The Final Simpson Desert Expedition

Simpson Desert Expedition

Ted Coulson
Ted Colson - Triumph of the Bloke

The Simpson Desert's first crossing was attributed to Dr Cecil T Madigan, eminent geologist from Adelaide who raised an expedition in 1939

and successfully crossed from Abminga to Birdsville. But in 1936, with little fanfare, Ted Colson, a farmer and knock about bloke from Bloods Creek had crossed to Birdsville, stayed at the Birdsville Pub for a couple of days and then crossed again to go home.

navigation border
As far as deserts go - It's a pup.

Spectral analysis of sand particles in the Simpson Desert show that it is geologically 19-24,000 years old, only dating back to the last interglacial. Before

that it was grassland and shallow lakes. This would suggest that the Wangkangurru people who lived in the Simpson, also lived there when it was a much wetter place and adapted as the desert dried out.


  • 1

    The spectacular Flinders

    We collect you from your accommodation in Adelaide CBD, heading north towards Port Augusta at the head of Spencer Gulf. Our journey ascends through Pitchi Ritchi Pass, leading us to the charming town of Quorn with its remarkable heritage streetscape, marking our entry into the magnificent Flinders Ranges. We enjoy lunch at Warren Gorge, where you might catch a glimpse of a rare colony of Yellow-Footed Rock Wallabies. Our exploration continues as we navigate off-the-beaten track, heading northward to the renowned Prairie Hotel at Parachilna. From there, we proceed to Parachilna Gorge, where our first night's camp awaits, surrounded by the captivating landscapes that inspired artist Hans Heysen.

    Flinders Ranges
  • 2

    Brachina Gorge

    Begin your first morning in the heart of the outback to the symphony of birdsong, accompanied by a delightful breakfast. After breaking camp, our journey leads us to Brachina Gorge, where we embark on an award-winning, self-interpretive geological trail unraveling 200 million years of geological history. Winding beneath the native pines and alongside the striking red quartzite ridges, the landscape tells a tale as ancient as time. Our next destination is Blinman, the highest town in South Australia. Meandering eastward through the ranges, we reach our campsite at Chambers Gorge. Here, you have the option to ascend to the summit for awe-inspiring panoramic views or a leisurely stroll down the gorge, surrounded by majestic river red gums. If you're feeling adventurous, why not do both?

    Brachina Gorge
  • 3

    Aboriginal Petroglyphs

    Traverse the expansive Balcanoona Plain, treating yourself to breathtaking vistas of Illawortinna Pound, en route to Italowie Gorge, marking our entry into the Gammon Ranges National Park. Our journey unfolds on exclusive private station roads, arranged through special permissions, leading us to a unique camping experience on private land. Here, nestled near a lesser-known Aboriginal art site, witness the ancient story etched on the red walls of a dramatic gorge, adorned with thousands of stone carvings dating back to the Pleistocene era. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history and nature in this secluded and awe-inspiring setting.

    Red Gorge
  • 4

    Moonrise on the Cooper

    The Flinders Ranges recede as we venture north onto the vast plains. Our first stop is the historic township of Marree, a former "Ghan" town steeped in the legacy of Afghan Cameleers. Delve into the town's rich history, exploring noteworthy sites, including the renowned Bejah Dervish's historic residence. For those seeking an extraordinary experience, Marree offers the option of an unforgettable flight over Lake Eyre, a mesmerising opportunity to behold the vast expanse from above. Our journey continues along the iconic Birdsville Track, passing through Dulkaninna and Clayton stations before reaching Etadunna Station. Through exclusive arrangements with the station owners, we traverse to our secluded camp on the floodplain of the mighty Cooper River, shaded by ancient box coolabah trees. Immersing ourselves in the historical tapestry of the region, we explore the ruins of the Bethesda Lutheran Mission at Lake Kilalpaninna. This mission played a pivotal role in the clash of European and Dieri culture, and the extraordinary stories that unfold offer a unique glimpse into this complex intersection of histories. Join us on a journey that intertwines natural wonders, cultural exploration, and the captivating history of the land.

  • 5

    Birdsville Track

    We travel north on the iconic Birdsville Track, and we are soon in the Naterannie Sandhills that once posed a formidable obstacle for the Birdsville mailmen. After lunch at the remote Mungerannie pub, our expedition leads us through Mungerannie Gap and further north to Mirra Mitta bore, where water emerges at an almost boiling temperature. Continuing our northward journey, we reach Clifton Hills Station, South Australia's largest expanse at an impressive 16,000 sq km, licensed to graze a maximum of 21,500 cattle. With exclusive permission, our camp is set beneath a striking red sandhill in Sturt’s Stony Desert.

    Birdsville Track
  • 6-9

    On top of Big Red

    Venturing even further north, we pay our respects at the poignant grave of the Page family, who tragically lost their lives when their vehicle broke down in the summer of 1962. Our arrival in Birdsville marks the culmination of our Birdsville Track adventure. Take time to explore the local attractions before bidding farewell to civilisation and heading westward to initiate our crossing of the legendary Simpson Desert, the world's largest sand dune desert, promising an epic experience. Our journey commences with the formidable challenge of conquering the 40-meter Nappanerica Dune, affectionately known as Big Red. Once over, we find ourselves immersed in the expansive dunefield, tracing the paths of abandoned oil exploration and seismic tracks over the next three days. Along this extraordinary route, discover captivating stops such as Eyre Creek, the tri-state border at Poeppels Corner, the unique flour gypsum outcrops of the Approdinna Attora knolls, the numerous salt lakes of Pirra Pirra Poorlwanna, and the native wells known as Mikiri—once inhabited by the original Wangkangurru until their departure from the desert in 1901. On our final day in the desert, we reach Dalhousie Springs, where a refreshing swim in delightful warm artesian water awaits, washing away the remnants of desert dust. Our camp is set near the historic Mt Dare homestead, providing a fitting conclusion to this extraordinary journey through the vast and captivating landscapes of Australia's outback.

    Big Red
  • 10

    Old Andado Homestead

    After refuelling at Mt Dare homestead we cross the Finke River, acclaimed as the world's oldest river, forging ahead to the heritage-listed Old Andado Station. This station, once the residence of outback legends Mac and Mollie Clarke, offers an immersive experience reminiscent of the bygone era of outback pioneers. Explore the well-preserved homestead and transport yourself back in time. Venturing further north, our next stop is the Mac Clarke Acacia Peuce Reserve. Here, marvel at the extraordinary Waddi Tree, an exceptionally rare species found only in three locations across Australia. This unique reserve pays homage to the conservation efforts dedicated to preserving this remarkable natural wonder. Our journey continues to the north, culminating in our campsite near the Rodinga Range.

    Old Andado Station
  • 11

    Drop Bulldust Here

    We visit the Santa Theresa Mission, and arrive in Alice Springs late morning, and the end of an extraordinary expedition.