Who would have dreamt that Lake Harry Station used to be a date plantation! It was part of a government experiment in new commercial crops. The seedlings were planted in 1897. The date palms grew well but the planners forgot one very small – and very important – requirement… Date palms are pollinated by bees. Unfortunately, bees can’t survive in the hot, dry climate of the Tirari Desert. Every single flower had to be pollinated by hand!
Pollination wasn’t the only problem. The palms were attacked by corellas, munched by goats and devastated by storms. The dates spoilt in transit and freight costs were exorbitant, and so the plantation turned out to be a financial failure.
Nevertheless, the government put Lake Harry to good use. In 1910 it became a camel depot! At that time, camels were the best way to transport supplies over the Birdsville Track’s sand dunes and stony gibber plains. The camels were also used to transport bore drilling rigs. The government installed flowing bores every 28 miles or so, allowing drovers to bring cattle from Queensland down to Marree and from there to the markets further south.
The date palms are gone from Lake Harry now, but you can still see some in Marree. Some of the remaining palms were relocated to Berri but the weather wasn’t hot enough to ripen the fruit. Perhaps there are still some of Lake Harry’s date palms there – if so, post a picture!
You can pull in and see Lake Harry Station – it’s about 32km north of Marree on the Birdsville Track.