Witjira National Park

  • Showers
  • Picnic Areas
  • Caravan Sites
  • Toilets
  • Camping
  • 4WD
  • Swimming
  • Bird Watching
PDF Park Brochure
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Witjira SA map

A true oasis in the desert, featuring more than 120 springs surrounded by lush greenery and abundant wildlife. The park sits on the western edge of the Simpson Desert in the far north of South Australia amid endless sand dunes and stark gibber plains.

Witjira SA map

A true oasis in the desert, featuring more than 120 springs surrounded by lush greenery and abundant wildlife. The park sits on the western edge of the Simpson Desert in the far north of South Australia amid endless sand dunes and stark gibber plains.

About

Witjira National Park features more than 120 mound springs. The park includes the National Heritage-listed Dalhousie Springs, used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years as a source of food, shelter and medicine. You can swim in the main spring’s warm waters. The area is home to unique species of fish such as the Dalhousie hardyhead and other rare aquatic life found nowhere else in the world.

The attraction of the springs, combined with some delightful camping spots and quality visitor facilities, make Witjira one of the most popular parks in the outback.

If you're lucky enough to be visiting the park a few weeks after a soaking rain, you'll be rewarded with the ephemeral wildflowers bursting into bloom.

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. 

Contact details

Desert Parks Information

Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5328
Email: DesertParks@sa.gov.au

After Hours Regional Duty Officer: 0408 378 284

Outback Road Report

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

When to visit

The best time of year to visit is between April and September. If you're lucky enough to visit the park a few weeks after a soaking rain, you'll be rewarded with the ephemeral wildflowers bursting into bloom in the sand dune country.

Getting there

Witjira National Park is located 887km north-west of Port Augusta. Access is via Stuart Highway, Oodnadatta.

From Adelaide: Either travel via Port Augusta, Marla (or turn off at Coober Pedy), Oodnadatta, Hamilton Station then via the Pedirka track to Dalhousie or travel to Eringa then to Dalhousie Springs.

From Birdsville: Travel via the QAA Line and French Line track to Purni Bore and Dalhousie Springs.

From the Northern Territory: Enter via Kulgera, Finke, New Crown and Charlotte Waters.

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

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. 

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

Witjira National Park is part of the traditional country of the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru people and is of special cultural significance to members of these groups. The ancient springs have a strong mythological significance for Aboriginal people and are featured in many tribal stories and songs, and there are many Aboriginal cultural and heritage sites within the park. A Co-management Board manages the park. It comprises members of the two groups and members of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

Word from the Witjira National Park Co-management Board

We have been co-operatively managing Witjira for decades, responsible for jointly managing the park since 1995 and later becoming a Co-management Board in 2007. We have strong links to this land, reflected through Altyerre/Tjukurpa and the many Dreaming stories that weave throughout the park.

One of our biggest achievements is working together. We respect each other’s expertise and strengths, as well as having respect and trust in a working relationship for the benefit of all.

We work with partners to achieve conservation and cultural objectives including controlling date palms that invade wetland habitats, reducing feral animal populations that damage our land (such as camels and donkeys), and improving visitor facilities.

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

The Dalhousie mound springs have been part of Aboriginal life for thousands of years.  They were first sighted by Europeans on 10 December 1870 when a small party of surveyors working on the Overland Telegraph Line in search of water located the springs.

Ned Bagot took up the first lease of Dalhousie Station on New Years Day in 1873.  Other stations of Bloods Creek, Mount Dare and Federal were also taken up and later amalgamated under the umbrella of the Dalhousie Pastoral Company.

Sheep, angora goats, horses, camels and cattle were bred on this station.  In the 1950s, agriculture was attempted with lucerne planted near the Dalhousie main spring.

After a century of pastoralism, the mound springs with national biological, geological and cultural significance had become degraded. On 21 November 1985, the 77769 square kilometre station was purchased and dedicated as Witjira 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.

  • Relaxing in the warm waters at Dalhousie Springs.
  • Exploring the historical, heritage-listed Dalhousie Ruins.
  • Admiring the red mulga, gidgee, coolibah and whitewood trees along the many creeks.
  • Watching out for the unusual Dalhousie goby fish, and rare bird species, such as the Australian bustard, the flock bronzewing, and the plains wanderer.
  • Observing dingoes, the central bearded dragon, Gould’s sand goanna and, if you’re lucky, red kangaroos in their natural habitat.
  • Bird watching around the main spring and Kingfisher Springs at Dalhousie, and the Purni Bore wetlands

Bushwalking

There are two easy walks at Dalhousie springs - one around the main springs and the other out to Kingfisher Springs. You can also stroll around the Purni Bore wetland.

Moderate hikes

  • Balcanoona Creek Hike (2 hrs 30 mins one way, 6km)

    This hike meanders through the Balcanoona Range to the Weetootla Gorge and its network of hikes. The hike passes by Grindells Hut.

  • McTaggart Track Hike (3 hrs one way, 7.6km)

    A longer hike along the McTaggart Track, can be done in conjunction with one of the hikes above.

