The Simpson Desert Regional Reserve also contains the Simpson Desert Conservation Park.
It’s one of the places that many Aussie 4WD enthusiasts dream of going to and challenging themselves on tracks like the famous French Line.
And of course, great Outback sunsets.
There’s really nothing like a crisp winter’s night in the Simpson, watching the sun set and then looking up at a sky with more stars than you could ever imagine existed.
The Simpson Desert is also full of culture, history, flora and fauna.
This page tells you more about these parks, the facilities you’ll find there and what to see and do once you’re there.
Aboriginal people from the Wangkangurru and Lower Southern Arrernte groups have lived in the Simpson Desert for several thousand years.
The true desert dwellers were the Wangkangurru, who lived wholly in the desert. The Lower Southern Arrernte lived (and continue to live) around the desert’s edges.
Aboriginal people mainly lived around watercourses and the ‘Mikiri’ or native wells.
The Simpson is full of stone tools, camps and other evidence of human occupation.
With European settlement in the nineteenth century, Aboriginal people began to leave the desert.
In the early twentieth century two outbreaks of influenza passed on by white settlers decimated Aboriginal populations in this part of the Outback.
Eventually, Aboriginal people settled on pastoral stations fringing the desert or in small towns on the desert’s fringe.
From the early 20th Century through to the 1960s, much of the Simpson Desert was either unoccupied land or marginal cattle grazing country.
In the 1950s and 1960s, many tracks were put into the desert by mining companies exploring for oil and gas.
However, many people also recognised the natural, cultural and geological significance of the area. In 1967, the Simpson Desert Conservation Park was proclaimed as a national park. It became a conservation park in 1972.
The Simpson Desert Regional Reserve was established in 1988, acting as a link between the conservation park and Witjira National Park.
Together, both parks are BIG! The regional reserve covers 29 191 sq km and the conservation park, 6 881 sq km.
To visit either of these parks, you’ll need a Desert Parks Pass. You can purchase one of these online here.
If you’re planning to visit either the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve or the Simpson Desert Conservation Park, you’ll need to be totally self sufficient.
This means you need to take enough fuel, food and water for your trip. The nearest facilities are located at Mt Dare, Oodnadatta and Birdsville.
The only toilets and showers in the Simpson Desert are located at Dalhousie Springs and Purnie Bore.
There are no services or facilities within these parks, and although camping is allowed, all camping in these parks is remote bush camping.
Don’t let this put you off!
In our experience, there are few things better than camping out under the stars in the outback.
The best places to camp are near the salt lakes in the central region, where stands of gidgee provide shade, shelter and soft ground for camping.
You can camp anywhere within 50 metres of the public access tracks in the Simpson Desert.
Also remember, that if you intend to travel to Birdsville, through the Simpson Desert National Park then a camping permit from Queensland parks is required.
Sightseeing and Tips
Apart from enjoying the incredible experience of the desert, the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve and Conservation Park are fabulous places to enjoy bushwalking, photography, and birdwatching.
And of course, let’s not forget the challenge of crossing over 1000 parallel dunes in your four wheel drive!
Beside sand dunes and amazing outback scenery, there are a several places to check out in the parks.
After Big Red, Poeppel Corner is the most famous place in the Simpson Desert.
It’s where you can stand in three different states at the junction of the borders of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
They’ve put a replica of Augustus Poeppel’s original marker where these three states meet. However, those with a keen eye might find some of Poeppel’s original mileposts and historic markers.
This Coolibah tree stands all by itself beside the Rig Road in the conservation park. No one knows how it came to be there or how it keeps on thriving in this harsh place. It’s a long, long way from any creeks or rivers.
With all the rain we’ve had in the Outback over 2010-2011, this tree no longer alone and has quite a few thriving seedlings growing with it.
Approdinna Attora Knolls
These low, twin outcrops are located a little way off the main French Line, and stand out because the whiteness of their gypsum that contrasts vividly with the red dunes around them.
The knolls are quite fragile and are of great geological significance.
They’re also sacred sites for Aboriginal people in the area. Please don’t drive on them and treat them with respect.