Innamincka Regional Reserve

  • Information Office
  • Showers
  • Accomm
  • Kiosk
  • Campfires Permitted
  • Toilets
  • Camping
  • 4WD
  • Dogs on Lead
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Bird Watching
  • Boating
PDF Park Brochure
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Innamincka SA map

From red sand dunes, gibber plains and salt lakes, to wetlands, artesian springs and river systems, this park showcases unique scenic and cultural environments on an immense scale.

Tag your Instagram pics with #innaminckaregionalreserve to see them displayed on this page.

Innamincka SA map

From red sand dunes, gibber plains and salt lakes, to wetlands, artesian springs and river systems, this park showcases unique scenic and cultural environments on an immense scale.

Tag your Instagram pics with #innaminckaregionalreserve to see them displayed on this page.

About

Innamincka Regional Reserve is a park of contrasts. Covering more than 1.3 million hectares of land, ranging from the life-giving wetlands of the Cooper Creek system to the stark arid outback, the reserve also sustains a large commercial beef cattle enterprise, and oil and gas fields.

The heritage-listed Innamincka Regional Reserve park headquarters and interpretation centre gives an insight into the natural history of the area, Aboriginal people, European settlement and Australia's most famous explorers, Burke and Wills.

From the interpretation centre, visit the sites where Burke and Wills died, and the historic Dig Tree site (QLD) which once played a significant part in their ill-fated expedition.

Shaded by the gums, the waterholes provide a relaxing place for a spot of fishing or explore the creek further by canoe or boat.

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Please refer to the latest Desert Parks Bulletin for current access and road condition information.

Contact details

Innamincka Regional Reserve Visitor Information Centre
Phone: (+61 8) 8675 9909
Email: DesertParks@sa.gov.au
After hours Regional Duty officer: 0408 378 284

When to visit

Climatically and scenically, late autumn and early spring are the best times to visit this park, March and early April can still be quite hot with the possibility of rain. The summer months from November through to February can be very hot and dry. If you are lucky enough to visit the park a few weeks after a soaking rain, you will be rewarded with ephemeral wildflowers and the sound of frogs in flowing creeks.

Getting there

Innamincka is 1046km from Adelaide. Access is via the Strzelecki Track via Leigh Creek. Please refer to the latest Desert Parks Bulletin for current access and road condition information.

Pets in parks

You and your dog can enjoy this park providing you keep your dog on a lead and under your control at all times. Don't forget to bring your disposable 'doggie-doo' bag to clean up after your dog.

Facilities

The township of Innamincka has camp sites, a hotel, homestay, store, petrol/fuel, toilets, showers, phones, ranger station, information centre, rubbish disposal, and mechanic and tyre repairs.  

Good camping sites can be found close to Innamincka at the Town Common, Policemans and Ski Beach - all have toilets. Cullyamurra Waterhole has lots of space and several toilets, while Minkie Waterhole and Kings Site are smaller with no toilet facilities.

In Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park, camp sites with a toilet are located at the creek. Camping is also available around the lake’s edge. Kudriemitchie campground is located on the edge of the park, and camp fires and generators are allowed.

Useful information

  • There is no mobile phone coverage in the park.

Outback Road Report

1300 361 033 (24-hour automated service)
Northern and Western South Australian Outback Roads Temporary Closures, Restrictions and Warnings Report

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Traditional owners

Cooper Creek was a major Aboriginal trade route, and the name Innamincka is believed to have derived from Aboriginal legend. Some say it means ‘dark hole’, others say it means ‘meeting place’. 

The Coongie Lakes and associated wetlands are a spiritual site for Aboriginal people and were crucial to maintenance of the Indigenous populations due to the availability of resources, particularly following flood events.

The Yandruwandha and Yawarrawarrka people lived in this region for thousands of years, taking advantage of the prolific birdlife and seasonal wildlife. The groups retain a strong interest and presence in the area.

Word from the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka Parks Advisory Committee

For traditional owners, co-management has enabled us to have a say over what is happening on our lands. It is a partnership between the traditional owners and Government that is based on shared knowledge, trust and goodwill.

Our people lived and thrived around Malkumba–Coongie Lakes for many generations before European explorers and pastoralists arrived in the 1800s. Despite loss of country, our culture was not lost; we kept our language and stories, and handed them on.

