Flooded desert at Kalamurina transforms Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

Flooded desert at Kalamurina transforms Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

One of Australia’s great natural events is unfolding at Kalamurina … a flooded desert is helping to fill the iconic Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

Exclusive images as featured in The Weekend Australian 9 January 2016

Jan 2016: For Mark and Tess McLaren, AWC’s experienced land management team at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary, New Year’s Day 2016 will always be memorable. Gentle rain that had started the night before set in overnight, delivering 182 mm over two days (more than the average annual rainfall). It is the largest rainfall event since AWC acquired Kalamurina in 2007 and possibly the largest since 1974.

When the rain stopped, Mark and Tess witnessed a remarkable sight – the Simpson and Tirari Deserts, which intersect on Kalamurina, were flooded. Magnificent parallel sand dunes are now divided by long pools of freshwater. Vast areas of desert are decorated by a network of shimmering lakes which appear only once in a generation. This is an extraordinary event – the desert around Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre) may not flood like this again for decades.

A once in a lifetime desert flood, Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary

Kalamurina protects 660,000 ha (1.6 million acres) of spectacular desert ecosystems in the Lake Eyre catchment including most of the north shore of Lake Eyre and the lower reaches of the key rivers which carry water to the lake: the Warburton and Kallakoopah Creeks and the Macumba River (see map below).

The historic local rain has rapidly filled the Warburton Creek and the Macumba River, sending floodwaters down the Warburton Groove and into Lake Eyre. The rapid filling of Lake Eyre by local flooding is unusual and a stark contrast to the slow arrival of floodwaters from rain in the far-off channel country of Queensland (as occurred in 2011).

Local rain is flooding into Lake Eyre, creating a vast inland sea 

As AWC supporters will know, Kalamurina is a former pastoral station that has been transformed by AWC into one of Australia’s largest non-government nature reserves. The local rain and associated flooding is important because of the benefits for our desert wildlife - including waterbirds, small mammals and even frogs – and a diverse network of habitats featuring lignum thickets, coolibah woodlands and wetlands.

However, the temporary ecological boom inspired by these floods hides a tragic story – Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world. Central Australia, including the region around Lake Eyre, is a global extinction hotspot. With your support, AWC is halting and reversing the tide of extinctions here and elsewhere across Australia.

AWC Sanctuary Manager, Mark McLaren, overlooking the Warburton Creek

The Kultarr is one of a suite of small mammals protected at Kalamurina



Please help AWC protect Lake Eyre, its desert rivers and its threatened wildlife

Every tax deductible gift of $100 will protect 200 hectares of Kalamurina for 12 months


AWC needs your help to continue delivering effective, on-ground conservation at Kalamurina. For central Australia’s wildlife to enjoy the ecological dividend promised by these floods, we must continue to deliver effective control of feral herbivores (camels, donkeys etc) as well as feral cats and foxes. As the water recedes, Mark and Tess must be especially prepared for the arrival of large feral herbivores, attracted by the flush of new growth in this otherwise arid environment.


Your support will be vital in helping AWC deliver practical, science-based conservation, protecting one of Australia’s great natural assets and its threatened wildlife.


All donations of $1,000 or more will receive a certificate featuring exclusive images of the flooded desert.