Lake Torrens is a large ephemeral, normally endorheic salt lake in central South Australia. After sufficiently extreme rainfall events, the lake flows out through the Pirie-Torrens corridor to the Spencer Gulf.
Stuart Creek with Lake Torrens in the background
|Primary outflows||Pirie–Torrens corridor|
|Designation||Lake Torrens National Park|
|Max. length||250 km (160 mi)|
|Max. width||30 km (19 mi)|
|Surface area||5,745 km2 (2,218 sq mi)|
|Max. depth||1 m (3.3 ft)|
|Surface elevation||30 m (98 ft)|
Lake Torrens lies between the Arcoona Plateau to the west and the Flinders Ranges to the east, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) north of Port Augusta and about 345 kilometres (214 mi) north of the Adelaide city centre. The lake is approximately 30 metres (98 ft) above sea level, with a maximum depth of 1 m. It is located within the boundaries of Lake Torrens National Park.
Lake Torrens stretches approximately 250 kilometres (155 mi) in length and 30 kilometres (19 mi) in average width. It is Australia's second largest lake when filled with water and encompasses an area of 5,745 square kilometres (2,218 sq mi).
The Lake Torrens catchment is an endorheic basin, having no outflow of water to the ocean.
Approximately 35,000 years ago, the lake water was fresh to brackish, but has become increasingly saline since. The traditional owners of the area are the Arabunna peoples to the north, the Kokatha to the west and the Kyuni to the east. The first European to see the lake was Edward Eyre in 1839 who spotted the salt bed from Mount Arden at the head of the Spencer Gulf. Eyre named the lake after Colonel Robert Torrens who was one of the founders of the South Australian colony.
The lake filled in 1897 and again in April 1989. The 1989 filling resulted in the lake outflowing through the Pirie-Torrens corridor to the Spencer Gulf, suggesting it likely did so in 1897 as well. It has a thin salt crust with red-brown clays beneath, which are soft and boggy. The area around the lake is sparsely vegetated with samphire, saltbush and bluebush.
Protected area status
South Australian government
The full extent of Lake Torrens has been protected as a national park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 since 1991.
Lake Torrens is part of an area known as the Inland Saline Lakes which has been listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia since at least 1995.
Lake Torrens has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area known as the Lake Torrens Important Bird Area (IBA) because it supported up to 100,000 breeding banded stilts during the major filling event of 1989. It may occasionally support over 1% of the world population of red-capped plovers. Cinnamon quail-thrushes are also common in the IBA.
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