We are keen to protect the land and share our stories and culture with neighbouring communities and visitors. The Malkumba–Coongie Lakes National Park Management Plan (2014) identifies three zones within the park – Heritage and Conservation Zone; Living and Camping Zone; and Fishing Zone – to allow our community members to carry out traditional activities today. We have also improved interpretative signs and are finalising a cultural heritage plan.

Aboriginal South Australians are the first peoples of our State and have occupied, enjoyed and managed these lands and waters since the creation. For SA's First Peoples, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

Aboriginal peoples' oral histories and creation stories traverse the length and breadth of Australia’s lands and waters, including South Australian Parks. These stories interconnect land and waters with complex meaning and values and hold great cultural significance. We recognise and respect Aboriginal people's ownership of their stories and that they hold rights and obligations to care for Country. It is through these rights and cultural obligations and a shared goal to protect the environment for generations to come that DEWNR is committed to meaningful collaboration and involvement with Aboriginal peoples in the management of our shared parks.

History

Settlement

The town of Innamincka began as a police camp in 1882 and soon became a thriving commercial centre, with a hotel, police station, store, boarding house, blacksmith’s shop and school. The Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home was opened in 1928. It was part of a network of outback hospitals set up by John Flynn and run by the Australian Inland Mission to provide medical services for people living in isolated areas. It closed in 1951 due to the declining population. In July 1994, following major restoration works, it was reopened as the Innamincka Regional Reserve park headquarters and information centre and is listed as a heritage site. The interpretive display is open to the public daily and gives insight into the natural history of the area, Aboriginal people and their culture, European settlement, outback nursing and the history of the building and the people who worked there.

Exploration

Innamincka was geographically destined to play a major role in the early exploration of Australia’s interior. Its central location and reliable water supply made it an ideal base camp or resting place for expeditions to the north and west and later, cattle drives from the east and south. Riverbeds with their canopies of shade offered mid-summer relief for travellers and stock. There were plentiful supplies of fish and game most of the year. Captain Charles Sturt became the first European to set eyes on these wetlands in 1844-45. Only fifteen years later, Burke and Wills died here. Their companion, John King, was eventually rescued by Alfred Howitt, only after receiving help from local Aboriginal people. Burke’s Memorial, Wills’ Memorial and King’s Site are all found in the Innamincka Regional Reserve, while the Dig Tree is a short drive into Queensland.

Pastoralism

Between 1870 and 1890 the north-east of South Australia saw the arrival of sheep and cattle, leading to the establishment of the pastoral industry at the turn of the century. Sidney Kidman bought Coongie Station in 1902 and Innamincka Station in 1908. The two properties were merged in 1930 under a pastoral lease to become a productive cattle fattening and horse breeding run. Innamincka Station now covers 13 800 square kilometres of the Innamincka Regional Reserve and is still leased by the S Kidman and Co pastoral company. Early in 1996, Coongie Lakes and Cullyamurra Waterhole were fenced and cattle excluded from these areas.

Petroleum exploration

Since the first gas discovery in 1963, the Cooper Basin has become the largest onshore hydrocarbon production region in Australia. Innamincka Regional Reserve covers approximately 30% of the South Australian portion of the basin. Santos and other companies hold the licences to explore for and extract oil and gas from the basin. Hydrocarbons are processed at Moomba, 90 km south-west of Innamincka and from there gas is sent via pipeline to customers in South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park was proclaimed in 2005 to protect the Ramsar-listed wetlands. Exploration and mining is not permitted in Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park.

See and do

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

  • Reading up on the history before you visit. Helen Tolcher’s books, especially Seed of the Coolibah, provide a really good history of the Yandruwandha and Yawarrawarrka, and Sarah Murgatroyd’s The Story of Burke and Wills puts a lot of the history into perspective.
  • Finding a camp early, not directly under a red gum as they drop big limbs, set up and relax
  • Going for a walk with your camera and binoculars.
  • Don’t just stay by the creek. Walk the dunes and swales among bloodwoods and whitewoods, the gibber country, Mineritchie creeks and clay pans – they’re all beautiful in their own way.
  • That you be prepared for flies, dust and sun.
  • Stay for a few days, don’t rush through. Relax and recharge your personal battery.
  • Visiting in a well prepared vehicle – the tracks vary in condition.
  • Bringing a tough trailer, weak ones are regularly abandoned.
  • Getting a Desert Parks Pass and read it before you arrive.
  • Visiting the AIM building and its Visitor Centre to learn about the area before heading out to the many sites.
  • Taking a walk along Cullyamurra Waterhole or the sites down the 15 Mile Track, and take in the sights, sounds and smells

Bushwalking

There are no significant walks in the reserve. Short walks are at Burke's Grave and at the end of the Cullyamurra campgrounds. However, visitors can walk between campgrounds that run off the 15 Mile Track down along the Cooper Creek.

