn. There are over 60 flowing springs in the 70 square kilometre spring area. 41% of the outflow of all springs in the Great Artesian Basin is contributed to the Dalhousie complex. The springs are of national and world significance. Camping is permitted at the Main Spring area, where you can swim in bath temperature fresh water ranging from 38°to 43°C. Heavy usage has resulted in the need for the camp area being upgraded to minimise impact. Dalhousie is sadly no longer the remote unspoilt area it was 10 years ago. The South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Irrwanyere Community jointly manage Witjira National Park and Dalhousie Springs, and there are Aboriginal rangers generally in attendance during the cooler months. Camping in the park is only permitted at the Main Springs campground and at Purni Bore 70kms to the east. There is a shower block and a telephone, but the nearest facilities otherwise are at Mt. Dare or Oodnadatta.

A walk around Dalhousie

There is a wonderful walk around the main spring where you can experience the ecology of some of the ninety square kilometres of wetland vegetation maintained by Dalhousie spring water. Commencing at the northern end of the main spring, walk up the hill, past cushion saltbushes Frankenia muscosa to the Cool Pool, a circular pool of water surrounded by the common reed Phragmites australis and bulrush Typha domingensis. Behind the pool, in spectacular contrast rise red mesas and buttes in the distance. These belong to an entirely different and older geology to the springs. Turning north east you’ll walk through rich stands of “Old Man” Saltbush Atriplex nummilaris - reputed to be a great fodder plant, whose skin-like leaves contain pores that “sweat” salt. In the distance you will see the Kingfisher Springs, fringed evocatively with date palms Phoenix dactylifera reputed to have been planted by the Afghan Cameleers . Continue through thick stands of Boobialla and the paper bark Melaleuca Glomerata to the head of the main spring where the water comes out of the ground at 43°C. Looking into the water you will see hundreds of the fish Dalhousie hardyhead Craterocephalus dalhousiensis darting in to the hot entrance to briefly feed on the blue green bacteria growing there. A giant perentie lizard made it's home here over the past five years in one of the burrows beneath the ground. The largest goanna in Australia this lizard is related to the Kimodo dragons of Indonesia. If you are quiet you may see the perentie, however he is well camouflaged. Further on around the spring there is a potentiometric monitoring station. In the soft warm mud at the bed of the creek are great quantities of tiny aquatic (hydrobiid) snails. You’ll walk past a magnificent ancient Melaleuca glomerata with a trunk the size of a Volkswagen and return to the main camping area.


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The Perentie and the Women
Read the fascinating Aboriginal dreaming story from Dalhousie that explains how blonde hair came to the Western Desert!

Desert Parks Bulletin
Download the latest road reports and park conditions for Witjira National Park and Dalhousie



GPS Co-ordinates for Dalhousie Springs
Latitude 26.42247º S 26º 25' 20.9" S
Longitude 135.5031º E 135º 30' 11.1" E
  ruins of dalhousie homestead
The Ruins of Dalhousie homestead
swimming at dalhousie main spring  
Swimming in the main spring at Dalhousie
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