The Todd River flows, when it does flow, right through the well known central Australian town of Alice Springs. It is mostly known as a dry river bed by the thousands of tourists who pass through this settlement on their way either up north to Darwin, or those who explore all the wonders of Australia’s Red Centre. Named after Charles Todd, a former administrator of the post office in South Australia, the river is in a very arid part of the great continent ‘ down under’ and this explains its mostly dry state.
The desert dwellers of this region would have known this fact for thousands of years, being members of the oldest race on earth according to anthropologists. These people the Arrente, by tribe or clan name, have known this river as “Lhere Mparntwe”, which although not translated fully, has something to do with it’s mainly dry status. It is rather sad, almost tragic, that these same people are to be seen today sitting in the dry river bed often drinking alcohol. Although this is a social problem, if one looks at it through more compassionate eyes, they are doing what they have always done in the area and that is just resting amongst the natural environment they have always appreciated, looked after and known.
The river itself is actually a branch of the Hale River which flows into Lake Eyre, one of the largest salt pan lakes in the world, and has as its source the Macdonnell Ranges outside Alice Springs. Although much of the land is desert here and flat, these uplifts rise to a height of eignt hundred metres. Fifty kilometres in length, the river is wide and when the rains do fall here it looks a very impressive river. Recently in the Centre of Australia, high rainfalls filled the Todd River to capacity. One young lad even tried surfing on a small wave.
In most normal seasons the” Henley on Todd ” is a well known fun event staged on the Todd River. Participants build quirky canoes and fun craft and carry them down the dry river bed racing each other in these bottomless boats. This event was first started in nineteen sixty-one and has only been cancelled once due to the river filling with water in nineteen ninety-three. This fact alone classes the Todd River as a truly dry river bed, like those found in the Kalahari desrt of Botswana in Southern Africa. There is ample accommodation available for the visitor to Alice Springs and the surrounding areas.