Mountain biking

You can ride your bike on public roads throughout the Reserve, but please be wary of the trucks and vehicles supporting Cooper Basin operations in the area.

Stay in the park

The township of Innamincka has camp sites, a hotel and a homestay.

Good camping sites can be found close to Innamincka at the Town Common, Policemans and Ski Beaches - all have toilets. Cullyamurra Waterhole has lots of space and several toilets, while Minkie Waterhole and Kings Site are smaller with no toilet facilities.

In Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park, camp sites with a toilet are located at the creek. Camping is also available around the lake’s edge. Kudriemitchie campground is located on the edge of the park, and camp fires and generators are allowed.

Boating and fishing

Motorised boats are allowed along Cooper Creek in Innamincka Regional Reserve provided the motor is less than 10 horsepower and speed is kept below 10 knots. All boats must be registered and a licence is required. Motorboats are not permitted in Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park.

No fishing licence is required in South Australia. However, bag and size limits apply under the South Australian Fisheries Act 1982. Only certain types of nets are allowed in the Cooper Creek. Check signs at Innamincka.

Fishing is not permitted in Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park. 

Sites of interest

Burke and Wills graves

Explorers Burke and Wills now lie buried in Melbourne, but the sites where the final drama of their tragic expedition played out are along Cooper Creek, close to Innamincka township. Burke's body was found by rescue party leader Alfred Howitt at a spot now marked by a memorial. A marker identifies the place where Wills is believed to have died, close to where he was buried.

King's Tree

John King, the sole survivor of the Burke and Wills expedition, was found lying in a wurlie (an Aboriginal shelter) by Howitt's rescue party. King sought out the local Aboriginal people for help and their survival skills kept him alive.

Cullyamurra Waterhole

One of the most magnificent waterholes in central Australia, Cullyamurra Waterhole is formed by great floods in the Cooper Creek which are restricted by a very narrow passage - the Innamincka Choke. The waterhole has never been known to be dry. Nearby are old stockyards, relics of early pastoral enterprise.

The Dig Tree

Although the historic Dig Tree site is not located in Innamincka Regional Reserve, it is only a 60 minute (68km) drive away, across the Queensland border, and is well worth a visit. This is the site from which Burke and Wills set off for the Gulf of Carpentaria and the scene of their tragic return to find the camp deserted and a carving on a large coolibah tree telling them where to dig for supplies. The outline of the carving can still be seen today.

Canoeing and kayaking

Immerse yourself in the outback river of Cooper Creek by canoeing or kayaking your way along the winding river - canoes can be hired from the Innamincka Hotel.

Please take care to plan your river trip, allow plenty of time and be back before sunset.

Flora

Northern River Red Gums and coolibahs cover the banks and flood out areas of Cooper Creek, which flows into the Coongie Lakes system. Lignum often forms dense thickets beneath the River Red Gums. The gibber country has sparse vegetation, except for Mitchell-grass and some other grasses and herbs. The drainage lines are filled with Red Mulga and Gidgee. Dunes in this area can be as high as fifteen metres. Dune vegetation varies, but visitors may see Whitewood, Narrow-leaf Hop-bush, Sandhill Wattle and Sandhill Cane-grass. Soil type and how often the area is inundated determines the vegetation type from grasses and herbs to low open woodlands

Fauna

Over two hundred bird species have been recorded in the Innamincka and Coongie Lakes region. The wetlands are an important habitat for birds moving between northern and southern Australia, and in some cases, internationally. Species seen include wetland birds such as Australian pelicans and red-necked avocets, and desert birds like inland dotterels and gibberbirds.

The Coongie Lakes area is also known for attracting large congregations of birds – over 70 000 birds have been observed at one time. Twenty-four of the bird species in the area are classified as rare, vulnerable or endangered in South Australia. Ten wetland species and 45 waterbird species are known to breed in the area.

