Travelling Australia - Journal 2012
9 August 2012 - Lake Eyre overflight from Broken Hill

Today I joined a scenic flight from Broken Hill over Lake Eyre in a Cessna 206. First stage of the flight was from Broken Hill to Marree via Lake Frome; we refuelled at Marree. Then we flew around Lake Eyre South and Lake Eyre North, including Warburton River (or Creek) before returning to Marree for lunch and more fuel. The final stage was from Marree to Broken Hill via Leigh Creek and Wilpenna Pound. The flight was at altitudes of 500, 3000 and 5000 feet depending on turbulence.

Cessna 206
Cessna 206 of Silver City Scenic Flights used for the flight. Maximum capacity is six people (including one pilot); this flight had four people.

Broken Hill to Marree
The flight from Broken Hill to Marree was initially over flat grazing land beginning with the Mundi Mundi Plain north-west of Broken Hill. As we flew further into South Australia, passing over the vermin proof fence, the ground below became drier as we passed over sandhills at the southern extremity of the Strzelecki Desert. Then we came to Lake Frome, a salt lake but with shore features found around a normal, water-filled lake. Rocky islands in the middle make it look more like a water-filled lake.
Shore of Lake Frome The south-eastern shoreline of Lake Frome.

Shore of Lake Frome Island in the middle of Lake Frome.

Travelling Australia - Lake Eyre - page 2
Lake Frome islands Small islands in Lake Frome. What looks like water around the upper island are bands of salt covering the lake bed.

Beyond Lake Frome we flew over the hills of the North Flinders Ranges then across dry plains to reach Moree where we landed for fuel and morning tea. Marree has established itself as a centre for aerial sighteeing over Lake Eyre; there were seven other aircraft parked at Marree airfield when we arrived, two of them embarking passengers for flights over Lake Eyre.

Marree - Lake Eyre - Marree
After taking off from Marree we flew north-west to fly over the Goyder Channel connecting Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre South. Then we flew north along the eastern shore of Lake Eyre North passing the mouth of Cooper's Creek. There appeared to be shallow water in the bays along this coast, and in Cooper's Creek, but it is very difficult, from an aircraft, to identify water lying on top of salt.

Coopers Creek Mouth Cooper's Creek empties into Lake Eyre North along the eastern shore. This is probably the mouth of Cooper's Creek with the creek on the right of the picture.

Island Island in Lake Eyre North near the eastern coast.

Travelling Australia - Lake Eyre - page 3
Continuing north along the east coast of Lake Eyre North we began overflying the extensive sand dunes of the Tirari Desert which merges with Simpson's Desert to the north, Sturt's Stony Desert to the north-east and the Strzelecki Desert in the east. Dunes in the Tirari Desert run north-south. The shrubs/trees visible on the dunes in the photographs are dominated by Sandhill Wattle (Acacia ligulata) growing on the crests and slopes. Where dunes are close together the corridors between dunes are sandy and have the same vegetation cover as dunes, but wider spaced dunes often have corridors with substrates of gibber or flood plain, each with a characteristic plant community.

Tirari Desert dunes Some dunes in Tirari Desert

Tirari Desert dunefield Tirari Desert dunefield

North of Lake Eyre North we reached the Warburton River (sometimes known as Warburton Creek) containing water. Warburton River drains Goyder Lagoon north-east of Lake Eyre in the Sturt Stony Desert. Goyder Lagoon is fed by the Diamentina River, the Georgina River and Eyrie Creek and the Warburton River carries their infrequent flood waters into Lake Eyre. At the time of our overflight the Warburton River still carried water with many schools of pelicans on the surface.

Warburton River Warburton River

Travelling Australia - Lake Eyre - page 4
From the mouth of the Warburton River on the northern shore of Lake Eyre North we flew south to Silcrete Island near the southern shore. A channel in Lake Eyre extending from the mouth of the Warburton River in a straight line to the south, and reported to be five kilometres wide, up to 0.6 metes deep and up to 84 kilometres long, is known as the Warburton Groove. The Groove carries water from the Warburton River south into Lake Eyre.
Warburton Groove The Warburton Groove extends from the mouth of the Warburton River along the western side of Lake Eyre North carrying water from the river to the southern part of Lake Eyre. This photograph of the Groove through haze was taken from Belt Bay, near Silcrete Island at the south-western corner of Lake Eyre North. Water from the Groove is spreading into the southern parts of the Lake.

Silcrete Island at the south-western extremity of Lake Eyre North is a distinctively shaped island lying amid pink coloured salt on the dry lake bed. The island is a popular reporting point for aircraft operating locally. Airspace at sightseeing altitudes above Lake Eyre is uncontrolled; pilots broadcast their location and altitude on a common radio channel so other aircraft can avoid them; during this flight at least three other sightseeing aircraft were over Lake Eyre and this reporting process ensured that all pilots knew where other aircraft were.

After passing over Silcrete Island and Belt Bay we flew south east towards Marree over the land between Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre South. This area of dunes is decorated with several salt rimmed lakes.
Salt Lake Bowman Lake Bowman is a small lake between Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre South. The lake bed exhibits an interesting range of colours.

Salt Lakes Salt lakes north of Lake Eyre South. Lake Eyre South at the top of the photograph looks like a conventional water-filled lake with a sandy beach but this lake is salt.

Travelling Australia - Lake Eyre - page 5
We crossed the southern shore of Lake Eyre South at Pelican Point, another often used reference point when pilots broadcast their position, then headed directly for Marree where we landed for lunch at the Marree Roadhouse.
Marree Marree

Marree - Flinders Ranges - Broken Hill
Marree airfield was still busy as we started up, taxied out and took off heading south towards the Flinders Ranges and Wilpenna Pound. Weather was still mostly clear but strong wind generated turbulence making low flying very uncomfortable so we climbed to 5000 feet which would keep us safely above the Flinders Ranges.

We flew past Lyndhurst then the coal mines around Leigh Creek before overflying parts of the Flinders Ranges as far as Wilpenna Pound. The jagged, rocky cliffs and ranges were a sharp contrast to the flat salt pans of Lake Eyre. Over Wilpenna Pound we turned towards Broken Hill.
Flinders Ranges Flinders Ranges

Flinders Ranges Flinders Ranges

Travelling Australia - Lake Eyre - page 6
Wilpenna Pound The edge of uptilted rock strata forming Wilpenna Pound (off to the right).

The Flight
Silver City Scenic Flights provided an in-flight snack pack including an apple and bottle of water. Lunch at Marree was not included in the flight price. All passengers were provided with headphones and the pilot commented on points of interest as we approached and overflew them. A map made available to each passenger showed the route followed. Visibility of the ground from the Cessna 206 was excellent; photography was subject to the usual limitations of photography through perspex which may, or may not, be subject to sunshine glare and internal reflection. (Hint. Set your camera to focus on infinity then concentrate on composing the photograph and holding the camera steady and away from vibrating aircraft parts, you'll get some failures but there will be more successful shots. Relying on camera auto-focus through perspex is not usually wise.)

Overall the flight with Silver City Scenic Flights was excellent. Flying from Broken Hill required a longer flight than ones beginning in Marree or William Creek but provided the bonus of seeing Lake Frome and the Flinders Ranges.
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