Keith D. Brodie (1966)
Driving the Canning Stock Route
Monday 09th October 2023
Keith D. Brodie writes:


29 July 2023 to 13 August 2023

The Canning Stock Route is approximately 1,850km long (about 1,150 miles) and is, reputedly, the most remote road (track) on earth and the longest historic stock route in the world. It features dunes, rock-encrusted (tyre-destroying) surfaces and endless kilometres of unforgiving corrugations.

Alfred Canning was commissioned by the then Government of WA to build the track and substantially completed it between 1908 and 1910. It was intended to be used to drive cattle to the south-east of WA but ultimately it was only used 19 times. Canning dug 51 wells approximately 15 miles apart along the route to provide for thirsty cattle. The last drove was in 1959.

There are two small settlements on the track where fuel and other supplies may be obtained; Kunawarritji, approximately 1,000km (620 miles) north of Wiluna, and Billiluna, 173km (107 miles) south of Halls Creek.

It sits pretty much at the top of most four-wheel drive afficionados bucket lists, including mine.

I organised a group of five vehicles for the trip with two passengers each. The number of vehicles is important if you break down terminally as it provides options to get you out. It’s ridiculously expensive if you have to call Outback Recovery out there and could cost up to $10,000 (which obviously you can’t/don’t argue with). Not to mention having to sit around for several days waiting for the recovery truck.

It’s also handy to not get ill or have an accident as extraction is difficult, as you can see below:

“In the event of a serious emergency or need for medical consultation, the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) is available to handle telephone medical consultations and HF emergency calls. These calls are switched to the duty RFDS medical officer who is nearest to the patient’s location. If the RFDS medical officer determines that an evacuation is required, the operations centre duty coordinator will then task the most appropriate base that is not already flying.

Coordinators then arrange ambulance transfers for patients to the pick-up airport and from the destination airport to hospital. They will also arrange refuelling, airstrip lighting and vermin inspections and any other special requirements in support of crews. There are airstrips near the track at Well 33, Parnngurr (Cotton Creek) and Billiluna community. Other airstrips are located at each pastoral lease to the south”.

A word about the Traditional Owners taken from their website:

“Kuju Wangka

The Canning Stock Route (CSR) runs through five native title determination areas. From north to south these are — Tjurabalan, Ngurrara, Martu, Birriliburu and Wiluna. Traditional Owners are descendants of people who met with Alfred Canning’s survey and construction teams and include people who were still living traditionally during the subsequent droving days of the Stock Route. Traditional Owners from all five native title determination areas hold very detailed knowledge of Country along the length of the CSR.

Representatives from these native title areas come together in Kuju Wangka (One Voice). Kuju Wangka is a working group focused on promoting and preserving cultural and heritage, and environmental values of Country along the Stock Route. It provides support for Traditional Owners developing economic growth opportunities related to tourism along the

Stock Route and engages with the tourism sector to help grow cultural experience and tour opportunities”.

The indigenous groups have done a wonderful job restoring the country to its original condition and there is a marked deterioration when you cross into the first cattle station on route. Turns into clapped out cattle country. Once the country has been ruined, it takes years to regenerate once cattle have been moved off, mainly due to the fact rain in the desert areas is minimal.

Please enjoy the photo I have included, of our group with our vehicles.
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