No other town in the bush so adequately represents the outback than Birdsville. The image of the Birdsville Hotel is as instantly recognisable as the image of the Harbour Bridge or The Devils Marbles. The famous Birdsville races are the highlight of the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival and attract thousands of visitors each year. It's an event that has been run since 1882. Prize money in the 1880's was as much as £500 while in the 1940's the reward dipped to £50. Today it's $140,000. Not bad for a place with a population of 120 that has been described as Australia's most isolated town. During race week 80,000 cans of beer are consumed by thirsty punters.
Standing in Queensland on the edge of the Simpson Desert, Birdsville is only 12km from the South Australian border. Setup to extract a customs toll as stock crossed the interstate borders, today Birdsville services local stations and the ever increasing nomadic tourist. It's an iconic outback destination and often signals the beginning or end of a 4WD crossing of the Simpson Desert. 'Big Red' or Nappamerri is the famous sand dune 30km west of Birdsville and a crossing of the Simpson is generally considered incomplete without at least attempting to summit this big red pile of sand.
The Birdsville Track is another icon bearing the towns name. Beginning in Marree, South Australia it runs 517km before finishing in Birdsville. This dirt road was once only used a stock route but today it is a popular tourist drive.
Birdsville can get incredibly hot where day after day can reach 45°C. It's also incredibly dry, receiving an average of 160mm of rainfall a year. It is a place of contrasts because an unusual rain event can see the normally dusty area completely flooded. It's fantastic for business if it happens during the Birdsville Races and leaves thousands of visitors stranded in town. Flooding has seen the cancellation of the races - it's only happened on three occasions in over 130 years.
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