Travelling Australia
Salt Lake Basin, WA
The area of salt pans around Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie is part of the Salt Lake drainage basin stretching from Lake Dundas, south of Norseman, up to the edge of the Little Sandy Desert. The Nullarbor Plain lies to the east of this basin and the western Australian wheatland to the west. The Salt Lake Basin is designated number 024 by the Australian Water Resource Council in the national scheme of water drainage.

This area is fairly flat with limited rainfall and does not have permanent watercourses. When rain falls, water flows along short, ephemeral watercourses into depressions left by blowing sand. Water in these depressions forms short-lived lakes which quickly evaporate leaving behind any salt the water picked up in its brief journey across the surrounding land. Over thousands of years this salt has accumulated to form the salt pans so visible today.

Not all salt lakes formed in depressions left in blowing sand. Many of the larger lakes, such as Lake Cowan near Norseman, are in chains along broad, shallow valleys marking former watercourses. Rivers along these ancient drainage lines ceased flowing as the climate dried many years ago allowing barrages to form in the failing river to retain water while it evaporated leaving a salt residue.

Lake Brazier Lake Brazier from Beacon Hill, Norseman.
Lake Cowan Lake Cowan from Beacon Hill. The former river valley now containing salt lakes is clearly visible
Lake Cowan Surface of Lake Cowan near Norseman. Salt-tolerant plants line the salt flat.