Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Tirari Desert

This 1600 square km desert (618 sq miles) Tirari Desert is situated in the western part of far northern South Australia. Features of this desert are large north-south dunes and salt lakes. Part of the desert is within the borders of Lake Eyre National Park. Cooper Creek runs through the centre of the desert.

The main vehicular access is via the Birdsville Track.

The south is the only side of the Tirari Desert that doesn't have another desert. Simpson Desert is on the north, Sturt's Stony Desert lies to the northeast and the Strzelecki Desert is on the east side.


Sandhill Wattle (Acacia ligulata) or Sandhill Cane-grass (Zygochloa paradoxa) dominate the dunefields of this desert, occurring on the crests and slopes. There is also tall, open shrubland also occurs on the slopes. After rain the dunes are carpeted by grass, herbs and wildflowers.

Dune spacing determines the soil substrate, which affects the vegetation found there. The closer dunes have corridors that are sandy, so the vegetation is similar to that of the dunes. Wider-spaced dunes often have corridors with substrates of gibber or flood plain, each having characteristic plant communities.

The vegetation on the floodplains varies with the capacity of the land to retain floodwaters, and the frequency of inundation. In drier areas, species including Old Man Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia), Cottonbush (Maireana aphylla) and Queensland Bluebush (Chenopodium auricomum) form a sparse, open shrubland, whereas swamps and depressions are frequently associated with Swamp Cane-grass (Eragrostis australasica) and Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta).

The intermittent watercourses and permanent waterholes associated with tributaries of Cooper Creek support woodland dominated by River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and Coolibah (Eucalyptus coolabah).


The Lake Ngapakaldi to Lake Palankarinna Fossil Area, a 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) are in this desert. There are significant tertiary vertebrate fossils.

  1. Mary E White, Running Down, Water in a Changing Land, Kangaroo Press, 2000
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated 10/03/2013

Strzelecki and Tirari Deserts, Australia - Timing of Linear Dune Activity

Gibber Plains
 Mt Poole
Gibson Desert
Great Sandy Desert
Great Victoria Desert
Riverine Desert
Simpson Desert
Strzelecki Desert
Sturt's Stony Desert
Tirari Desert
Tanami Desert
Journey Back Through Time
Experience Australia
Aboriginal Australia
National Parks
Photo Galleries
Site Map
                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading