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Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park and Regional Reserve

Alerts 1

Full park closure

Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park and Regional Reserve is closed annually between 1 December and 15 March to ensure public safety during summer months when temperatures are extreme and present a high risk to travellers.
Details >

  • Campfires Permitted
  • Camping
  • 4WD
  • Bird Watching


Located within the driest region of the Australian continent, the Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park is in the centre of the Simpson Desert, one of the world's best examples of parallel dunal desert.

The Simpson Desert's sand dunes stretch over hundreds of kilometres and lie across the corners of three states - South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Regional Reserve, just outside the Conservation Park, features a wide variety of desert wildlife preserved in a landscape of varied dune systems, extensive playa lakes, spinifex grasslands and acacia woodlands. The reserve links the Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park to Witjira National Park.

Simpson Desert parks in South Australia and Queensland are closed in summer from 1 December to 15 March. Vehicles are required to have high visibility safety flags attached to the front of the vehicle.

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park and Regional Reserve are closed from 1 December to 15 March each year.

Access may be restricted due to local road conditions. Please refer to the latest Desert Parks Bulletin for current access and road condition information.

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Contact details

Natural Resource Centre - Port Augusta

Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5300

Desert Parks Information

Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5328

Outback Road Report

1300 361 033 (24-hour automated service)
Northern and Western South Australian Outback Roads Temporary Closures, Restrictions and Warnings Report

When to visit

The most enjoyable times to visit the Simpson Desert are autumn, winter and spring. Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Regional Reserve and Conservation Park are closed annually between 1 December and 15 March. This closure is to ensure public safety as temperatures can exceed 50˚. A breakdown during this time could be fatal.

Getting there

Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park is located 957km north of Port Augusta. Access may be restricted due to local road conditions. Please refer to the latest

It is accessible via the following routes:

From Kulgera: Travel via Finke to New Crown Station, then via Charlotte Waters to Mount Dare Homestead in Witjira National Park, through Dalhousie Springs and Spring Creek to Purni Bore.

From Oodnadatta: Travel via Hamilton Station and Dalhousie Springs, Spring Creek then Purni Bore.

From Birdsville: Enter via the QAA line to Poeppel Corner. Depending on the road conditions, the 160km journey from Birdsville to Poeppel Corner may take you 6-8 hours as it travels over some of the biggest sand dunes in the desert. Allow plenty of time. Travel via the Shire road which leaves the inside Birdsville Track just southwest of Birdsville. This joins the QAA Line at Big Red sand dune 33km from Birdsville and heads west into the park.

If you are travelling through this area for the first time, it is recommended that you cross the reserves from west to east to take advantage of the gentler upsweep to most dunes. Reserves of fuel, water and food, as well as basic vehicle spare parts and recovery equipment, must be carried.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs are permitted in most public places and are therefore welcome in South Australia’s parks and reserves. Assistance dogs must be appropriately restrained on a lead and remain under your effective control at all times while in a park or reserve.

As per the dogs in parks and reserves policy, if the dog is not an accredited assistance dog, they must be trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate that disability and meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for a dog in a public place. However, refusal may be given if the person with the disability is unable to produce evidence the dog is an assistance dog with the appropriate training.

Before taking your assistance dog into a park that does not normally allow dogs, it is highly recommended that you contact us so we can provide you with the latest information on any potential hazards within specific parks that may affect your dog. Please contact the park via the contact details provided under the contact tab or call the information line on (+61 8) 8204 1910.

Dogs not allowed

Dogs are not permitted in this park.

Discover which parks you can walk your dog in on our find a park tool or read 12 dog-friendly walks in Adelaide Parks by Good Living for inspiration.


The only services available between Oodnadatta and Birdsville are at Mount Dare in Witjira National Park.

Useful information

Outback Road Report

1300 361 033 (24-hour automated service)
Northern and Western South Australian Outback Roads Temporary Closures, Restrictions and Warnings Report

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Plants and animals


On the crests of the sand dunes small grasses and herbs, such as sand hill cane-grass thrive, while on the more stable sands triodia species like lobed spinifex and other small grasses and shrubs dominate. These spinifex tussocks can often grow to form large donut-like shapes as the centre of the plant dies out, while new growth continues at the outer edges.

Desert vegetation depends on seasonal conditions. Many plants have short life cycles, growing, flowering and setting seeds within a couple of months of rain. After rain the sand dunes can become covered in a veritable carpet of wildflowers, as the long dormant seeds of poached-egg daisies and fleshy groundsel spring into life.

The swales between the sand dunes collect more water and nutrients than the sand dunes and so can support larger shrubs such as eremophila, grevillea and acacias like mulga and gidgee – particularly around Poeppel Corner where low open woodlands of gidgee spread out to the horizon. The playa lakes in these swales also support small clumps of salt-tolerant samphire and other herbaceous plants around their periphery. 


More than 150 species of birds inhabit the Simpson Desert. Common birds include crested pigeons and zebra finches, while galahs and corellas are often seen congregating away from the midday sun in a tree overlooking a waterhole. The desert is home to several species of birds of prey such as the mighty wedge-tailed eagle (often seen soaring on the desert thermals), as well as black kites, nankeen kestrels and brown falcons.

Look carefully for the eyrean grasswren on the slopes of sand dunes, scurrying from one sandhill canegrass clump to another. Following a good season, the Simpson Desert can become a birdwatcher’s paradise as flocks of birds arrive to take advantage of the water and abundant food, particularly around the playa lakes and temporary waterholes. Watch out for waterbirds, chats and the rare Australian Bustard. To escape the searing heat of the day, many of the Simpson Desert’s mammal inhabitants only come out at night. Small marsupials including dunnarts and ampurta come out to feast on insects, while Dingoes are out searching for bigger prey such as rabbits. If you’ve got a good field guide handy, try to identify the different tracks on the sand dunes in the morning. The desert is also home to feral animals including rabbits, camels and foxes.

As you drive, remain on the lookout for some of the reptilian inhabitants of the desert. Australia's biggest lizard, the perentie, can be found out here as well as the more common sand goanna. painted and central bearded dragons can be found sunning themselves next to the track, while the desert python (the woma) and smaller beaked geckos and desert skinks may be seen if you take the time to look.

Flora and fauna species lists

To download flora (plants) and fauna (animals) species lists for this park, use the 'Create Simple Species List' tab under 'Flora Tools' or 'Fauna Tools'  in NatureMaps

Traditional owners

In the 19th century, most Simpson Desert Aboriginal groups were concentrated around the watercourses on the desert boundaries. Prior to this time, the Wangkangurru actually lived in the desert; and to the west of their traditional boundary the Lower Southern Arrernte lived on the edge and partly in the desert. Family groups were generally concentrated around native wells, or ‘Mikiri’ which provided the only permanent source of water.

In good seasons, they could spread out away from these sites, taking advantage of groundwater and the flush of new life that rain brings to the desert.

Aboriginal groups living in this area were hunters and gatherers, but they also traded extensively with groups to the north and south. Ground-edge axes from quarries in Queensland were traded, as were sandstone grinding stones and ochre from the North Flinders Ranges. Some stone implements and workings can be seen in the park, but are not common. All Aboriginal sites are protected, so please do not disturb them.

Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations.  At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.

In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.

Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia. 

European history

European settlement brought about the decline of Aboriginal occupation of the desert. White settlers introduced influenza to the Aboriginal groups, decimating the population. Groups were displaced as pastoral properties took over their land, while other Aboriginal people were attracted to work on properties and to towns and communities.

The first European to see the grandeur of the Simpson Desert was the explorer Charles Sturt in 1845, but the desert was not fully recognised and named until the 1930s when another explorer and geologist, Cecil Thomas Madigan, named it after Allen Simpson, the sponsor of his subsequent expedition and then president of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (South Australian Branch). The explorers who came after Sturt, mainly government surveyors, named a number of the familiar landmarks in the area. 

Notable among the early surveyors was Augustus Poeppel who surveyed the junction of the borders of Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia in 1880. The original peg marking Poeppel Corner was removed to Adelaide for preservation in 1962 by Dr Reg Sprigg and now forms part of the History Trust of South Australia's Historic Relics Collection. On 25 August 1968, Bill Haylock of the SA Geodetic Survey placed the current steel and concrete post to mark Poeppel Corner. In 1989, the Friends of the Simpson Desert Parks erected a red gum replica of the original peg near the corner post.

