Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park

  • Picnic Areas
  • Toilets
  • Camping
  • 4WD
  • Bird Watching
PDF Park Brochure
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Kati Thanda SA map

Be ensconced by the vastness of this park, the whiteness of the salt lake and the surrounding low red dunes of the desert give you a true sense of the wilderness and remoteness of the outback.

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

Kati Thanda SA map

Be ensconced by the vastness of this park, the whiteness of the salt lake and the surrounding low red dunes of the desert give you a true sense of the wilderness and remoteness of the outback.

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

About

Australia’s largest salt lake, Kati Thanda has a catchment area from three states and the Northern Territory. The lake itself is huge, covering an area 144km long and 77km wide, and at 15.2 metres below sea level, it is the lowest point in Australia. Flood waters cover the lake once every eight years on average. However, the lake has only filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years.

You may feel a sense of isolation standing on the dry lake edge and seeing nothing as far as the eye can see – yet with heavy rains and the right conditions the lake comes dramatically to life. When there’s water in the lake, waterbirds descend in the thousands, including pelicans, silver gulls, red-necked avocets, banded stilts and gull-billed terns. It becomes a breeding site, teeming with species that are tolerant of salinity.

Away from the lake, the park features red sand dunes and mesas. They rise from salty claypans and stone-strewn tablelands.

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Please note: Halligan Bay Point is closed from December 1 to March 15 each year, in line with the Simpson Desert annual summer closure.

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

Contact details

Natural Resource Centre - Port Augusta

Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5300
Email: DesertParks@sa.gov.au

After hours Regional Duty Officer: 0408 378 284

When to visit

The best time to visit Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park is between April and October. If summer monsoon rains provide floodwaters locally or from Queensland, you are more likely to see water in the lake during these cooler months. In summer, temperatures in the area can soar to more than 50 degrees Celsius.

Getting there

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park is located 60km east of William Creek and 95km north-west of Marree. The park is accessible via two pastoral tracks, known as 'public access routes'. Both are suitable for 4WD vehicles only. You should travel in convoy and carry reserves of fuel, water and food. It is best to avoid travelling in the hotter months, from November to March. 

From William Creek: Travel south-east on the Oodnadatta Track for 7km to the access track to Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park. Travel along this track to Halligan Bay Point via Armistice Bore and ABC Bay. This public access route is closed from 1 December to 15 March.

From Marree: The access track turnoff is 3km west from Marree. The track runs 94km to Level Post Bay via Muloorina Station.

Check the latest Desert Parks Bulletin and the road condition report for current access before you leave.

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre - current status 2016

Visit the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre - current status 2016 page for up-to-date information and images of the water levels in the basin.

Facilities

Camp sites are available at Halligan Bay Point where toilets and two picnic shelters are provided, or at the privately owned Muloorina Station which includes toilet facilities.

Campgrounds with toilet and shower facilities are also located at Marree, William Creek, and at Coward Springs, 130 km west of Marree on the Oodnadatta Track.

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.

Pets in parks

Pets are not permitted within this park. There are however, a number of South Australian National Parks where you can take your dog on a lead. 

Traditional owners

Kati Thanda is a very special place to everyone who bears witness to it, particularly the Arabana and the Dieri People. Aboriginal people have been living around Kati Thanda for thousands of years, and it plays a central role in many of their stories and songs. This park is co-managed by an Advisory Committee, comprising members of the Arabana people and representatives of the South Australian Government.

Co-naming

Lake Eyre National Park is now formally known as Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park after a request through the Arabana Parks Advisory Committee. The Arabana Parks Advisory Committee is a partnership initiated in June 2012 between the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources to share responsibility for the management of the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park.

Words from the Arabana Parks Advisory Committee

We welcome visitors to our traditional lands and encourage them to learn about our stories and culture. In this area, visitor numbers vary greatly from about 5,000 in a dry year and soar to around 25,000 in a flood event year. We seek to establish culturally appropriate ways for people to experience the parks, in particular the waters and lake bed of Kati Thanda and the mound springs of the area, which have high conservation and cultural values, and are sensitive to visitor impacts.

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.

