Alice Springs (aboriginal Mparntwe) is a city in the Red Centre region of Northern Territory. It has a population of 23,384 people. The town is probably best known for it's proximity to Uluru (Ayer's Rock) approximately 300 km to the south-west.
A repeater station was built for theOverland Telegraph Line in 1871 at a waterhole named "Alice Springs" after the wife of the prime mover for the enterprise, the South Australian Postmaster-General, Charles Todd. The town of Stuart - named after the first white man to explore the area, James McDouall Stuart - was founded nearby in 1889 and renamed Alice Springs in 1933. A rail line from Adelaide, ("The Ghan"; named after the Afghan camel drivers associated with the Telegraph Line,) arrived in 1929 and was finally connected with Darwin, 1500-odd km to the north, in 1993. For many years it was near the southern end of the sealed road - the Stuart Highway ("The Track", as it is known) - built during World War II.
It became a major centre for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1931 and the equally innovative "School of the Air" in 1951.
Tourism is a huge industry in Alice Springs, as the (relatively) nearby monolith Uluru brings in half a million visitors per year. Uluru is not alone in attracting visitors to the area. The Alice is situated in the MacDonell Ranges, an area of uniquely Australian beauty made famous in the middle of the 20th century by the Aboriginal painter, Albert Namatjira.
One of Australia's premier rodeos is held there each August, and there are "bush races" carnivals which bring contestants and onlookers from the surrounding countryside and the greater Outback.
The town is a centre of the cattle industry; various dry climate crops such as dates, citrus fruits, and grapes are grown in the surrounding countryside and it is an outlet for surrounding mines.
There is a strong American influence in Alice Springs due to the nearby US military satellite tracking station atPine Gap. As a result, American holidays are celebrated in the Alice and US sports like baseball and basketball are popular.
Alice Springs hosts the only waterless regatta in the world. Each August/September, on the dry sandy bed of the Todd River, a series of "boatraces" is held - contestants carrying their boats in an event supposed to mock the famous Henley-on-Thames regatta in Britain. In the 50-odd years of the event only once has it been cancelled - because of water, the Todd River was actually flowing that year.