Cooper Country has held a mystique in the Australian Psyche since the days of the early explorers. Burke and Wills died of malnutrition on its banks. In Australian literature it was featured in Banjo Paterson's poem "Clancy of the Overflow", and the extraordinary stories of the trevails in the mid nineteenth centry suffered by Lutheran Missionaries come to life in Warren Bonython's "Where the Seasons Come and Go" and Christine Steven's "White Man's Dreaming".
There is nowhere quite like the Cooper. A great river as big as the Murray that only flows intermittently, perhaps only once every twenty years. It transports billions of tons of sediment from channel country down to Lake Eyre, helping to create the longitudinal sand dunes of the Strzelecki, Tirari and Simpson Deserts. Its permanent water holes provide refugia for both aquatic and avian fauna, and a welcome respite for desert weary travellers to sit in the shade of ancient coolibah trees.
This expedition travels to the magical lower cooper country. From Adelaide we strike north from the Flinders Ranges through the Strzelecki Desert to Innaminka. We then visits Cordillo Downs and cross Sturts Stony Desert to the Birdsville Track. We climb Big Red, the famous sand dune in the Simpson Desert before heading south to Etadunna Station, we then travel on private station tracks downstream into the seldom visited Tirari Desert and explore this wild, spectacular and remote region before returning to Adelaide.
In an extraordinary comedy of events the explorers Burke and Wills died on the Cooper. On their return from Carpentaria they were trapped at the Cooper, surrounded by desert, unable to escape. We visit the Dig Tree and the locatioins where this tragedy was played out . Were they brilliant navigators and explorers, or a couple of losers?
The Cooper only flows over the Birdsville Track once every twenty years on average. What rises as a mighty river in Queensland gradually peters out into a series of waterholes. Some, which are permenent, like Cullymulla at Innaminka are surrounded by majestic river red gums and are big enough to waterski on. Others, like Lake Hope support a commercial fishery in the good times, but gradually dry up and return to vast dry salt lakes. As the river gradually makes its way down to Lake Eyre it gets dryer and dryer. Its bed cuts through the sand hills of the Tirari Desert before ending at Lake Eyre.
Historically they were serious drinkers in Innaminka. The bottle dump behind the pub was described in the 1920s as being over two meters high and 200 meters long. In 1974 the whole lot was washed away in a flood never to be seen again. A previous flood in 1956 took the police building and Innaminka Station.