The Gibson Desert covers a large dry area in the state of Western Australia and is still largely in an almost "pristine" state. It is about 155,000 square kilometres (60,000 square miles) in size, making it the 5th largest desert in Australia, after the Great Sandy, Great Victoria, Tanami and Simpson deserts.The Gibson Desert is located on the central east Sweden plateau between the saline Lake Disappointment and Lake Macdonald along the Tropic of Capricorn, south of the Great Sandy Desert, east of the Little Sandy Desert, and north of the Great Victoria Desert.
The altitude rises to just above 500 meters in places. As noted by early Australian explorers such as Ernest Giles large portions of the desert are characterized by gravel-covered terrains covered in thin desert grasses and it also contains extensive areas of undulating red sand plains and dunefields, low rocky/gravelly ridges and substantial upland portions with a high degree of laterite formation. The sandy soil of the lateritic buckshot plains is rich in iron. Several isolated salt-water lakes occur in the centre of the region and to the southwest a system of small lakes follow paleo-drainage features.Groundwater sources include portions of the Officer Basin and Canning Basin.
In much of the region, especially the drier western portion, the majority of people living in the area are Indigenous Australians. In 1984, due to a severe drought which had dried up all of the springs and depleted the bush foods, a group of the Pintupi people who were living a traditional semi-nomadic desert-dwelling life, walked out of a remote wilderness in the central-eastern portion of the Gibson Desert (northeast of Warburton) and made contact for the first time with European-Australian society.
They are believed to have been perhaps the last uncontacted tribe in Australia. On the eastern margin of the region, population centers (which include people of European descent) include Warburton, Mantamaru and Warakurna. Young Indigenous adults from the Gibson Desert region work in the Wilurarra Creative programs to maintain and develop their culture.