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Dalhousie Springs

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Dalhousie Springs - Cities, Towns and Localities

The Dalhousie Springs is a popular oasis in the arid desert region of northern most part of South Australia. Many travellers make the effort to enjoy this unique region, on-route through the Simpson Desert or from the well known Oodnadatta.

After travelling through spectacular country of gibber plains, sand dunes, stony tablelands, flat-topped mesa hills, salt pans and floodplain country, the sight of palms, reeds and native shrubs and trees fringing springs, is indeed a sight to behold.

Fed by the thermal waters of the Great Artesian Basin, the water in Dalhousie Spring is an enjoyable 34-38ºC, where many travellers relax and have a swim whilst the little Dalhousie goby nibble at their skin.

After enjoying the calm healing waters (Irrwanyere) of Dalhousie Spring, visitors can enjoy exploring the surrounding, read the many signage providing information about the flora, fauna and indigenous history of the area, then returning to their campsite.

Located within Witjira National Park on the western edge of the Simpson Desert, this is 4WD access, trailers, caravans and motorhomes are not recommended east of Dalhousie Springs.

You can help to protect this and other parts of our magnificent natural heritage by using the toilet facilities and keeping to marked tracks and roads.

Do not litter or wash in the springs or creeks. Do not use generators.

The animals that live here need the shelter provided by the trees growing around the springs. Please do not take firewood from this area. Only use firewood that you purchased or have brought into the national park.

Dalhousie Springs Attractions continue

• Dalhousie Springs Walks
Visitors to Dalhousie Springs are offered a couple of walks that take in the surrounds of this wonderful country. Walks include:
  • Idnjundura - Kingfisher Springs Walk
    — 2 hour 6 km return (easy walk)
    This is the start of the Idnjundura (Kingfisher Spring) Walking trail that take you past several locations associated with Idnjundura Altyerre (mythological story). The trail follows the spring tail of Irrwanyere to the group of springs to the east.

    Along the trail there are information signs that tell some of the Altyerre (mythological stories) from this area. The signs provide only basic information. For more information the local rangers will provide tours, as time permits. Enquire at the Ulabah office (cabin by the campground).
  • Irrwanyere Nature Walk
    — 1 hour 700 m return (easy walk)
    This walk takes you past several features in the area that were utilised by the local people here for the last few thousand years. These include the healing waters of Irrwanyere, local plants used the spiritual areas around this site.

    Along this walk there are views of the springs and landscape that were significant to he local Lower Southern Arrente people.

    The walk starts here by the healing waters of Irrwanyere (Dalhousie Springs) and leads to the forbidden waters of Atyetyarr uthen (Rainbow Serpent Spring), then to the view from Medicine Hill, before returning here.

    Please keep to the trail as there are several sensitive sites along the way. All plants, animals and artefacts are protected by law. Pleas respect the area and cultural history and do not disturb anything.

Idnjundura - Kingfisher Springs Walk
Idnjundura - Kingfisher Springs Walk

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Dalhousie Springs - The Desert People

Dalhousie Springs - The Mound Springs
Imagine living under the relentless heat of the Dalhousie summer sun and searching for food and shelter.

Witjira-Dalhousie Springs was an important resource for Lower Southern Arrernte people and their neighbours the Wangkangurru of the Simpson Desert.

In times of drought the permanent water of the springs became an important refuge providing a variety of foods such as: wengker duck, atnetyirt waterhen, tyap grubs, aremay goanna, irtenng yams and ntang edible seeds. After rain they would move out to the fresh water trapped in claypans, waterholes and rockpools, feasting on ilkart melon, mbumuna fungus, bilbies, bandicoots, birds and goannas, before returning to the springs as water supplies dried up.

The springs were also a desirable location for their ancestors in the Dreamtime. Many tracks pass through the springs area where the ancestors camped and engaged in activities as varied as "sorting out the pretty girls from the ugly ones, hiding a firestick under the water, or throwing stones along a flat pavement. These activities and the springs belonging to them were celebrated in many songs and stories.

People with strong ties to this land still live in this area. Please respect any sites that you visit.

Source: DEWNR: Witjira National Park signage

Preparation of Bush Foods
During ceremonies, families camped on the flats, away from the spring - this was a waiting place where bush foods were prepared. The women ground grass seeds, and collected witchetty grubs, lizards, rats, berries and other plant foods. They would take food a short distance from both the main spring, Irrwanyere, and Idnjundura (Kingfisher Springs) so the men could collect it.