The first successful European crossing of the desert was in 1936 and is credited to E. A. Colson, who, with Peter Ains (an Aboriginal companion) and five camels, travelled from Mount Etingambra eastwards via Poeppel Corner to Birdsville. Geologist Reg Sprigg and his family completed the first motorised crossing in 1962, with Dr Sprigg’s Geosurveys of Australia company. 

In 1936, the French Petroleum Company was contracted to conduct seismic surveys and explore for oil and gas deposits. These workers spent months at a time in the desert, building what are now known as the French and QAA lines, Rig Road and other tracks, thus opening up the desert for other explorers, pastoralists and tourists to follow.

The Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park was originally proclaimed as a national park in 1967, but changed to conservation park classification in 1972. The regional reserve was established in 1988, linking the conservation park with Witjira National Park. The enormous size of the parks (the regional reserve covers 29 191 sq km, the conservation park, 6 881 sq km) allows a wide cross-section of diverse flora, fauna and sand ridge formations to be protected.

See and do

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

  • Visiting the lone gum - the thriving Coolabah that stands alone alongside the Rig Road. The solitary tree, far from the nearest watercourse, generally grows in heavy clay soils. There is no other tree of its kind in the region, how it comes to be here still remains a mystery.
  • Photographing the Approdinna Attora Knolls - the rare gypsum outcrops which were once the highest dune crests in the area. Due to fragility and great scientific importance, management works have been undertaken to protect them from the impacts of vehicles and animals.
  • Standing in three different states at the same time at Poeppel Corner, in the Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park. A replica of Augustus Poeppel's original marker stands near the current surveyors peg (the original is now in Adelaide, as part of the South Australian Historical Relics Collection) where these three states meet. Not far away you might find some of Poeppel's original mileposts and historic markers.


There is currently no bushwalking information available for this park, please contact the park office for more information. 


Cross the Simpson Desert and explore parallel red sand ridges that extend across an area of up to 500 km. The best time to cross the Simpson is from mid-March to mid-August when the temperature is milder.

Know before you go:

Stay in the park

Camp out under the stars and experience the beauty of the outback. The best camping spots are towards the salt lakes in the central region where gidgee woodlands provide shade, shelter and soft ground for pitching a tent. You can camp within 100 metres of the public access tracks in the Munga-Thirri – Simpson Desert Regional Reserve and Conservation Park, but there are no facilities.

A separate camping permit is required if you intend to camp in Queensland en route to Birdsville through Munga-Thirri National Park.

There are no services between Oodnadatta and Birdsville, unless you take a detour to Mount Dare Homestead. A campground with toilets and showers is available at Dalhousie Springs and Purnie Bore in Witjira National Park.

Important information for campers:


Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources Adelaide South Australian Arid Lands – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is currently not permitted in this park. 



The international Trail Users Code of Conduct is to show respect and courtesy towards other trail users at all times.

Ensure that you:

  • keep to defined walking trails and follow the trail markers
  • wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen
  • carry sufficient drinking water
  • be aware of weather conditions and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day
  • Walk, hike or trek - what's the difference?


When camping in a National Park, it's important to remember the following:

  • Always let someone responsible know your travel plans, especially when travelling in remote areas. It's a good idea to let them know when you expect to return.
  • Check the weather forecast before you leave, including overnight temperatures on the Bureau of Meteorology. Even during very mild weather, the nights can get very cold. 
  • The quality and quantity of water cannot be guaranteed within parks. Please bring plenty of water and food to be self-sufficient.
  • Always camp in designated sites (where applicable) - do not camp beneath trees with overhanging branches, as they can drop without warning. It's also a good idea to check that there no insect nests nearby.
  • Check to make sure you're not camping in a natural waterway, flash floods can happen anytime.
  • If camp fires are permitted, you must bring your own firewood, as the collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited. Extinguish your camp fire with water (not sand or dirt) until the hissing sound stops.
  • Ensure that you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.


