The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry,red sandy plain and dunes in Central Australia.
The Simpson Desert is underlain by the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest inland drainage areas in the world. Water from the basin rises to the surface at numerous natural springs, including Dalhousie Springs, and at bores drilled along stock routes, or during petroleum exploration. As a result of exploitation by such bores, the flow of water to springs has been steadily decreasing in recent years.
The explorer Charles Sturt,who visited the region from 1844-1846, was the first European to see the desert, but it was not until 1936 that Ted Colson became the first white person to cross it in its entirety.
The Simpson Desert is an erg which contains the world's longest parallel sand dunes. These north-south oriented dunes are static, held in position by vegetation. They vary in height from 3 metres in the west to around 30 metres on the eastern side. The largest and most famous dune, Nappanerica, or more popularly Big Red (named by Simpson Desert traveller Dennis Bartell), is 40 metres in height.
At least 34 native mammals, 231 birds, 22 amphibians, 13 fish, and 125 reptile species have been recorded from the region. The Simpson Desert has a relatively high fauna species richness compared to other arid zone regions in Australia, possibly due to the proximity of large areas of floodplains to an array of other more arid habitat types.
The Wangkangurru people lived in the Simpson Desert, ranging over the southern desert in good seasons and falling back on a series of native wells or Mikiri when the country dried out. The Wangkangurru left the desert voluntarily in 1901 and walked south to the Bethesda Lutheran Mission at Killalpaninna.