Members Trips

stories from Australia


2010 Cooper Creek punt
Lake Eyre North
and Painted Desert Trip

by David Jones

    We did a trailerless (you can't take trailers across the Cooper Creek punt) trip in June 2010, travelling Melbourne - Renmark - Leigh Creek - Cooper Creek punt - Mungerannie - Cooper Creek Punt - Marree - Coward Springs - William Creek - Oodnadatta - Painted Desert - Coober Pedy - Woomera - Adelaide - Little Desert - Melbourne. Eleven days, 4016 kms.

    We spent the first night in Renmark after passing through the Fruit Fly Inspection Station and watching the people who didn't know about it losing all their fruit and vegetables. “Time on research is NEVER wasted!” We camped in the caravan park just over the bridge, right on the Murray’s green banks.

    It poured just as we started pitching the tent. In the morning we awoke to a real Murray River pea soup fog. You couldn’t see the river from the tent door! Ain’t it great, packing up a soaking wet tent on the first morning? Little did we know. Next morning we filled up the Waeco with fruit and vegies and headed off to the Morgan ferry and Burra then on up to Hawker. We drove up the western side of the Flinders Ranges to Leigh Creek for the night.

    Next morning, after folding up a frozen tent (which was to be the norm from now on.), we drove to the Farina Ruins.


    Then it was on to Marree and we turned up the Birdsville Track to the punt. Crossing on the punt was fun and we timed it well, not having to wait at all.


    Mungerannie was very quiet. The publican said that business was well down because they had lost all the camper trailer business because of the punt. We had a soak in the spa and in the morning did some bird watching on the wetlands before heading back down the Birdsville Track.

    We drove around the detour signs and headed down to where the Cooper Creek and Birdsville Track come together. I drove across here last year headed for Birdsville and the Simpson Desert and it was 5 kilometres of dusty sand. It was little different this year!

   The bird life along the Cooper was amazing. I saw large flocks of avocets flying up and down the creek, all types of small waders, herons and egrets, huge skeins of pelicans and other birds too numerous to count. We drove back to the punt, recrossed the Cooper and drove down to Marree for lunch, stopping off at the car wash on the way.

    After lunch we headed off up the Oodnadatta Track to Lake Eyre South. The water was visible from the lookout.

    We drove on to Coward Springs for the night, being the last vehicle allowed in as the place was full. Coward Springs is a great camping spot with its own small spa pool, a great little museum in the old Engine Driver’s Cottage and excellent campsites dotted among the trees. The managers do a fantastic job.


    Next morning we packed up and backtracked to the Mound Springs for a look see.


    The Bubbler really lived up to its name!

    We were in William Creek well before lunch and set up camp in the empty campground. Luckily we were able to get on a 2 hour flight that afternoon over to see the Cooper Creek entering Lake Eyre. It had reached the lake a couple of days before we arrived.

    We flew over the Warburton Groove.

    Then it was across to the Cooper.


    On the way back we were treated to a spectacular viewing of the legendary Lake Eyre reflections.



    They just kept getting better! The pilot remarked to us and on the radio that they were by far the best reflections he had ever seen. Lucky us! It meant we had to land right on sunset though, which made things interesting...

    When we got back to our campsite we were surrounded by other campers who had arrived while we were flying. Next morning we headed straight out to Halligan Bay to see Lake Eyre North from the ground. On the way you drive to the lowest point you can drive to in Australia, the point where the track runs along the very edge of Lake Eyre. It is about 12 metres below sea level.

    The campground was fairly full and a lot of campers left as we arrived. Was it something we said? We walked out to the water's edge and took a few photos.


    There was a "bath ring" of dead, dried up small fish and brine shrimp in a 2 metre wide band along the shore from the last filling.


    Back to William Creek and pack up a dry tent for a change. We continued up the Oodnadatta Track to Duff Creek for lunch then on to the Algebukina Bridge.


    We decided not to camp there as it was getting busy and it suited hard floor camper trailers more than tents - the ground was very hard and rocky!

    We continued on to Oodnadatta to fuel up and camp at the "caravan park" behind the Pink Roadhouse.


    Next time I’ll camp at the bridge...

    Next morning it was off to the Painted Desert. What a fantastic place it is! I loved it. I don't think you can take a bad photo there.


    We did the walking track, which is fantastic and a credit to the Arkaringa managers, and then headed on to Arkaringa Station to set up camp. This is a good spot to camp. It has showers and toilets plus a large campfire ring. You are not allowed to camp in the Painted Desert area - a great idea, I think.

    We headed back out for the sunset photos.

    We headed back to camp for tea and then a short sleep before heading back, pre-dawn, for the dawn photos. It was around minus three degrees when we started taking the dawn shots. But worth it!


    A couple of Painted Desert panoramas to finish:


    We even had a dingo on the track as we headed back for breakfast.

    We packed up a dry tent and headed into Coober Pedy for lunch and then headed off south down the Stuart Highway (boring bitumen and very busy with a lot of traffic headed north) to Woomera for the night. We visited the outdoor museum before continuing down the bitumen to Adelaide to spend the night with some friends. Hooray, no tent to pitch and pack up again!

    Next morning we set off back to Melbourne, stopping overnight at Kiata Campground on the northern edge of the Little Desert National Park. One more pack up of a frozen tent...

    We were treated to a march past by a flock of around twenty emus, right past the tent.

    It was a fantastic trip and we were really glad to be able to do the Cooper Creek punt and see Lake Eyre North with water in it and Cooper Creek feeding in. A once every twenty years event.

    The reflections over Lake Eyre were stunning and the Painted Desert is magnificent - you have to see a sunset and a sunrise to really enjoy it.

    Now we are waiting for our VistaRV Crossover (no frozen canvas to pack up!!!) to come off the production line so we can head back to the desert - this time to see the desert in bloom around Innamincka and Birdsville. Hopefully it will stop raining so we can get there!


thanks to David Jones for sharing his trip with us