Innamincka Regional Reserve

Campfire Caravan Disabled Fishing Kiosk/Restaurant Park entry fee Pets Swimming Toilets Watersports Wildflowers Wildlife Aboriginal site Camping area Four-wheel drive touring Information Lookout Ranger
Coongie Lakes National Park, Dick and Pip Smith / Australian Geographic

Introduction

Surrounded by trackless desert and inhospitable gibber plains, the beautiful verdant wetlands of the Cooper Creek in Innamincka Regional Reserve and of Coongie Lakes in Coongie Lakes National Park form the core of a remote, vast and protected area. Picturesque waterholes shaded by coolibah trees provide a habitat for a surprising number of wetland birds and aquatic creatures.

Fact file

Access

From Adelaide via Lyndhurst then Strzelecki Track; from Tibooburra (NSW) via Cameron Corner and Merty Merty; from Birdsville (QLD) via Cordillo Downs, or via Moomba (permission required) on the Walkers Crossing Track

Best season

Autumn to spring

Location

1000 km north-east of Adelaide; 480 km north-east of Lyndhurst; 387 km north-west of Tibooburra; 426 km south-east of Birdsville

Park information

  • Parks SA (08) 8204 1910
  • Desert Parks Hotline (08) 8648 5328
  • Parks SA Innamincka (08) 8675 9909
  • Transport SA Outback Hotline 1300 361 033

Permits

Desert Parks Pass required per vehicle

Size

1 354 000 ha

Visitor information

Innamincka Trading Post (08) 8675 9900

Featured Activities in the National Park

  • Visit the sites where Burke and Wills perished

    Paddle a canoe on the tranquil Coongie Lakes

    Swim in Australia’s biggest billabong, the beautiful Cullyamurra Waterhole

See Also

A look at the past

Charles Sturt trekked along the Cooper and named it in 1844 and by the 1880s the watercourse was established as a route for drovers and travellers. However, it was in 1860 that the creek was etched into the annals of Australian outback history when Burke and Wills died here after their arduous journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The only survivor of the ill-fated expedition, John King, was found by a rescue party after being cared for by Aboriginal people. The sites of these awful events are marked by memorial plaques.

By 1900 the first pastoral stations had been established at Coongie and Innamincka, later combining to form the Kidman Pastoral Company, which still holds the leases. The reserve, established in 1988, includes Innamincka as well as the world-renowned wetlands of the Coongie system.

Aboriginal culture

The Yandruwandha, Yawarrawarrka and Dieri people have lived in the region for thousands of years. Stone engravings, middens, scattered artefacts in tool-making sites, campsites, quarries and stone arrangements are common around the Coongie Lakes and along the Cooper, especially the North West Branch. Some human remains are visible, too, and these must be treated with respect and left alone. Innamincka park headquarters, housed in the 1928 Elizabeth Symon Nursing Home, has an interpretive display of Aboriginal culture.

Natural features

The regional reserve encompasses much of the flood plain of the Cooper Creek, while drifting dunes of the Simpson Desert, and the gibber of Sturt Stony Desert, feature on the northern and north-western edges. Coongie Lakes are topped up when northern monsoon rains spill down the Barcoo, Thompson and Wilson rivers into Cooper Creek.

Cullyamurra Waterhole is a permanent billabong, with a depth to 28 metres. On rare occasions there is enough water to find its way along the Cooper to the vast Lake Eyre basin. Since European settlement, Lake Eyre has been flooded only a handful of times (1891, 1950, 1974, 2000 and 2010); each time tourists flock to the region for the spectacular sight.

Native plants

Where water is plentiful, groves of river red gums cast welcome shade and in places where intermittent floods occur there are coolibahs and lignum. Out on the gibber plains only a few tough plants such as Mitchell grass can survive. In gullies and drainage channels there is red mulga and gidgee. The vegetation of the sandhill country is determined by how much moisture the plants can extract from the soil. Whitewood, hopbush and sandhill wattle are adapted to the dunes and, in the swales if water is available, grasses are replaced by coolibahs.

