Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre – what, where, and why do I need to visit?

16 July 2020


Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre – what is it, where is it, why do I need to visit?

What is Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre?
Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest salt lake.
It consists of two lakes, rather imaginatively named Lake Eyre North, and Lake Eyre South. Lake Eyre North is the large of the two – 144km from top to bottom, and 65 kilometres wide. Lake Eyre South is smaller – although it is 65 kilometres wide, Lake Eyre South is just 24 kilometres from top to bottom. The two lakes are joined by a channel known as Goyder’s Channel.
The catchment area for Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre is one-sixth of Australia’s land mass.
For the lake to fill, water needs to come in from both the Cooper Creek and the Warburton Creek.
The Cooper Creek leads back to the Barcoo and Thompson Rivers, and is the second longest river system in Australia (after the Murray Darling).
The Warburton Creek leads back to the Diamantina River..

Kati Thanda Lake Eyre catchment area

The catchment area of Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre forms one sixth of Australia’s land mass.


As a result, heavy rain that falls in Western Queensland will end up in the lake. Any rain must soak into the dry ground before there is enough excess to run off into the creeks and rivers. Consequentially, not every rain event in the catchment results in water in Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre. Sadly, any water that makes it to the lake evaporates.
When dry, the lake bed is glistening white salt. This can be broken up by patches of red dust, shades of grey where there is moisture, or areas of pink bacteria. When it has rained, there can be anything from shallow puddles of water that reflect the sky, to having a surface resembling the ocean. Water is present somewhere in the lake approximately every eight years. However, the lake has only filled completely three times in the past 160 years (the last time was 1974).
The shoreline varies from unremarkable sloping beaches to low cliffs and breakaways.
Belt Bay, in the South Western corner of Lake Eyre North, is 15.2 metres below sea level. This makes the lowest point in Australia.
On an area of Lake Eyre North known as Madigan’s Gulf is the area where Donald Campbell set the land speed record. Campbell originally planned to race his purpose built car in 1962, but rainfall rendered the salt lake unuseable. When he returned in 1964, the surface was still damp. Campbell was disappointed with the final speed of 403.10 mph (648.73 km/h). He had been hoping that the vehicle would fulfill it’s promise of 800 km / h.

Where is Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre?

The Lake lies in the North East of South Australia, between the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track. The region is approximately 760 kilometres North of Adelaide, and bordered by the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track.

How do I get there?

Naturally, we recommend a scenic flight with Chinta Air (that’s us). We depart from from Rawnsley Park Station (on the South side of Wilpena Pound, in the heart of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges).
We also offer scenic flights from Ceduna, on South Australia’s Far West Coast.
From both locations, we also offer a two day tour, that spends time exploring South Australia’s North Eastern corner. The overnight stop is at the legendary Birdsville Hotel.

Kati Thanda - Lake Eyre

Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre in flood

Water in Kati Thanda -Lake Eyre in 2019, seen from a scenic flight.

Water in Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre in 2019, seen from a light aircraft .

Please click on the link for details of all Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre scenic flights departing from Rawnsley Park Station in the Flinders Ranges.

Please click on the link for details of all Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre scenic flights departing from Ceduna.

We offer a three day tour which includes the Channel Country, Lake Eyre, and the Flinders Ranges.
Please click here for details of a three day tour, departing from Adelaide, that explores the Channel Country, Kati Thanda / Lake Eyre, and the Flinders Ranges.

What else is there to see and do?

Dine at one of the country pubs in the area. Whether you dine at the William Creek Hotel, the Birdsville Hotel, the Mungerannie Hotel, or the Marree Hotel, they can serve a steak or a burger that will knock your socks off.
If you wish to customise your trip in any way, please let us know this at the time of booking so we can tailor make an experience for you.

Did you know?

When there is significant amount of water on the Lake, there is plenty of birdlife, including pelicans.
The Lake was last considered to be in flood in 1974. Pelicans that were seen and banded on the Lake then were later tracked to Christmas Island, New Zealand, and Palau (East of the Phillippines).

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