DESTINATIONS - EVERY LITTLE TOWN HAS SOMETHING
Marree is an outback town near Lake Eyre South and is an old settlement on the edge of the vast desert area of Central Australia. It is a true desert settlement, receiving an average annual rainfall of only 155mm.
The area around Marree was first
explored in 1840 by Europeans when Edward John Eyre travelled north from Spencer Gulf and reached the southern shores of Lake Eyre South.
In 1859 John McDouall Stuart arrived in the area and it was his assistant Herrgott who discovered the mound springs after which the early town took its name.
Hergott Springs camp was established in 1872 for maintenance workers on the Overland Telegraph Line. The camp soon grew into an outpost for all expeditions heading north and eventually Afghan camel drivers established a base at the settlement, from where they headed off the outlying centres of Oodnadatta,
Birdsville and Alice Springs. There is still the remains of their mosque in the town.
The camp became an official town in 1883 when the railway reached it. It was named Marree, in the language of the local Aborigines, but continued to be called Hergott Springs until 1918 when, in the wake of World War One anti-German feeling, the railway station sign and the post office were both changed
The 1939 Simpson Desert Expedition Memorial Near the town’s solitary pub is a white plaque commemorating the Simpson Desert expedition of 1939 in which Cecil Madigan and his party crossed the harsh dry region to the north of the town.
Museum Park In Museum Park, in the centre of town beside the old railway line, is the famous mail truck that Tom Kruse used to transport mail from Marree to Birdsville along the Birdsville track. Kruse’s adventures were superbly captured in the 1952 documentary Back of Beyond which chronicled the hardships
and ingenuity involved in taking mail and supplies across a desert prone to flooding, being bogged in sand dunes and breaking down hundreds of kilometres from any kind of service.
The town’s decline occurred in 1980 when the original Ghan railway line was closed.
To the north of Marree is Lake Eyre, in an area which receives an annual rainfall of less than 125mm, yet receives water flows from central and northeastern Australia covering about 1.3 million sq km – one sixth of the continent.
Known as the most arid area on the continent the Lake commonly records temperatures in excess of 50°C in summer and has been known to reach the extraordinary temperature of 61°C. The lake, recognised as the largest salt pan in the world, is actually divided into two – Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre South
– by the 13 km Goyder Channel. It filled three times last century – 1945-50, 1974 and 1990 – and each time it became a haven for a rich variety of wildlife.
Marree is home to the exclusive Lake Eyre Yacht Club, whose members journey there whenever there’s enough water to float their boats.