The area is known as Mparntwe to its original inhabitants, the Arrernte, who have lived in the Central Australian desert in and around what is now Alice Springs for thousands of years. The name Alice Springs was given by surveyor William Whitfield Mills after Alice, Lady Todd (née Alice Gillam Bell), wife of the telegraph pioneer Sir Charles Todd.
The town straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The surrounding region is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, an arid environment consisting of several different deserts. In Alice Springs temperatures can vary dramatically, with an average maximum temperature in summer of 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) and an average minimum temperature in winter of 5.1 °C (41.2 °F). Alice Springs has faced many problems in recent years, largely stemming from an increase in crime and a strong racial divide that has existed for years in the town.