Outback South Australia springs to life with record rains

By Andrew Spence 6 October 2016
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Record rainfall has filled Lake Eyre and breathed new life into parts of outback South Australia.

RECORD RAINFALL IN our driest state has breathed new life into outback South Australia, greening the desert, filling Lake Eyre, bringing long-dry waterfalls back into flow and wildflowers into bloom.

Marree, 700km north of Adelaide, is one of the closest towns to Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre – Australia’s biggest lake at more than 9500sq.km when full – and has recorded its wettest September since 1949, following consistent rainfall throughout the winter months.

flinders ranges wildflowers

Water from local storms and wet season rains in outback Queensland also feed into South Australia’s Lake Eyre (pictured) through a network of rivers that drain into a basin covering a sixth of Australia. (Image: Julie Fletcher Photography)

Locals are urging tourists to come and experience once-in-a-generation conditions. 

“It’s absolutely beautiful. This rain we’ve had, you won’t see it again for another 40 years. It was like this in 1974 and everywhere you look it’s just green,” says Lyall Oldfield, who owns the Marree Oasis Café, motel and caravan park. 

Lyall has lived in outback South Australia for almost 70 years and says the lake is the fullest he’s seen since the late 1980s – and could even match the record heights of 1974, when flooding reached 6m.

Further south, the ancient landscape of Flinders Ranges has sprung to life with wildflowers and greenery. For example, the tiny town of Parachilna in the heart of the Flinders Rangers is one of 75 South Australian weather stations to record its wettest September.

flinders ranges wildflowers

Wildflowers are blooming in the Flinders Ranges. (Image: Tim Lindner/Born Free Photography)

Wildflowers to see in adbundance this spring include the molly daisy, hop bush and Sturt’s desert pea – South Australia’s floral emblem.

“It’s the first time in 20 years I’ve had to re-tune my whipper snipper and get the lawnmower going,” says Dave Scicluna who has lived in the Flinders Ranges for 32 years and owns Angorichina Tourist Village.

“We’re not quite in the desert but we’ve got all different colours flowing through our hills at the moment and running water through the creeks and that’s unusual,” he says.