After a lonesome night at Foggarty’s Claypan we pushed north to Dalhousie Springs in Witjira National Park. These are the largest complex of natural springs on the great artesian basin and it is estimated that 43% of the naturally flowing waters of the whole basin emerge here. Today there are also many artificial bores mining the waters of the great artesian basin. As this happens faster than it recharges, flow rates are dropping and several natural springs have dried up however, however there are steps being taken to reduce the wastage and the flow from man made has reduced about 25% since it’s peak of 2000 megalitres per day (ref Wikipedia)
After many dusty kilometers, arriving at Dalhousie Springs is truly remarkable – with trees, reeds and general greenery emerging from the bright white desert sands. To cap it off, it is possible to swim in one of the spring fed lakes in water that varies between 34 and 39 degrees C. For the first 2 days we were there, the air temperature reached the low 30s and with the sun baking the surface of the already hot pool, it was probably near the top of its range. So while it was very welcome to wash off the dust and get away from the flies, which don’t seem to like venturing out over water, it was not at all refreshing and one soon overheated and had to get out. However for night time dips and on our third day there, which was significantly cooler, the pool was lovely.
On the road into Dalhousie Springs we stopped off at the old Dalhousie Station homestead ruins. These were established near some of the southern most springs of the Dalhousie complex in the late 1800s and operated as a cattle and sheep station, but eventually abandoned – first by the European settlers, then later by the aboriginal workers who remained behind for several years and continued to run it as a cattle farm. The date palms that were planted around the springs have become a bit of a problem, crowding out other species and altering the nature of the banks of the springs and propagating themselves to other springs in the area. Eradication programs are underway, but a couple of male trees have been left at the homestead ruins for historical reasons.
On our first full day at Dalhousie Springs we went for a walk to another set of springs about 3km away called kingfisher springs. These did not have good swimming access and if it were not for some feral cows which had trampled down an access route to the biggest pool it may not have even been possible to see it because of the dense surrounding vegetation. However, apart from this benefit, it’s sad to see cows in National Parks as they damage the ground and vegetation and foul up waterholes. We seem to be seeing cows in National Parks all over the country, it’s surprising that one does not hear about this issue more.
Views from around Kingfisher Springs. There are also some date palms infesting these springs. Although some of the larger ones have been removed, there are already many smaller ones growing back.
Some interesting vegetation and dingo footprints on the walk. The night before we had heard dingos howling, and even on the walk we heard a few in the distance. The following night we caught a brief glimpse of one walking past our campsite, but by the time we got the torch out, it had disappeared.
Dalhousie Springs lies on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. As it isn’t feasible to take a caravan across the the Simpson Desert we decided to take a day trip into the western edge of the desert to Purni Bore. This was a bore drilled in the 1960’s in a search for oil, but instead it struck artesian water. Although the oil company capped the bore before leaving, after a few years, it corroded and water started flowing out freely at 18 litres per second creating a permanent lake between two dunes and an oasis for birds, animals and travellers. However in recent years, the bore has been recapped and now only a trickle has been left which still attracts some wildlife.
Purni Bore is east of Dalhousie Springs, so to avoid driving into the sun, then spending time there in the heat of the day with no wildlife active then driving back into the setting sun, we decided to set off 2 hours before sunrise to get there shortly after sunrise. After the initial shock, it was lovely driving first by moonlight, then watching the sun rise as we approached the dunes. Then after a couple of hours at the bore, we headed back with the sun overhead and returned to Dalhousie for a dust-off in the pool in the early afternoon.
Flowers on the dunes at first light before they have woken up on the left and on the right: a few hours later after they have had their morning coffee.
Purni Bore info signs (click on the images to read)