Many species of native animals are present in the parks including dingoes, red kangaroos, turtles, and water-rats, which are a delight to watch as they swim and dive along the banks of the Cooper. Snakes are rarely seen, especially during the cooler months of April to September, but should always be treated with respect and left alone. The area is home to the world’s most venomous snake, the inland taipan. Feral animals including donkeys, camels and pigs also inhabit the park.

Volunteering

Friends of The Innamincka Reserve

This volunteer group undertake an annual 12-day working bee in which they help with park maintenance and bird surveys.

Toyota Land Cruiser Club

This volunteer group undertake works on Kudriemitchie Outstation on the southern boundary of Malkumba-Coongie Lakes National Park.

Safety

Bushwalking

The international Trail Users Code of Conduct is to show respect and courtesy towards other trail users at all times.

Ensure that you:

  • when hiking, wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen
  • make sure you have appropriate weather proof clothing
  • carry enough water to be self-sufficient
  • please be respectful of other users at all times
  • stay on the designated trails and connector tracks for your own safety, and prevent the spread of declared weeds to other areas in the park
  • ensure someone knows your approximate location and expected time of return
  • take appropriate maps.
  • Walk, hike or trek - what's the difference?

Trip preparation

For a safe journey, it is essential that you are well-prepared and well-provisioned. Careful planning can help to avoid uncomfortable trips, lengthy delays, or potentially life-threatening situations. You are responsible for your own safety.

Who to tell 

  • Inform a responsible person of your travel itinerary. Arrange to make scheduled calls and have emergency plans in the event you do not reach locations within designated times. Allow a reasonable time for minor delays. 
  • Obtain permission from landholders prior to travelling through private or Aboriginal lands. 
  • Travel with other vehicles or stay in contact with other travellers. In the event of a breakdown or accident, this may reduce the need to use expensive outside assistance. 

What to take

Carry adequate supplies:

  • water – 6 litres per person per day minimum plus a 3-4 day reserve supply. 
  • food – adequate supply for trip plus a 3-4 day reserve supply. 
  • fuel – check maps, determine fuel needs and calculate distances between refuelling points en route. Ensure you carry enough fuel to safely get you between fuel stops that are the greatest distances apart. Frequent low gear and 4WD uses fuel faster than high gear travel so allow for up to double normal fuel consumption. 
  • spares – at least two tyres and tubes, but if possible take two spare wheels. 
  • tools – long-handled spade, tyre levers, tyre pressure gauge, air compressor, spanners, multigrips, screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, electrical tape, WD40, spare fan belt, radiator hoses, coolant, engine oil, transmission oil, spark plugs, fuses, spare fuel filter, fence wire and plastic tubing, etc. 
  • recovery equipment – jack, jack plate, wheel brace, tyre levers, tube mending kit, tow rope, leather gloves, winch, winch sling, tree protector, D shackles, snatch block and straps, jumper leads (booster cables), etc. 
  • first aid kit – travellers should have a well equipped first aid kit. Medical assistance can be days away, so be prepared for an emergency. St Johns Ambulance provide a range of suitable first aid kits. 
  • sun protection – sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and long-sleeved loose shirts to avoid sunburn, heat stress and heat stroke. 
  • communications equipment – take a satellite phone or HF radio to keep in contact or for emergencies. UHF radio can be used to communicate between vehicles in convoy. EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) are also recommended for use in emergency situations. Ensure someone in the party has a thorough understanding of how to use these devices. 
  • navigation – maps, compass, GPS. Weather conditions vary seasonally in the outback.

Check weather forecasts and road conditions prior to travel on the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) website.

24-hour Road Condition Information Service
Phone: 1300 361 033

Desert Parks Administration Officer
Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5328

Fire

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Fire restrictions

  • Wood fires and solid fuel fires are prohibited between 1 November 2016 to 31 March 2017.
  • You must bring your own firewood, as the collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.
  • Gas fires are permitted through the year, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

Water

Swimming is not recommended in the Cooper Creek due to potential underwater hazards such as fallen limbs, trees and rocks.

4WD

The safest way to travel to, and around this area is in a well-equipped and well-provisioned 4WD vehicle with high ground clearance and an experienced driver at the wheel. Drivers should be familiar with their vehicles, understand vehicle capabilities, and be able to execute appropriate driving techniques to suit different terrains and weather conditions.

