'… it (the lake) is useless in every respect, and the very sight of it creates thirst in man and beast.'
South Australian Parliamentary Paper no. 19, 1876
Edward Eyre had been the first to see Lake Eyre, but believed it to be part of Lake Torrens. Babbage and Warburton were next in the area in 1858. Stuart travelled to the west of it between 1859 and 1862, discovering a number of mound springs and rivers that eventually flowed into it.
In 1866 Peter Egerton Warburton was sent out to explore the north-east end of Lake Eyre. He determined the northern limit of the lake and proceeded to follow up a river that drained into the lake and which he believed was Cooper Creek. He examined it as far as latitude 27 degrees longitude 140 degrees 20' where it disappeared into the sand. The river was later named the Warburton. However he was beaten by the lack of water and gave up further exploration in the region.
In 1874 JW Lewis was sent out to complete this work begun by Warburton. He established a survey base 18 miles east of Mount Margaret; the Umbum Creek was traced down to Lake Eyre - an unbroken salt expanse. He then proceeded to the Neales River, and while two of his men surveyed the river to where it reached the lake, Lewis surveyed the lake shore between the Umbum and Neales. He then surveyed Koorakarinna Creek, across to Frew Creek and reached the Macumba River, where he established a camp. Weather conditions prevented him following this river to where it joined the lake, but he did explore more of the lake shore. Lewis and his men explored a tributary of the Macumba, again encountering salt marshes. This was the Warburton River discovered by Warburton eight years previously. Lewis showed that it was not Cooper Creek as Warburton believed. He explored more of the lake shore, and then explored north to the Kallakoopah. Mount Hogarth was discovered, as well as some good pastoral country. The expedition explored the Warburton upstream, and discovered Goyder Lagoon. The Gerty, Eleanor and Everard Creeks were surveyed. The explorers pushed on over the Queensland border, where they were held up by floodwaters. Finally they got back to Goyder Lagoon and down the Warburton, and then south to the mission station at Kopperamanna. After recuperating the expedition returned to the Cooper Creek and followed it down to the lake. The lake shore was surveyed north to the Warburton, and then south of Cooper Creek, thus completing the survey of the eastern shore of Lake Eyre. In his report to the Surveyor General, Lewis wrote 'It (the lake) is useless in every respect and the very sight of it creates thirst in man and beast.'