Outback Spotlight: Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre

The iconic inland sea situated in the Australian Outback

It seems like a mirage. With the blinding Australian sun at your back, and scorching red desert sands underfoot, the sight of Kati-Thanda-Lake Eyre would have brought tears to the eyes of early travellers. Partly because of its size. Partly because it is entirely salt water.

Situated 700km north of Adeliade in South Australia, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is the largest salt water lake in Australia. It is the focal point of the massive Lake Eyre Basin that covers over 1 million square kilometres and crosses into three Australian states and the Northern Territory.

Its name, Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, recognises both the land’s traditional inhabitants, the indigenous Arabana people and its European discoverer Edward John Eyre.

This inland sea, is composed of two water bodies (North Lake Eyre and South Lake Eyre) connected by the 15m long Goyder Channel. It spreads across an area some 144km long and 77km wide covering more than 9,500 square metres. At its lowest point it reaches an incredible 15.3m below sea level – the lowest natural point on the Australian mainland.

Despite its size, high levels of evaporation mean most of the year Kati Thanda contains only little water. Between flood times, it appears as a vast expanse of salt-encrusted land and small lakes, set against striking blue skies and brilliant sun. It is easy to appreciate the isolation of this land, while standing at its edge and looking at what appears as a barren land to the untrained eye.

With the right conditions, the environment surrounding Kati Thanda changes dramatically. Heavy rain in Channel Country of SE Queensland causes rivers and channels to swell and flow to Kati-Thanda, and the lake’s water levels rise. With water comes an abundance of wildlife and new growth. Waterbirds descend in the thousands, including species such as pelicans, silver gulls, red-necked avocets, banded stilts and gull-billed terns.

Minor floods of up to 1.5m occur once every three or four years, while major floods occur only once a decade. Under spectacular circumstances, the inland sea will fill to capacity, happening as little as 4 times a century.

Water or no water, Kati Thanda is a spectacular and breath-taking sight, worthy of recognition as an Australian icon.

How to get there: Discover the wild beauty of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre on Tri State Safaris’ 5 Day Lake Eyre Discovery Tour! More details here