'String of Springs'
'It isn't the straightest route, but it's the only one if you want to survive.'
The Oodnadatta Track follows a line of naturally occurring springs in the South Australian Outback.
With the scarcity of water in the surrounding desert areas, knowing the location of springs was essential for Aboriginal survival and European expansion.
The springs provided unfailing drought relief for the Arabunna people and feature prominently in rituals and mythology. The route through the springs was used for travelling to cultural ceremonies and for trading.
The route was also vital to European exploration, with John McDouall Stuart using the route in 1862 to complete the first south to north crossing of Australia. The Overland Telegraph and Great Northern (Ghan) Railway closely followed the line of springs.
See Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park for more information on the springs.
The Oodnadatta Track runs from Marree, which is also the start of the Birdsville Track, to Marla. Fuel and basic supplies are available at Marree, William Creek, Oodnadatta and Marla, but there's NOTHING in between in the way of services.
The Track is 617 km of unsealed road, rough in places, but suitable for 2wd with care. The road is closed when it's wet, which helps to keep it in reasonable condition, but you still have a choice of driving through corrugations or loose gravel!
It took me a week to travel from one end to the other. You could possibly do it in a day, but if you do you're missing the point of being here. My suggestion is to listen to calming classical music to keep your speed down rather than heavy rock and roll, which makes you want to drive faster. I'd also suggest that when you stop to take a photo, wait for the dust to pass before opening your door.
There are numerous side tracks to the springs, camping areas and ruins of pastoral, telegraph and railway settlements. Most of these can be travelled in 2wd but some are 4wd-only.
I got through with the van on the back with no problems and I passed a number of caravans and assorted motor homes along the track - my trip coincided with the annual northerly migration of the grey nomads.
The land generally varies between red sand dunes and 'gibber' plains (click for more information on 'gibber plains'), which are broken up by tree-lined creeks and waterways - all dry when I was there. There are also patches of tablelands dotted with mesas, a number of clay pans and salt lakes, including Lake Eyre, and the Peake and Denison Ranges are clearly visible along part of the track.
There is very little rain here, approximately 115 mm per year and the temperature gets up to 50 degrees Celsius - which is why I travelled in the winter!
The plant life is varied. Species survive by basically hibernating in the dry periods and coming to life in the wet.
There is a variety of birdlife visible along the track, especially near the springs. I saw very few other animals. The few kangaroos I saw quickly disappeared when I approached. The track runs through farming land and the cows look surprisingly healthy ??? it can???t be from the grass because there is none, so the stones must be very nutritious!
Elevation: 116 metres
Latitude: -27.5553 | Longitude: 135.4456