This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Fire restrictions

  • Wood fires and solid fuel fires are prohibited between 15 October 2017 to 31 March 2018.
  • You must bring your own firewood, as the collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.
  • Gas fires are permitted through the year, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

4WD and safety flags

When 4WDriving in the park, it is important to be aware of the following:

  • Standard road rules apply when driving anywhere in the park, including the laws for speed limits, drink driving, vehicle registration and seat belts.
  • Take extreme care when driving in the park – be aware of blind corners, crests and narrow two-way tracks.
  • Observe all track and safety signs, especially 'No public access' signs.
  • Do not take your vehicle off the designated tracks. Wildlife can be threatened and precious habitat and indigenous sites can be damaged by off track driving.
  • Make sure you know what to do in the event of getting bogged and always carry a shovel.
  • When driving on sand, deflate your tyres as appropriate for your vehicle. Don’t forget to reinflate your tyres to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure before leaving the park. Take care when lowering tyre pressure as there is risk you could roll the tyre off its rim. Also, remember that lower tyre pressure can mean a change in how the vehicle handles.
  • Vehicle flags are now mandatory in this park.
  • You must have a Desert Parks Pass to do this trip.
  • The use of trailers in the Simpson Desert is strongly discouraged. Caravans and motorhomes should not be used. Serious damage can be caused to vehicles and the environment, and difficulties are likely to result.
  • Read the Desert Parks Bulletin before undertaking your journey.
  • Download the Oodnadatta Track visitor brochure and the Birdsville and Strzelecki visitor brochure.

Safety flags

All vehicles must be fitted with a safety flag when travelling in the Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park or Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Regional Reserve.

Flag requirements:

  • minimum 300mm wide by 290mm high
  • made of fluorescent materials, red-orange or lime-yellow in colour.


  • With front bullbar - flag pole attached to the bulbar, with top of the flag a minimum 3.5 metres from the ground.
  • Without front bullbar - flag pole attached via bracket at the front of the vehicle, with top of the flag a minimum 3.5 metres from the ground; alternatively flag pole attached to the front of the roof rack, with top of the flag a minimum 2 metres from the roof of vehicle.


Motorbikes are currently exempt from having to display a safety flag, however headlights must used at all times during travel.

Know before you go


Every national park is different, each has its own unique environment, it is important to be responsible while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please ensure that you:

  • leave your pets at home
  • do not feed birds or other animals, it promotes aggressive behaviour and an unbalanced ecology
  • do not bring generators (except where permitted), chainsaws or firearms into the park
  • leave the park as you found it - place rubbish in the bins provided or take it with you
  • abide by the road rules (maintain the speed limit)
  • respect geological and heritage sites
  • do not remove native plants
  • are considerate of other park users.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.


Park maps

Maps on your mobile

If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive national park maps on hand when you need them.

The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos and drop placemark pins. 

How to get it working on your device:

1. Download the Avenza PDF maps app from the app store whilst you are still in range (its free!).
2. Open up the app and click the shopping cart icon.
3. Click ‘Find’ and type the name of the national park or reserve you are looking for.
4. Click on the map you are after and install it (all our maps are free).
5. You will now find a list of your installed maps on the home page of the Avenza app.
6. Use our maps through the Avenza PDF map app while in the park and never take a wrong turn again.


Entry fees

Single day entry is not available for this park, you are required to purchase a Desert Parks Pass to enter this park.

Entry and camping (for up to 21 nights at a time in a designated camping place) is covered by the purchase of a Desert Parks Pass.

Park pass

Desert Park Pass

Heading to the outback? Purchase a Desert Parks Pass which entitles you to 12 months vehicle entry into seven selected desert parks. 

The pass also allows you to camp for periods of up to 21 nights at a time in the desert parks (excluding Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park, where camping is not permitted). 

Camping and accommodation

Entry and camping (for up to 21 nights at a time in a designated camping place) is covered by the purchase of a Desert Parks Pass.

Single day entry is not available for this park.

A separate camping permit is required if you intend to camp in Queensland en route to Birdsville through Munga-Thirri National Park.

Other fees and permits

There are no other fees or permits associated with this park. 

PDF Park Brochure
Alerts 1

Full park closure

Munga-Thirri–Simpson Desert Conservation Park and Regional Reserve is closed annually between 1 December and 15 March to ensure public safety during summer months when temperatures are extreme and present a high risk to travellers.
Details >