  • Monarch Mine Hike (2 hrs 30 mins one way, 6.8km)

    This hike takes you past an abandoned copper mine and over shale and magnesite hills.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is currently not permitted in this park. 

Stay in the park

Camping

Wash off the red dust from your outback adventure in the region’s warm thermal springs - Australia’s largest artesian springs - then make your way back to your camp site to enjoy the remote outback landscape.

Dalhousie

This well-established campground has a number of designated camp sites and includes toilets, cold showers and a day visitor parking area.

Mount Dare Hotel

Mount Dare campground has food and drinks, hot showers, fuel, water and mechanical assistance available.

3 O'Clock Creek

The bush camping area at 3 O'Clock Creek offers shady camping spots and water. This bore water is the last place to fill up on drinking water before you cross the desert. Always carry adequate supplies of drinking water.

Purni Bore

Purni Bore is a pleasant camping spot with abundant birdlife, however visitors need to take their own drinking water and supplies. There is a hot shower, toilets and shade shelter provided. The purchase of a Desert Parks Pass is required to camp at Purni Bore and gain access east of Dalhousie.

Sites of interest

Dalhousie Springs

Dalhousie Springs are part of a chain of mound springs extending along the outer rim of the Great Artesian Basin. The artesian water rises up from a considerable depth through cracks and fissures in the subterranean strata. At the point of exit, the water, which originally entered the complex system in the Finke River area in the Northern Territory, is millions of years old. The water in the Dalhousie Main Spring is around 37 degrees, making it perfect for a relaxing soak.

Purni Bore

The Purni Bore was created in 1963 when the French Petroleum Company came to explore the rock strata beneath the Great Artesian Basin. The bore was drilled to a depth of 1880 metres, then capped and sealed. Over time the wellhead corroded and water flowed out of the bore at a rate of up to 18 litres per second, creating an artificial wetland. The water flow has been restricted back to about 4 litres per second and the now permanent waterhole attracts many bird species looking for a respite from the desert heat. The water that flows out of the bore head is a near boiling at 85 degrees Celsius.

Bloods Creek

The Bloods Creek windmill stands as a solitary reminder of what was once a thriving cattle station. Bloods Creek operated for some years as a pastoral lease in its own right, before being amalgamated by Edin Lowe, along with Federal, Mt Dare and Dalhousie Springs to form the Dalhousie Pastoral Company.

Dalhousie Ruins

The Dalhousie Pastoral lease was first taken up by Ned Bagot in 1873. The homestead and several other buildings still remain, including a blacksmiths shop and stockyards.

Volunteering

Become a Campground Host

Combine your love of camping with doing a good deed by becoming a volunteer campground host in this park.

A campground host is a volunteer who stays at the park either for a specific peak period, like the Easter break or a long weekend, or an extended period of time (up to a few months) to support park rangers. 

If you are passionate about the environment, a keen camper, like to meet people from all around the world, and are a happy to help, then hosting could be right up your alley. 

Friends of the Simpson Desert Parks

The Friends of Simpson Desert Parks is a community-based group of volunteers who work to protect and develop the natural and cultural heritage in the park.

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

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?

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

Prohibited throughout the year.

Mt Dare Campground
Wood fires and solid fuel fires are prohibited from 1 November 2016 to 31 March 2017.

Alternative solid fuel fires

Prohibited from 1 Nov 2016 to 31 March 2017.
Outside of these dates alternative solid fuel fires are permitted in portable firepits, braziers or similar receptacles only.

Gas and liquid fires

Permitted other than on days of total fire ban

Please note:

  • You must bring your own firewood, as the collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

Dingo safety

To remain safe and to keep dingoes wild, please:

  • ensure you store rubbish, food, shoes and leather items securely
  • do not feed the dingoes – they are naturally lean animals
  • always stay close to your children
  • do not encourage, excite, or run away from dingoes
  • if you are attacked, aggressively defend yourself.

4WD

Most roads in this park are 4WD accessible only. Check the weather forecast and road conditions before you leave.

Desert Parks Information

Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5328
Email: DesertParks@sa.gov.au

Outback Road Report

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

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 for most contingencies – including a strong jack, and if possible, two spare wheels.
  • Carry adequate supplies of fuel, food and water in case you get stranded.
  • 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 fuel stations are en 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.

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:

  • leave your pets at home
  • 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.

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.

The self registration station is located at Dalhousie Springs.

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

Fees apply to enter and camp in this park. On-the-spot fines apply to vehicles not displaying a valid permit.

Dalhousie Springs

A self registration station is located at Dalhousie Springs, on the eastern side of the office.

Campsite fees (per night)

Vehicle (max 8 people) - $15
Hikers/cyclists/additional vehicle occupant (per person) - $9
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.

3 O'Clock Creek

A self registration station is located at Dalhousie Springs, on the eastern side of the office or at Mount Dare.

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.

Purni Bore

You must purchase a Desert Parks Pass if you wish to camp at Purni Bore.

Mount Dare

The Mount Dare campground is privately operated and separate fee is payable at Mt Dare Hotel.

Other fees and permits

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