  • Seeing the vast lake by air (book a flight from one of the neighbouring towns).
  • Lying in your swag at night, seeing the stars as you never have before.
  • Photographing the spectacular lake and desert country at sunrise and sunset.

Bushwalking

There are no specific bushwalking trails within this park.

Please note: The Arabana people ask that visitors do not walk on the lake due to its cultural significance.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is currently not permitted in this park. 

Stay in the park

Camping

Experience the awe-inspiring stark wilderness of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park at night by setting up camp.

Halligan Bay Point

Located on the shores of the lake this is an exposed, flat campground with limited facilities – two toilets and two picnic shelters. However, if there is water in the lake, it can feel like beach camping.

Muloorina Station

There is also campsites available at Muloorina Station, fees apply.

Other campgrounds

Campgrounds with toilet and shower facilities are also located at Marree, William Creek, and at Coward Springs, 130 km west of Marree on the Oodnadatta Track.

Scenic flights

The best way to see Kati Thanda and take in its vastness is from the air. Scheduled scenic flights provide spectacular views across the park and showcase the seasonal wildlife.

A flight over the lake when there is water is an extraordinary sight. This huge lake attracts birds from thousands of kilometres away – how they know there will be a feast for them on arrival remains a mystery.

Lake Eyre Basin

The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the biggest internal drainage systems in the world, extending across the south east of the Northern Territory, south west Queensland, north west New South Wales and north east South Australia. The basin is equal in size to the area of South Australia and overlies most of the Great Artesian Basin. The floodwaters that flow into the lake are the result of high monsoon rainfall that usually falls over south west Queensland.

Each time the lake floods, the salt crust which forms much of the surface of the lake begins to dissolve until the salt level in the water reaches saturation point. When the lake starts to fill, the surface water is fairly fresh and drinkable because the heavier salty water is close to the lake bottom. From the air, water salinity variations can be seen as remarkable swirling current patterns.

Take a look at Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre from the air as featured on the Good Living blog.

Flora

Vegetation is generally sparse in the park. Canegrass and scattered clumps of mulga and acacias grow on the red sand dunes and the occasional stand of acacia can be seen on the coarse gibber tablelands. Nitre-bush, samphire, needlebush and native willow are also found in the Lake Eyre area. After heavy local rain the landscape bursts into colour and is surrounded by a sea of grass-green foliage. The flowers produce an abundance of nectar and seeds that attract many insects and in turn, flocks of birds.

After heavy local rain the area becomes a blaze of living colour edged by verdant green. When these plants burst into flower, their nectar and seed attract insects and birds.

Fauna

Generations of desert animals have had to adapt in order to survive in the harsh environment of Kati Thanda such as the Lake Eyre dragon. This lizard lives out on the dry lakebed eating ants and sheltering under the salt crust on the deep mud layer.

If you are lucky enough to visit during a flood you may witness the lake hosting a chaotic community of breeding birds that have flown thousands of kilometres from as far away as China and Japan.

Under the waterline, bony bream and hardyhead, shrimp and perch all begin their own breeding and feeding frenzies as water fills the lake. The Lake Eyre hardyhead can survive in water up to 15 times saltier than seawater so it can continue feeding and breeding as the other fish around it succumb to the salty water as the fresh water evaporates.

Volunteering

The Friends of Simpson Desert Parks

A community-based group of volunteers who work to protect and develop the natural and cultural heritage in the parks.

If you think you might be interested in volunteering opportunities within this park please contact our Volunteer Support Unit.

Safety

Camping

When camping in a National Park, it's important to remember the following:

  • Always let someone responsible know your travel plans, especially when travelling in remote areas. It's a good idea to let them know when you expect to return.
  • Check the weather forecast before you leave, including overnight temperatures on the Bureau of Meteorology. Even during very mild weather, the nights can get very cold. 
  • The quality and quantity of water cannot be guaranteed within parks. Please bring plenty of water and food to be self-sufficient.
  • Always camp in designated sites (where applicable) - do not camp beneath trees with overhanging branches, as they can drop without warning. It's also a good idea to check that there no insect nests nearby.
  • Check to make sure you're not camping in a natural waterway, flash floods can happen anytime.
  • If camp fires are permitted, you must bring your own firewood, as the collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited. Extinguish your camp fire with water (not sand or dirt) until the hissing sound stops.
  • Ensure that you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

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 throughout the year.
  • Gas fires are permitted, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

4WD

This park is 4WD accessible only. Up-to-date road conditions can be checked via the far northern and western road report or the parks office.

