European settlement combined
with the rapid pastoral expansion on the desert fringes during the 1860 to 1900,
resulted in the displacement of tribes, either by direct occupation of tribal
lands or the attraction of tribe members to pastoral properties. However, the
worst impact was the introduction of influenza that decimated the tribes and was
to depopulate extensive areas of north and north-eastern South Australia,
including the Simpson Desert, at about the time of World War I. A severe drought
drove the last desert inhabitants away.
Although the first European to see the
Simpson Desert was the explorer Charles Sturt in 1845, the desert was not fully
recognised and named until explorer and geologist Cecil Thomas Madigan, in the
1930s named it after Allen Simpson, the sponsor of his expedition. The explorers
after Sturt were mainly government surveyors, who named a number of the familiar
landmarks in the area.
Among the notable early surveyors was Augustus Poeppel. He was to mark and
peg the junction of the borders of the Northern Territory, Queensland and South
Australia. The original peg marking 'Poeppel Corner' was removed to Adelaide for
preservation, has now been replaced with a replica. Some of the Poeppel's
original mile posts and other historic markers can still be seen in the Park.
The first successful crossing of the desert by a European is credited to E.
A.Colson who, with an Aboriginal companion P. Ains, and 5 camels, travelled from
Mount Etingambra and went westward to Birdsville in 1936. The first motorised crossing
was by geologist Reg Sprigg and his family in 1962.
The idea of a Simpson Desert National Park originated with Keith Jarrott of
the Queensland National Parks Association in 1966, with the Queensland section
established first. South Australia officially proclaimed 6,927 sq kms on 14
December, 1967, following a proposal from Warren Bonython. The Northern
Territory park authorities have so far declined to act on the matter.
In 1972 the park in South Australia changed to Simpson Desert Conservation
Park, with the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve established in 1988 with the
support of the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the time,
For some great resources see the publications listed on the South Australia
ParksWeb site and visit the
Simpson Desert -
French Line site.
Department for Environment & Heritage