Lake Gairdner is a huge salt lake in Outback South Australia. The
glistening white surface, surrounded by red foothills of the Gawler
Ranges in the south, is a beautiful sight. Along with the much smaller
L. Everard and L. Harris, the three lakes form Lake Gairdner
National Park. The national park was proclaimed in 1991 to protect the
unique environment, flora, fauna and the scenic features.
The irregularly shaped Lake Gairdner is about 160 km long and it covers an area of roughly 4,300 sq km. Actually, it is Australia's fourth largest salt lake, and it is usually dry. There are also several small islands within the lake. The salt is over 1 m thick in some parts, mostly in the southern area.
6 creeks and rivers feed the basin: Garden Well Creek, Gorge Creek, Yeltabinna Creek to name a few. Usually, those creeks are dry as well, they only flow for a short period after rain.
All pictures on this page were taken at the Mount Ive access area.
The slopes of the Gawler Ranges clearly define the shores of the lake in the south. Further north there are low sand ridges. This is a remote and arid country. It is beautiful, nevertheless. Vegetation is scrub and salt bush and desert flowers after good rain.
Well, as I said above, Lake Gairdner is usually dry. However, when I visited in November 2008, water lapped the shores as you clearly see in the photos. This can happen after rain during winter and spring. Once temperatures rise, the high evaporation dries the lake quickly.
The southern edge is about 150 km north west of Port Augusta. In fact,
the south shore of Lake Gairdner forms the northern boundary of Mount
The northern end is a few kilometres south of Kingoonya, the Trans Australian Railway and the Stuart Highway.
So you might think this is not a very remote location, but still, travellers should be well-prepared when visiting Lake Gairdner.
There are no facilities at the public access area on the lake. The hut pictured below provides some shade if you want to sit down and have a picnic. Although it was a hot day, the rainwater tank held cool and fresh water.
Once a year at the end of summer the lake gets very busy when the Dry Lake Racers have their race week. Of course, the event depends on the weather. The surface of the lake has to be firm and dry, and permission of the South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) has to be granted for the event. Visit the Dry Lakes Racers website for more information about this event.
Several tracks leave the Eyre Highway in the south...
Access to Lake Gairdner
The national park is surrounded by station properties. Many tracks in the area are private roads so please stay on signposted track and roads.
All roads and tracks in the area are unsealed gravel or sand roads. Conditions can change quickly depending on the weather.
We didn't have any problems when we travelled to Mount Ive and further north on the Kingoonya road. But as conditions change frequently, you'll hear people saying the roads are good, while others think they are horrible.
Drive carefully, always expect hazards like animals on the road, rough gutters, washouts and grids.
Check out Outback Roads South Australia or call Ph: 1300 361 033 before you go.
Take some spare parts & a spare tyre to help yourself in minor troubles. Of course, take plenty of water and some extra food, just in case you break down.
Mount Ive station has a small shop where you get frozen bread &
other items. They also sell soft drinks & beer. However, they ask
visitors to bring their own food, their provisions offered are just for
emergencies. Fuel is also available.
And that's about it. You won't find any more supplies between the Eyre Highway and Kingoonya. So apart from fuel, bring your own provisions.
Visiting Lake Gairdner National Park is a wonderful experience. Enjoy it & take care.