Pedirka Desert, Australia’s Smallest Desert

Pedirka Desert comes and goes quickly. The landscape changes to sand dunes as you follow the well-formed road north-east off the Oodnadatta track. Then just as quickly, the dunes disappear and you’re back in stony country.

Congratulations, you’ve just crossed Pedirka Desert!

Turn off the Oodnadatta track north of Oodnadatta to reach Pedirka Desert
Turning off the Oodnadatta Track 18km north of Oodnadatta, towards Pedirka Desert.

The well-formed road is a gateway to Hamilton, where you can turn right to Dalhousie Springs or continue to Finke. Most people would pass through without even realising they’d just crossed a designated desert. It’s easy to miss.

 






The Smallest Desert

Pedirka Desert is tiny, compared to most other deserts in Australia. The road we took cuts through the dunes at the north-eastern end. Hamilton Creek forms the northern boundary and most of the desert is within Hamilton Station.

Stopped for a break at Hamilton creek north of Pedirka Desert.
Stopping for a break at Hamilton creek, north of Pedirka Desert.

Once across Hamilton Creek, the landscape changes back to stony country. As expected, the road deteriorates as it crosses the harsh rocky landscape. Make sure your vehicle is well-prepared for plenty of corrugations.

North of Perdirka Desert, the road opens into flat stony country. This trailer couldn't survive the corrugations.
North of Hamilton Station, the track crosses harsh stony plains. This trailer obviously didn’t make it.

In places, the sand dunes have wide claypans in between. Just before the “official” start of Pedirka Desert, you’ll cross Fogarty Claypan. This is 9km from end to end, a huge billiard-table flat stretch of white clay.






There’s a detour around Fogarty Claypan after rain and we could see why. This would become a bottomless pit of wet clay after rain, not the sort of place you’d want to be caught in!

The Old Ghan rail line ran slightly to the east of the present road. About 16km off the road, you can still see Pedirka Siding. This section of line through Pedirka Desert was renowned for being rough.

Passengers were bounced around in the primitive carriages as the train powered over the uneven rail tracks. And with nothing more than sand to build the track on, it’s hardly surprising the track was rough.

 






In Summary

Pedirka Desert is easily missed if you’re in a hurry. It’s a beautiful drive though, classic desert red sand country. And with the white claypans between the dunes, the colours are amazing.

Red sand and mulga scrub in Pedirka Desert.
The road runs up and over sand dunes, a fun drive!

So if you’re thinking of heading to the Simpson Desert from the south or are planning an adventure through Finke to Alice Springs, keep an eye on the map for Pedirka Desert.

If nothing else, you’ll be able to brag that you crossed a desert! Just don’t tell anyone it only took you an hour…

 

Pedirka Desert is on Arabana Country.

 


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