Know your vehicle

  • Be familiar with your 4WD vehicle. Ensure it is well-maintained, serviced, and roadworthy. It is recommended that your 4WD has high ground clearance if travelling through sand.
  • Know how to operate your 4WD transmission before you leave. Know if your vehicle is fitted with locking hubs and how to engage them.
  • Inspect your vehicle every morning before you start driving for the day. Check tyre pressures and fluid levels. Clean air filters and the windscreen. Look underneath for leaks and damage to cables and hoses and remove any dry vegetation that could catch fire.

Vehicle access

  • Keep to designated public access tracks, parking areas and campgrounds. Vehicles are more likely to get damaged or stranded off-track.
  • Mining and petroleum infrastructure is not to be accessed by the public.
  • Do not camp in creek beds or watercourses in case of flash flooding.
  • Do not camp under trees that may drop limbs.
  • Do not drive on salt lakes.

Driving on unsealed roads

  • Engage 4WD and lock hubs when driving on unsealed tracks and in potentially dangerous terrain. Remember to disengage 4WD when returning to sealed roads.
  • Travel at speeds appropriate to road conditions. Reduce speeds on dirt roads where potholes, corrugations and loose stones may cause vehicle damage and accidents.
  • Adhere to speed limits. The speed limit in parks and reserves is 40 km per hour unless otherwise signed.
  • Avoid wet-weather driving. Dirt roads can become impassable, dangerous and easily damaged.
  • Take extreme care at creek crossings. Water levels can rise unexpectedly with unknown heavy rains falling upstream.
  • On dirt roads, slow down and keep well left when passing oncoming vehicles to avoid possible windscreen damage from stones.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle travelling in front of you.
  • Pull over and stop when dust limits visibility. Never overtake through a dust cloud, there may be another vehicle coming towards you.
  • Look out for wildlife and stock on roads particularly at sunrise and sunset. Slow down when passing birds of prey feeding on road kill as they take some time to get airborne.

Driving through sand

  • Engage 4WD and lock hubs when driving in sand and in potentially dangerous terrain. Remember to disengage 4WD when returning to sealed roads.
  • Reduce tyre pressures to 18-20 psi when driving in sand. Always reduce speeds when driving with lower tyre pressures to avoid tyres coming off rims. Remember to reinflate tyres when leaving sandy areas.
  • Keep as far left as track conditions permit when crossing dune crests. Lead vehicles should carry a tall flag to warn oncoming traffic of their approach to dunes.
  • Maintain a constant speed when driving through sand in low range third or fourth gear or high range second or third gear. Do not apply brakes abruptly as this will bury the front wheels. Do not change direction sharply.

Know before you go

Every national park is different, each has its own unique environment, it is important to be responsible while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please ensure that you:

  • keep your dog on a lead at all times and check if there are areas of the park where dogs are not allowed
  • do not feed birds or other animals, it promotes aggressive behaviour and an unbalanced ecology
  • do not bring generators (except where permitted), chainsaws or firearms into the park
  • leave the park as you found it - place rubbish in the bins provided or take it with you
  • abide by the road rules (maintain the speed limit)
  • respect geological and heritage sites
  • do not remove native plants
  • are considerate of other park users.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Fees

Entry fees

Entry and camping fees can be paid at the Innamincka Trading Post on arrival.

Vehicle entry fees

Vehicle entry: $10.00
Vehicle entry (concession): $8.00

Fees collected are used for conservation and to maintain and improve park facilities.

Park pass

Desert Park Pass

Heading to the outback? Purchase a Desert Parks Pass which entitles you to 12 months vehicle entry into seven selected desert parks. 

The pass also allows you to camp for periods of up to 21 nights at a time in the desert parks (excluding Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park, where camping is not permitted). 

Camping and accommodation

Entry and camping fees can be paid at the Innamincka Trading Post on arrival.

There are five campgrounds to choose from within the reserve:

  • Cullyamurra Waterhole
  • Kings Marker
  • Minkie
  • Policemans
  • Ski Beach

Please note: the Town Common is separate to the National Parks campgrounds and has a separate fee.

Campsite fees (per night)

Vehicle (max 8 people) - $12
Hikers/cyclists/additional vehicle occupant (per person) - $6.50
Group camping (20+ people - per person) - $6

If you are planning a trip for a school group or other large group, please ensure you let the park know of your intentions.

Fees collected are used for conservation and to maintain and improve park facilities.

Other fees and permits

There are no other fees or permits associated with this park.