Lake Eyre Comes to Life

Water is flowing into Lake Eyre. An amazing transformation is starting to take place in Central Australia, as water flows in to Lake Eyre from flooding rain in North Queensland.

The torrential rain, which resulted from cyclonic activity, caused widespread flooding in the Gulf Country of Queensland earlier this year. Roads were impassible and towns were cut off for weeks during the widespread floods.

The Queensland floodwaters are flowing into Lake Eyre now. Whether it will be enough to actually fill the lake is unknown. Most years, the North Queensland floods, carried by the Diamantina, Georgina and other inland Rivers, dry up in the Channel Country, and there are many years when the water doesn't even get that far. This year the flooding rain broke an eight year drought, and the water is flowing all the way into Lake Eyre and spreading out across the some 9,000 square kilometer salt pan. The arrival of the water is vital for the survival of birds, fish and invertebrates which thrive when it arrives.

It is said that the flood water travels at about 40 kilometers a day, down the rivers and through the Channel Country to reach the lake. With the spread of the water into numerous channels, billabongs and water-courses the Channel Country comes alive with grass and wild flowers - a welcome sign of very good seasons for the cattle stations in that part of Queensland.

Pelicans at Lake Eyre

The variety and number of birds that make their way to the lake in times of flood is absolutely amazing. An estimated six million birds will make their way to the lake to breed on the islands that form as the lake fills. Pelicans, ducks, black swans, silver gulls, terns and many others, perhaps 60 species in all, will be counted at the lake. Some will travel thousands of miles. They will fly in to create an incredible spectacle of massed bird life. The mystery is, how do the birds know that this year the lake is filling and that this is the year they should go there to breed?

While the rain that falls near the coast runs into the Gulf of Carpentaria, much of the flood water finds it's way into the inland river system that slowly leads it hundreds of miles South to Lake Eyre.

The Lake is a large salt-pan, about 9,000 square kilometres in area and surrounded by miles and miles of inhospitable country. The early explorers were hoping for an inland sea. What they found was a glaring white salt crust.

Lake Eyre is normally bone dry. It provided the long, level, hard surface where Donald Campbell and others attempted to break world speed records in the 1960s. The country for miles and miles around can best be described as desert. However, every twenty or thirty years the flooding tropical rain in North West Queensland is sufficient for the water to follow the dry inland rivers and channels all the way into Lake Eyre, and maybe two or three times a century the lake fills with water.

Thousands of tourists from many parts of the world come to see and to take photographs of the amazing scenes of the wildlife and of the lake itself. For most, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture the event. It is a rare photographic event that might not occur again, to this extent, for many years. The arrival of the birds and the transformation of the lake is quite spectacular, and is world renowned.

Day trips by air can be arranged from Australian capital cities to the lake, or those with time to spare can arrange overland tours. Either way you won't be disappointed. The lake from the bank or from a boat is amazing, but the best views of the lake and the extraordinary variety of wildlife must be seen from the air. Tours by light aircraft or helicopter can be arranged for those who want to see the spectacular bird life and amazing transformation of Lake Eyre in Central Australia.

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