Lake Torrens

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.

Lake Torrens
Stuart Creek with Lake Torrens in the background
Lake Torrens
Location in South Australia
LocationSouth Australia
Coordinates31°02′40″S 137°51′35″E
TypeSalt lake
Primary outflowsPirie–Torrens corridor
Basin countriesAustralia
DesignationLake Torrens National Park
Max. length250 km (160 mi)[1]
Max. width30 km (19 mi)
Surface area5,745 km2 (2,218 sq mi)[2]
Max. depth1 m (3.3 ft)[3]
Surface elevation30 m (98 ft)[4]


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,[4] with a maximum depth of 1 m.[3] It is located within the boundaries of Lake Torrens National Park.[5]

Lake Torrens stretches approximately 250 kilometres (155 mi) in length[1] and 30 kilometres (19 mi) in average width. It is Australia's second largest lake when filled with water[1] and encompasses an area of 5,745 square kilometres (2,218 sq mi).[2][6]

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.[2] 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[7] who was one of the founders of the South Australian colony.

The lake filled in 1897 and again in April 1989.[2] 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.[1]

In April 2013, the full extent of Lake Torrens was gazetted by the Government of South Australia as a locality with the name Lake Torrens.[8][9]

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.[10][11]

Non-statutory arrangements

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.[12][13]

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.[14] It may occasionally support over 1% of the world population of red-capped plovers. Cinnamon quail-thrushes are also common in the IBA.[15]

See also


  1. "Lake Torrens National Park". Explore Australia. 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  2. John K. Warren (12 June 2006). Evaporites:Sediments, Resources and Hydrocarbons: Sediments, Resources, and Hydrocarbons. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 201. ISBN 9783540323440.
  3. "Lake Torrens, Australia - 3539.200sq km - Facts, Map". Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  4. Barker, McCaskill & Ward, p.173, 1995
  5. "Lake Torrens National Park". Government of South Australia. 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  6. "Largest Waterbodies". Geoscience Australia. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  7. PlaceNames Online - South Australian State Gazetteer Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine Site is a searchable database. Accessed 3 April 2012.
  8. "GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES ACT 1991 Notice to Create Boundaries of Places and Alter Boundaries of Places" (PDF). The South Australian Government Gazette. South Australian Government. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  9. RACK PLAN 951 - PROPOSED LOCALITY BOUNDARIES FOR PASTORAL AREAS (PDF) (Map). South Australian Government. 31 October 2012. Rack Plan 951. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  10. "Protected Areas Information System - reserve list (as of 25 November 2014)" (PDF). Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  11. "Protected Areas of South Australia September (Map) 2014 Edition" (PDF). Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  12. Eyles, Kathy; Larmour, Geoff; Young, Sarah; Australia. Environment Australia; Natural Heritage Trust (Australia). National Wetlands Program (2001), A Directory of important wetlands in Australia (PDF) (3rd ed.), Environment Australia, pp. 1, 2 & 78, ISBN 978-0-642-54721-7
  13. "Results of search for "Inland Saline Lakes - SA065"". Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Environment. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  14. "IBA: Lake Torrens". Birdata. Birds Australia. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
  15. "Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Torrens". BirdLife International. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
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