Our region

The SA Arid Lands region covers more than half of South Australia, taking up the state’s north-east corner to its borders with New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The region’s environmental processes are determined by irregular rainfall and other episodic weather events that rarely follow predictable annual cycles. The region includes some of the driest parts of South Australia and has the largest percentage of intact ecosystems and natural biodiversity in the state. These iconic terrestrial ecosystems – including sandy deserts, stony plains, and the Gawler, Flinders and Olary ranges – are home to a range of unique plants and animals, many of which are only found within the region.

Aside from the City of Port Augusta with a population of almost 14,000 people, and the towns of Roxby Downs and Coober Pedy, the human population in this semi arid region is small and geographically dispersed. Coober Pedy and Roxby Downs are both associated with mining and are home to less than 5000 people, while the remaining scattered towns all have 1500 occupants or less.

Pastoralism is the most dominant land use, with more than 400,000 square kilometres taken up by sheep and cattle stations. Large mining and petroleum companies also operate in the arid lands. Aboriginal land holdings are diverse and include pastoral leases, community managed land, indigenous protected areas and co-managed parks.

The region contains some of the state’s most environmentally significant landscapes including conservation reserves and national parks, as well as two great inland water systems: Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre and the Great Artesian Basin.

Managing landscapes in the region

Maintaining the soils, native vegetation and native wildlife in the SAAL region is critical to the sustainability of our industries and communities. Unlike agricultural regions further south, healthy native vegetation is critical to our pastoral industry, providing valuable fodder for fattening cattle and sheep.

The environment is also strongly linked to the region’s culture and history; for its many occupants, our heritage and stories are strongly connected to country.

Visiting our region

The SAAL region attracts large numbers of visitors wanting to experience its unique offerings. The Flinders Ranges has been identified as one of Australia’s iconic National Landscapes and spans more than 430km of the region, presenting a 600 million year old story of the earth’s evolution.

Featuring highly on many four-wheel-drive enthusiasts ‘bucket lists’ are the legendary desert tracks of the Simpson Desert, Dalhousie Springs and Coongie Lakes, which are all located within our regional conservation reserves or national parks.

Exploring our region by road requires a general understanding of the management responsibilities of the various types of roads and tracks.

  • Public roads (sealed and unsealed) are managed by the Department of Planning, Transport, and Infrastructure, which provides regular, current information about road conditions and road closures via its road report.
  • Roads within national parks and conservation reserves are managed by the Department for Environment and Water (DEW), which provides regular, current information about road conditions and closures.
  • Signposted public access routes on pastoral stations are managed by the Pastoral Board and are the only tracks on properties that can be accessed without permission from the land manager. Access to other tracks on stations must be made by application to the Public Access Officer.

Buy a map

Mapland sells a range of products from the DEW mapping and aerial photography library to the general public and business community. Map stocks can be ordered through the Natural Resource Centre Port Augusta.

Our region's news

Across the Outback

Across the Outback is released quarterly and provides updates on a range of government activities that are being undertaken in the SA Arid Lands Landscape region.

Stay up to date

See our publications archive for previous editions of our newsletters.

You can subscribe to have new editions delivered straight to your inbox.