Swimming in the Outback

The Outback Loop is a fairly harsh place with not many opportunities to don the bathers and dip a toe…after all, it is a desert region. However, there are pockets where natural springs provide relief to dusty, weary travellers.

One such place exists in Witjira National Park, on the western edge of the Simpson Desert.

Dalhousie Springs is 180 kilometres north east of Oodnadatta and about 430 kilometres west of Birdsville. This tree-lined spring is a real desert oasis except the waters are made for soaking away tired muscles rather than cooling off after a long, hot day driving across the desert.

Nonetheless, the waters are welcome as is evident by the large crowds that flock to camp, relax and unwind there in the winter months.

The springs are sacred to the Lower Southern Arrernte and Wangkangurru Aboriginal people. In Arrernte, the name of the springs is Irrwanyere.

Whether you’re coming from, or entering the Simpson, Dalhousie Springs is on your way. Just about every desert traveller stops and camp overnight. Just remember, you’ll need a 4WD to get there and a SA Desert Parks Pass to camp or visit.

Speaking of which, camping facilities at Dalhousie are terrific but don’t expect too much shade. There are a series of loops and a couple of shelters and some individual and group campsites. Be aware too, that the campgrounds can get very crowded in the ‘tourist’ months between May and September. Also note that campfires are no longer allowed in Witjira National Park.

As to the spring itself, there are excellent facilities in place to get in and out of the water. Be aware that  the water is highly mineralised and, although drinkable, not really a palate pleaser. Besides, the temperature is such that you’ll probably be hopping out every now and then for a cooler drink.

The hot water bubbles up from deep underground and temperatures can vary (between 38ºC to 43ºC) depending on where you are. Just remember to swim somewhere else if it gets too hot or if it gets too crowded. Don’t be surprised too if you get nibbled by tiny fish that live in the water.

Swimming isn’t the only thing of interest at Dalhousie Springs. There are also some excellent walking trails worth exploring. Further afield, visits to Mount Dare to stock up on supplies is a wise move and points of interest can be found at Abminga, Eringa, Purnie Bore, Perdirka, and if time permits, Charlotte Waters just over the NT border.