Wildlife

The Coongie wetland is internationally recognised for its bird diversity. There are 205 recorded species and 24 of these are rare or endangered. Over 50 wetland bird species breed in the area. In 2002 scientists counted 70 000 birds in the wetland, with an astounding congregation of 50 000 ducks on Lake Goolangirie alone. Cooper Creek is a breeding area for many birds of prey and almost every sizeable tree contains a nest, sometimes several.

Red kangaroos and dingoes are often seen but most smaller marsupials are nocturnal. At dusk you might see water rats and bats. The world’s most venomous land snake, the inland taipan, lives in the reserve and although rarely encountered, should be left undisturbed. The central bearded dragon and Gould’s sand goanna are commonplace while the reserve’s ten species of frogs are often heard but rarely seen.

Introduction

Alongside its fascinating European history, the park offers a rare combination of desert camping and wetland activities. Among the recreational pursuits, visitors can enjoy a quiet paddle or leisurely swim in Australia’s largest billabong, Cullyamurra Waterhole.

Boat tours and canoeing

Powerboats with motors up to 10 horsepower are permitted on the waterholes of the regional reserve as long as they do not exceed 10 knots. At Coongie Lakes motorboats are not allowed but visitors can paddle a canoe or row a boat.

Fishing

You can toss a line into Cullyamurra Waterhole to catch yellow-belly and catfish. A recreational fishing licence is not required for fishing in Cooper Creek (in South Australia) but bag and size limits apply. Contact PIRSA Fisheries (08) 8347 6100, or for further information visit their website (www.pir.sa.gov.au/fishing). Fishing is not permitted in Coongie Lakes National Park.

Four-wheel driving

A 4WD track runs north along the North West Branch of the Cooper to the Coongie Lakes. Other tracks head to Cullyamurra and Tilcha waterholes.

Heritage sites

Along the Cooper there are markers commemorating the site where Wills died, where Burke’s body was discovered and where King was found. The Dig Tree, 72 kilometres east of Innamincka, is outside the reserve but worth a visit. This was the location of the expedition’s base camp, where the supply party packed up and left only hours before the explorers returned from the Gulf. The tree remains, still bearing the inscription ‘DIG 3FT NW’ engraved in its bark.

Campsites

Coongie Lake camping area

This wonderfully remote wetland is birdwatching heaven, with a stunning array of waterbirds and raptors. There’s a choice of idyllic lake-front campsites, and unlimited scope for canoeing, photography and nature... Find out more


Cullyamurra Waterhole camping area

To reach one of Australia’s grandest waterholes, with spectacular red gums and abundant birdlife, take the signposted turn-off 7 km east of Innamincka on the Innamincka–Nappamerrie Rd. It’s another 7 km... Find out more


Innamincka Town Common camping area

Basic camping in the heart of town is offered close to the pub and store, run by the local progress association. Hotel-style accommodation is also available. Coin-operated hot showers are opposite the store.... Find out more


Kings Site camping area

Basic camping (permit required) is offered at the site where John King, the sole survivor of the Burke and Wills expedition, was found. It’s 5 km south-west of Innamincka, off the Fifteen Mile Track. Powerboats... Find out more


Kudriemitchie Outstation camping area

This historic pastoral outstation en route to Coongie Lakes National Park is 85 km north-west of Innamincka along the 4WD Coongie Track. You need a permit to camp here.... Find out more


Minkie Waterhole camping area

This expansive waterhole, 9 km south-west of Innamincka, is a more secluded alternative to the ever-popular Cullyamurra sites; a permit is required. Birdlife is abundant and a quiet camp under the mature river red gums... Find out more


Policemans Waterhole camping area

Just 2 km south-west of Innamincka along Fifteen Mile Track, this camping area requires a permit and allows powerboats with motors up to 10 hp (speeds under 10 knots).... Find out more


Ski Beach camping area

Located 4 km south-west of Innamincka, with signposted access from Fifteen Mile Track, this camping area permits powerboats with motors up to 10 hp (speeds under 10 knots); a permit is required to camp here.... Find out more


See Also

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