The Gibson Desert covers a large area in the state of Western Australia and is still largely in an almost "pristine" state. It is about 155,000 square kilometres (60,000 square miles) in size, making it the 5th largest desert in Australia, after the Great Sandy, Great Victoria, Tanami and Simpson deserts. It lies between Lake Disappointment and Lake Macdonald along the Tropic of Capricorn. The Gibson bioregion includes extensive areas of undulating sand plains and dunefields, low rocky/gravelly ridges and substantial upland portions with a high degree of laterite formation. Several isolated salt-water lakes occur in the centre of the region and to the southwest a system of small lakes follow paleo-drainage features. Groundwater sources include portions of the Officer Basin and Canning Basin. Large portions of the desert are characterized by gravel-covered terrains, as noted by early Australian explorers such as Giles (discussed below). Geographically, the Gibson Desert area forms part of the plateau of central Western Australia.
The desert was named after Alfred Gibson. Gibson perished while looking for water while attempting to cross it in 1874, on an exploratory expedition with Ernest Giles. Giles, who successfully crossed the region in 1876, only narrowly avoided a similar fate, subsisting for weeks on dried horse meat and extremely limited water supplies.
In much of the region, especially the drier western portion, the only human inhabitants of the area are Indigenous Australians, many of whom have had very limited contact with the outside world. In 1984, due to a severe drought which had dried up all of the springs and depleted the bush foods, a group of the Pintupi people who were living a traditional semi-nomadic desert-dwelling life, walked out of a remote wilderness in the central-eastern portion of the Gibson Desert (northeast of Waberton) and made contact for the first time with European-Australian society. They are believed to have been perhaps the last uncontacted tribe in Australia . On the eastern margin of the region, population centers (which include people of European descent) include Waberton, Mantamaru and Warakurma.
It is one of Western Australia's Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) regions, and an ecoregion of the World Wildlife Fund.