Lake Disappointment - WA



DEG: -23.28907 122.748329
DMS: 23º 17' 20.65" S 122º 44' 53.98" E
UTM: 51 K 7424457mN 474264mE
Altitude: 340.79m


Place Type

Geography - Lake,River,Creek


308.83kms East of Newman
445.91kms NorthEast of Wiluna
499.35kms NorthWest of Warburton
519.76kms South of Bidyadanga Community

Address & Contact

Telfer WA
Phone: N/A
Email: N/A
Web: N/A


Lake Disappointment, or Kumpupintil/Kumpupirntily in the Western Desert Language, is an endorheic salt lake and is one of the largest Playa lakes in Western Australia covering 330 km2 and draining an area of the Great Sandy Desert over twice that size. The Canning Stock Route passes along the northern edge of the lake before veering further south west in the vicinity of the Savoury Creek.

Frank Hann in the course of an exploring/prospecting expedition, travelled east from Nullagine to sight and name the lake on 20 April 1897. Hann had travelled from Nullagine across the Davis River to the Coolbro Creek, then to the southeast following and naming the Broadhurst Range, crossing the upper Rudall River and the Cotton Creek as far as the Harbutt Range where he turned south to the Mckay Range. Here he noted that many creeks were draining southward and he sighted a large lake ten miles distant. Making their way to it next day, Hann found it was all white salt.

“It is the largest thing in lakes I ever saw ... I shall call the lake Lake Disappointment as I was disappointed in not finding water in it”.

In 1978, WA academic Robert Tonkinson, who had spent years studying the Martu, documented their fears. "Numerous stories were told to me about a person or people who had been foolish enough to trespass, and the tragic result that ensued."

Lake Disappointment is one of the Martu people's most sacred sites and in indigenous culture, was off-limits to the tribes neighbouring the area. The reason for the taboo, existing down to modern times, derives from the lake's mythological associations with the Ngayurnangalku spirits thought to live below its surface. This prohibition even extends to flying over the area, since the Ngayurnangalku, ancestral cannibal beings with pointy teeth and claw like fingernails, are deemed capable of ripping down aircraft that intrude over the lake's airspace.

In his memoirs of Warri and Yatungka, Stan Gratte also makes mention of Mudjons fear at being near the lake and that would not even look across its vast expanse for fear of the demons that dwelled there.

More than a century later, Reward Minerals identified 24.4 million tonnes of potash within its boundaries sparking a possible mining boom and source of royalties for the Martu people.

Visible from CSR between wells 19 and 21 where Savory Creek enters the lake. As there are no high points from which to view the lake, it is a blurry shimmer in the heat haze. From eye level standing on the edge of the salt you can only see 5km. A 4km track at the creek mouth takes you closer but makes no real difference to any view with the horizon 8 km away at the 6m elevation you'd get by standing on your 4by roof and the angle of your view is too shallow to see much at all. Better to go to Lake Gairdner in SA.
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Closest Weather Station

Telfer at 25/12:00am WST
Distance from Lake Disappointment 183.15km N
TemperatureFeels LikeRel. HumidityDew PointPressureRainfallWind DirectionWind SpeedGusts

Closest Climatic Station

Telfer Aero
Distance from Lake Disappointment 183.15km N
Mean Max. °C40.638.637.334.529.125.325.328.432.737.039.440.2
Mean Min. °C26.025.423.920.615.311.910.612.516.520.823.425.4
Mean Rain mm49.1102.777.320.018.914.313.

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