The Tirari Desert is a 15,250 square kilometres (5,888 sq mi) desert in the eastern part of the Far North region of South Australia.The Tirari Desert features salt lakes and large north-south running sand dunes.It is located partly within the Lake Eyre National Park.It lies mainly to the east of Lake Eyre North. Cooper Creek runs through the centre of the desert.The adjacent deserts of the area include Simpson Desert which lies to the north while the Strzelecki Desert is to the east and the Sturt Stony Desert runs aligned with the Birdsville track to the north east.The desert experiences harsh conditions with high temperatures and very low rainfall (mean annual rainfall is below 125 millimetres (4.9 in)).
The vegetation of the dunefields of the Tirari Desert is dominated by either Sandhill Wattle (Acacia ligulata) or Sandhill Cane-grass (Zygochloa paradoxa) which occur on the crests and slopes of dunes. Tall, open shrubland also occurs on the slopes. The otherwise sparsely vegetated dunefields become covered by a carpet of grasses, herbs and colourful flowering plants following rains.The interdune soil types and hence the vegetation, varies with the dune spacing. Closer spaced dunes result in sandy valleys that have similar vegetation to the dune sides while widely spaced dunes are separated by gibber or flood plains, each supporting particular vegetation communities.
The vegetation on the floodplains varies with the capacity of the land to retain floodwaters, and the frequency of inundation. In drier areas, species including Old Man Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia), Cottonbush (Maireana aphylla) and Queensland Bluebush (Chenopodium auricomum) form a sparse, open shrubland, whereas swamps and depressions are frequently associated with Swamp Cane-grass (Eragrostis australasica) and Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta).The intermittent watercourses and permanent waterholes associated with tributaries of Cooper Creek support woodland dominated by River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and Coolibah (Eucalyptus coolabah).As at 2008, the Tirari Desert is included in biogeographic regions (IBRA) SSD3: Dieri, part of the Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields (SSD) Region. The desert is also part of the Tirari-Sturt stony desert ecoregion
Access and Stations:
The main vehicular access to the desert is via the unpaved Birdsville Track which runs northwards from Marree to Birdsville. The Mungerannie Hotel is the only location between the two towns that provides services.The Tirari Desert region has a number of large cattle stations which are stopping points on the Channel Country aviation mail run.
Dulkaninna Station has been run by the same family for 110 years, has 2000 cattle and breeds horses and kelpies.
Etadunna Station to the north is a 1-million-acre (4,000 sq km) cattle station with 2500 cattle. The station environs include a number of heritage sites include Bucaltaninna Homestead ruins, the Woolshed ruins and Canny Trig Point (also known as Milner's Pile) and the state heritage-registered Killalpaninna Mission site.Further north again is Mulka Station which also has a number of heritage sites including homestead ruins at Apatoongannie, Old Mulka and Ooroowillannie. The Mulka Store ruins is listed on the South Australian state register of heritage places.
The desert incorporates the Lake Ngapakaldi to Lake Palankarinna Fossil Area, a 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) area on Australia's Register of the National Estate with significant Tertiary period vertebrate fossils.