Lake Eyre is filling and my bucket list is long

Too much work, too little rain, footy, school, housework, family and farm commitments - well you all know the drill.

I figured we all might need a break from the election campaign, so instead of standing on my soap box this week I thought I'd take us all on a holiday - well almost.

Just last week, my husband and I heard a report on the radio that Lake Eyre was expected to reach its highest level this winter since the epic 1974 floods.

With images of a vast inland sea and abundant wildlife fuelling our imaginations we turned to each other with one question between us.

Could we squeeze it in?

Lake Eyre is a bloody long way from anywhere but two years ago, we bought an off-road camper and promised ourselves we'd do some bucket-list trips before our three boys headed to boarding school. If Lake Eyre fills, we said, we need to just down tools and go.

With the oldest boys due to go next year, it seems we haven't ticked a lot off the list.

We've done plenty of short fishing and camping trips - a couple to the nearby yet majestic Carnarvon Gorge - but no epic, cross-country adventures like we'd envisaged.

Too much work, too little rain, footy, school, housework, family and farm commitments - well you all know the drill.

But this year - maybe the stars have aligned?

Normally, running a sheep and cattle property in western Queensland makes impromptu holidays a near impossibility - there always seem to be mouths to feed or wild dogs to keep out.

But thanks to the drought, our stock numbers are well below where they'd normally be and a holiday now is actually feasible.

We'd have to take time off work, school and footy - inconvenient but achievable.

The only thing to ask ourselves now is, is it worth it?

Matt Harnetty is the chief pilot with Wrights Air - a business based on the edge of Lake Eyre at William Creek. During the winter, he spends his days taking tourists for scenic flights across the lake and he lives for the rare years, like this one, when the lake fills.

Speaking to me from the airport in William Creek, Matt assures me the lake will be well worth the 3000km drive.

He said the tourists have already started arriving en masse - even though the peak is still three to four weeks away.

Matt says the travellers are keen to get a glimpse of this phenomenon which only occurs once every 25 years on average.

"At the moment it's flooding in the southern end of the Lake - it has run right from the top end down through the Goyder Channel and it is funnelling down to Belt Bay which the lowest point in Australia at 15m below sea level," he said.

"So the water depth would be sitting at about one metre in its deepest part at the moment and in other parts it is just a couple of centimetres but that floods out over kilometres. We are getting that glass look across the lake and the patterns are starting to form on the bottom when all the salt mixes with the mud.

"The wildlife have started moving in too - a couple of big pods of pelicans have arrived but they haven't settled anywhere yet. They are moving around the lake but over the next few weeks they will settle down as more fish make their way into the Lake."

Officially known as Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, the lake is about 700km north of Adelaide and, when full, covers some 9,500 km2 (3,668 sq mi).

When the lake is in flood, it has the same salinity level as the sea, but as the lake dries up and the water evaporates, salinity increases.

According to Wikipedia, the lake was named by Europeans in honour of Edward John Eyre, who was the first European to see it, in 1840.

The lake's official name was changed in 2012 to combine the name "Lake Eyre" with the indigenous name, Kati Thanda.

The native title over the lake and surrounding region is held by the Arabana people. Interestingly, the area has an average annual rainfall of between 100 and 150mm.

Armed with all this new information - it seems we now just have to settle on a week to make our escape. You'll have to stay tuned to find out if we did end up ticking this truly Australian adventure off our bucket list.

Penelope Arthur is the national agricultural news editor for ACM. She lives on a property in western Queensland with her husband and three sons.