Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sat January 23 2016

Is Australia’s Inland Sea Ready to Return?

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | January 23, 2016

Is Australia’s Inland Sea Ready to Return?

PHOTO: View of Lake Eyre from the air. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Wright)

South Australia is home to one of the world’s largest lakes – the 13th largest, to be precise. The problem? That lake is usually dry. Lake Eyre – known as the “inland sea” fills completely only four times a century, and the last time it was full was in 1974. But now, the water is returning and the lake is beginning to fill up.

Water from local storms and wet season rains in outback Queensland are flowing into the lake bed through a network of rivers that drain into a basin covering a sixth of Australia – about the size of Spain – and locals have high hopes that this could be the year that it fills.

Located approximately 700 kilometers from Adelaide, the closest town to Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre National Park in which the lake is located, is William Creek and locals in the small village are optimistic that water levels could hit the mark. 

William Creek Hotel publican and local pilot Trevor Wright said while it was too early to say how much water would find its way into the lake by the traditional peak time of March or April, early signs were good.

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“What’s interesting about this compared to other years is there is a lot more rain in the Tirari and Simpson deserts,” Wright said. “We’re still getting showers and thunderstorms in the area but given that it’s very early in the season, we are hoping for follow-up rains – it’s looking very promising.”

The lake also has its own yacht club – the Lake Eyre Yacht Club has members from around the country and who were last able to sail on the lake in 2011 during a three-year period during 2009 and 2012 when the lake wasn’t full but held a significant amount of water.

One of the main attractions when this inland sea is filled with water is the birdlife. BirdLife International has designated Lake Eyre as an Important Bird Area because it acts as a major breeding ground for many bird populations when flooded, including Australian pelicans, gulls, sandpipers and terns.

“I think the bird life is the biggest draw and the greening of the area plus the visual effect of such an immense amount of water in the driest area of Australia,” said Wright.

One of the best ways to see Lake Eyre is to take to the sky. There are scheduled scenic flights that provide spectacular views of the park and its seasonal wildlife.

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Where to Stay

Wright, who operates the William Creek Hotel, said William Creek’s population can swell to 200 during peak times. 

“We have 70 beds here plus a caravan park and a sealed air strip so it puts us in a very good strategic position to capitalize on the flood waters entering the lake and to provide services to tourists coming through the area,” he said.

The hotel has everything visitors need. There are a variety of accommodations that feature both en-suite and shared bathroom facilities. There is also a historic restaurant and bar as well as aviation facilities.

Wrightsair offers scenic flights of the area that include the famous Painted Hills of Anna Creek Station, Simpson Desert, APY Lands, Flinders Ranges and the Channel country. 

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