Source: DEWNR: Witjira National Park signage

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• Dreaming and Dreamtime Stories
Whilst we care is taken to pass on these stories, visitors should try to experience the indigenous tours, that may operate in these areas. Information available from the nearest local visitor centre. If we have made an error in the retelling, just drop us an email with the correction.
Thutirla Pula (Two Boys Dreaming)
This story is an extract from the publication Birdsville by Evan McHugh, although not word for word, it is repeated here:

This is one of the most important stories of the Wangkangurru and other people of Central Australia. Thutirla Pula is how the spirits of the Dreamtime first crossed the desert they call Munga-Thirri (Land of Sandhills).

This story begins at Dalhousie Springs on the western side of the desert. Here a great ceremony was held, a corroboree. At the corroboree it was decided to take feathers as important decorations to their people on the other side of the desert. To get there they needed to create water wells (mikiri) along the way, crossing the centre of the desert all the way to Birdsville. They engaged the services of the great serpent and the two kingfishers who, with their father, were rainmakers. On the first day out the two kingfishers were transformed into the 'Two Boys' and this is where the 'Two Boys Dreaming' began.

The story reveals how a Dreaming travels over the landscape and how it can change from one location to the next. At one place the story is a Snake Dreaming, travelling the waterholes and rivers. It is during this travel that it becomes the King Fisher Dreaming story. At each location where there is a waterhole, the story continues or there is a new storyline, until it crosses the desert.

They came all the way across the desert, following the serpent (kumarri) who travelled underground. Every time the serpent would find a suitable spot for water he would surface and the boys would identify the place before continuing. The old snake therefore put water right across the desert. There came to be many wells: Parra Parra, Walpurkanha, Boolabutina, Tjilpatha. From Tjilpatha across to Yalkari, Pulawani and Nulla-naringi where they run into the Georgina River and Eyre Creek.

From there they moved to Birdsville where they celebrated crossing the desert at what is now known as the Fish Hole. Not far away they established a ceremonial site on two rocky out-crops, one for women, the other for men. The Fish Hole is on the Diamantina River southwest of town. The rocky outcrops are on the eastern edge of town.

So it is that the Two Boy Dreaming links a number of story lines from Dalhousie Springs to Birdsville, like the original routes travelled by Aboriginals and Aboriginal traders, weaving its way through the desert country. The Snake in the dreaming travelling along the same route.

Even more significant was that the Dreaming story lines established a direct route across the Simpson Desert, detailing the water holes along the way.

The significance of Thutirla Pula was that it established a direct route across Munga-Thirri, the Simpson Desert. It was a short cut that took 600 kilometres off the journey around the bottom of the Simpson Desert to Lake Eyre, then back up the Diamantina River.

Evan Mchugh, Birdsville, Penguin Group (Australia), 2009, p212-213. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
Dale Kerwin, Aboriginal Dreaming Paths and Trading Routes. The Colonisation of the Australian Economic Landscape, Sussex Academic Press, 2010, 2012, p45. Retrieved 30 July 2012.

Irunpa / Perentie Story

Irruip ayey anem tyeperr Altyerr akngerr, kwaty nhenhel. Irrunp ayey nhenh ila arntilem arrkwety map atherrarl ulepeth-ulepethilekari, arrkwety akapert mperiker map antekerr ngekari kenh arrkwety akapert ltyer amp ingkernari imperielhekari. Apert ltyerarey nheng rem nhenheng, alemnli akwel anem arrkwety akapert ltyer ilarey ingkern imperielhekari. Utyerr ihern lyentel, nheng lrrunp pmerel, irrunp ila akwel kwet akarelhemal ilari anem arrkwety ikwerarey.

The Irunpa (Perentie) story is one of the main Altyerre (mythological stories) associated with the spring. The Irunpa story tells of the separation of the light-haired women who were taken to the west and the dark-haired women who were left behind. The dark stones seen here (on the Kingfisher Springs Walk) represent the dark-haired women who were left behind. At the Witjira mound, also known as the Perentie camp, Irunpa waited and kept a lookout for the women.

Uitjinga / Rainmaker Story

Altyerr ltnyuntereng anem Uitjingk ayey, Kwaty Merrilenh-ilenh ayey. Kwaty merrilenh-ilenh ila akwel atyuty war anek nheng itelaremel ilenger ila lheny leth apertekari kwaty merrilenyel akngerrepateiurr.

The main Altyerre (mythological story) at Idnjundura (Kingfisher Springs) is the Uitjinga or rainmaker story. According to tradition, the rainmaker stayed there while he decided when he had to go travelling to maintain the rainmaker's cycle.

Source: DEWNR: Witjira National Park signage

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Dalhousie Springs Other Links

• Dalhousie Springs Community/Local Government Links
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