Far northern and western road report phone: 1300 361 033
Desert Parks Administration Officer phone: (+61 8) 8648 5328

You are responsible for your own safety. Before travelling through remote outback areas of Australia, ensure you notify a responsible person of your itinerary and expected date and time of return.

Outback safety

  • Before you leave home ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy and that you are carrying appropriate spare parts foremost contingencies – including a strong jack, and if possible, two spare wheels.
  • Carry adequate supplies of fuel, food and water in case of stranding.
  • Use only public access routes and designated camping areas.
  • Carry a satellite phone or an HF radio. Normal mobile phones do not work in most outback areas. It is also a good idea to carry an EPIRB.
  • Do not leave your vehicle in the event of a breakdown.
  • Check the conditions of outback roads before leaving the nearest major town.
  • Take note of where petrol stations are end route and their hours of operation.
  • Take frequent rest breaks and change drivers regularly.
  • Obey road closure signs and remain on main roads. Substantial fines apply for travelling off track. Deviating from the roads can create tyre marks that last for decades.
  • Do not drive on the lake. The seemingly hard surface can often hide soft mud underneath making it easy to get stuck, but hard to get out of.

Know before you go

The Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre National Park is part of a harsh, desert environment. The summer heat can be dangerous, and rain can quickly change the environment making the terrain difficult to navigate. For current access and road condition information, see the latest Desert Parks Bulletin.

Although the Arabana people prefer that no-one walks on the lake because of their spiritual beliefs, walking on the lake's edge is permitted providing that the local environment is not damaged.

Every park is different. Each has its own challenging environment and it is important to understand how to stay safe while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please:

  • leave your pets at home
  • respect the lake – do not drive upon it
  • do not feed or disturb animals (especially dingoes) or remove native plants
  • ensure your 4WD is fully prepared with adequate spares, supplies, water and emergency provisions, and know how to fully operate your vehicle
  • bring a satellite phone, EPIRB and/or UHF radio
  • do not leave the designated tracks in your vehicle
  • maintain the 40km/h speed limit within the park - the Public Access Routes leading to the park have a 60km/h speed limit.
  • take your rubbish with you
  • only use generators during daylight hours.

Maps

Park maps

Maps on your mobile

If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive national park maps on hand when you need them.

The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos and drop placemark pins. 

How to get it working on your device:

1. Download the Avenza PDF maps app from the app store whilst you are still in range (its free!).
2. Open up the app and click the shopping cart icon.
3. Click ‘Find’ and type the name of the national park or reserve you are looking for.
4. Click on the map you are after and install it (all our maps are free).
5. You will now find a list of your installed maps on the home page of the Avenza app.
6. Use our maps through the Avenza PDF map app while in the park and never take a wrong turn again.

Fees

Entry fees

Fees can be paid at the self-registration stations in the park. Please bring the correct money as change is not available.

Halligan Bay

Vehicle entry fees are to be paid at the self-registration station on the track to Halligan Bay Point, just off the Oodnadatta Track. You will need the correct change.

Level Post Bay

Vehicle entry fees are to be paid at Marree Telecentre.

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

Halligan Bay Point

Camp sites are available at Halligan Bay Point where toilets and two picnic shelters are provided, camping fees are to be paid at the registration bay at the start of the track out to Halligan Bay.

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.

Muloorina Station

Please pay a camping fee at the honesty box.

Fee: $10.00 (a percentage from each fee is donated to the Royal Flying Doctors Service).

Muloorina

The camping available at Muloorina is a privately run campground and separate fees apply.

Other fees and permits

Written permission is required from DEWNR for boating on Kati Thanda. An entry permit or Desert Parks Pass does not allow boating on Kati Thanda.

Any applications for permission to use the lake for boating will be assessed against safety, land access, and cultural heritage issues. Kati Thanda is culturally sensitive to the Arabana and Dieri people, and the cultural heritage issues that relate to recreational activities such as boating are currently under discussion.