Strzelecki Desert/Cooper Creek Surveys 1,2,3
Strzelecki Desert/Cooper Creek Survey 1
7 Day Survey - June 21 > June 27, 1 day 4WD/6.5 days trekking/half day 4WD
Survey price: $5080
Strzelecki Desert/Cooper Creek Survey 2
11 Day Survey - June 28 > July 8, 1 day 4WD/9.5 days trekking/half day 4WD
Survey price: $6490 $6035 DesertSaver price if booked and paid in full by February 19
Strzelecki Desert/Cooper Creek Survey 3
10 Day Survey - July 9 > July 18, 1 day 4WD/8.5 days trekking/half day 4WD
Survey price: $5960 $5543 DesertSaver price if booked and paid in full by February 19
The famous Burke & Wills Dig Tree on the banks of Cooper Creek
These three consecutive surveys will be conducted in the Strzelecki Desert in South Australia which incorporates the extensive floodplains and channels of Cooper Creek.
The landscape consists of small to medium white/washed out red dunes and we may also encounter small areas of the classic gibber plains that are characteristic of the adjoining Sturt Stony Desert. The Cooper channels are known for the huge coolabahs (Eucalyptus microtheca) that line the banks of the main channel and associated lakes such as Coongie, as well as the outlying floodplains. The Yandruwandha called the Cooper Kini-papa, and it's European name was given by explorer Charles Sturt on 13 October 1845 after South Australian judge, Chief Justice Sir Charles Cooper.
People have lived in this area since the Dreamtime, and the countless waterholes and channels provide bountiful food in good times. The broad Cooper Creek area represents a number of linguistic groups, but much of our 2024 surveys will be in Wangkangurru country.
This is also of course the heart of Burke & Wills country, where the famous explorers came to grief in 1861 on their return from the Gulf. That expedition was but a blip in the thousands of years of Aboriginal history, however its arrival at Cooper Creek marked the beginning of relations between Europeans and Aboriginal people.
In tandem with the preceding survey in May, the ecological objectives of this survey are to conduct broad based non-invasive observations and documentation of the current health of the country.
The remnants of cyclone Kirrily brought good rain to the area in early February, with Innamincka township (population 21) so far recording 142mm in 2024.
On each survey we will be documenting and recording all bird species, documenting (and perhaps collecting) botanical specimens, and documenting mammal and marsupial activity.
As per the May survey, we will certainly be looking for kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei). These opportunist tiny predators inhabit the sparsely vegetated plains between the sand dunes as well as living in the surrounding grasslands and smaller creek channels.
Belonging to the Dasyurid family of marsupials, which also includes the Tasmanian Devil and Quoll, Kowaris are quite ferocious carnivores that devour almost anything that crosses their path, from insects to small birds and mammals.
This is where our methodology of walking surveys is perfect for ground-truthing this arid country, as walking in front of, and to the sides of the camel team, we can spread out and cover a great deal of country with many eyes focused on the ground.
Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) Photo - SA Arid Lands
The main Cooper Channel near Coongie Lake
In collaboration with the University of New England, we will also be continuing our Scat Collection which involves collecting and documenting all dog/cat/raptor scats for analysis at a later date to determine the diet of dingos, cats, foxes and larger birds of prey. This proven methodology is the best way to see what was recently living in this area and this is of great interest to Professor Karl Vernes who has been researching mammal extinction in this part of the desert.
Karl's particular focus is the desert rat-kangaroo or ngudlukanta (Caloprymnus campestris), the lesser bilby or yallara (Macrotis leucura), greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), and plains mouse (Pseudomys australis).
The last time any of those four species were seen in the area was 93 years ago in 1931 as recorded by mammalogist Hedley Herbert Finlayson, however that does not necessarily mean that there are not isolated small colonies living deep in the desert.
Bilbies once roamed huge areas of Australia, but now are restricted to areas of Western Australia and a small part of western Queensland, in addition to several enclosures on selected wildlife reserves.
There is a known colony of Greater Bilby to the north in Queensland which is regularly studied and monitored by ecologists from the Save The Bilby Fund. In 2023 we discovered an area containing evidence of recent bilby activity well to the west of that established colony.
So anything is possible, as for the first time since we were established in 2007, we ground-truth in the Strzelecki Desert and Cooper Creek floodplains.
Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis). Photo - Save The Bilby Fund
The distribution of the greater bilby in Queensland.
The colours show the estimated extent of the distribution at different time periods: dark green is for pre-European settlement; mid green is for 1936; light green is for 1970; and black is for 2000.
Our 2024 surveys are due south of the black area, in South Australia.
Image: Queensland Government.
The main Cooper Channel in the Strzelecki Desert
During the trip you walk alongside our team of packcamels accompanied by 4 cameleers who are your crew for the duration of the survey. Our cameleers are not 'tour guides', they are experienced and seasoned stockmen/women who are specialists in handling and working with camels, and have a wealth of experience in walking the desert and general knowledge of its flora & fauna, and are respectful of our First Nations people who call this desert home.
Walking in this landscape is on firm sand, occasional claypans and some areas of gibber. Large areas of the desert received rain from the tail end of cyclone Kirrily in mid February, so there may be a profusion of yellow flowers such as poached-egg daisy & 'Yellowtop' covering the landscape, and supplying our camels with fresh feed.... however it's not until we actually get out there in April 2024 that we will know the extent of any rainfall and corresponding seasonal conditions.
June/July is ideal walking weather in Central Australia and over the course of a 5 to 6 hour walking day you would walk approximately between 8 to 10 kilometres. Our pace of travel is determined by the camels and their ability to negotiate the dunes or other landforms in the landscape. They carry all your personal gear, and all you have to carry is your day pack. We will of course be stopping as required depending on what we see as we walk along.
This is a very real, very Australian desert experience, and camels are the perfect cross-country vehicle and so we don't follow roads or tracks, and there is no vehicle back-up: we don't need it! Camps are chosen for the availability of camel feed, and we never camp in the same place twice. And in addition, as we are Australia's only scientific organisation that also specialises in remote desert travel, you won't 'bump into' any other groups of trekkers, however please note that the entire trek will be on Clifton Hills Station, a working cattle property of 16,500 square kilometres, so we may see occasional evidence of cattle and some station infrastructure.
4WD transfers to/from Birdsville to the Strzelecki Desert
All camping equipment - swags, stools, tents. You bring your own sleeping bag and eating utensils
All meals, though we do not provide snacks
LOTS of space...
Survey RFDS Medical Chest, First Aid and emergency communications equipment
Crew of 4 to 5 cameleers
Trekking with an environmentally aware responsible business
(A detailed Trek Information Guide is sent to you when you book)
What's not included
Pre and post survey airfares and accommodation. You are responsible for arranging your travel to/from Birdsville and any accommodation. We can help organise this for you
Please look at this page How To Get To Birdsville
What else is required?
Travel Insurance. You have the option to arrange your own travel insurance, or you can contact us for a quote.
Where are we trekking?
In the shaded area of the map in the Sturt Stony/Strzelecki Deserts, South Australia