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TRAVEL DESTINATIONS

CANNING STOCK ROUTE

The CSR is the most demanding 4WD route in Australia.

The CSR is the most demanding 4WD route in Australia. There are drives that are rougher, sand dunes that are taller and floodways that are stickier, but no track compares with the CSR in terms of sheer distance and the mechanical and physical endurance required.

canning stock routeThe majority of the CSR track surface is corrugated dirt, with rocky outcrops, but there are also plenty of soft sand stretches, dunes to cross and boggy sections near salt lakes. Many people allow two weeks for the journey and that’s simply not enough time: three weeks is an ideal period for a CSR trip, allowing a relaxed pace.

Vehicles must be in top mechanical condition and capable of carrying enough fuel for the 1170km Wiluna to Kunawarritji (Well 33) leg, or to Well 23, if a fuel drop has been organised.

It’s absolutely essential to fit light truck tyres to your vehicle.

Shock absorbers need to be as-new to handle the long stretches of corrugations on a track that gets zero maintenance. It’s also quite likely that they won’t be much good after a CSR trip!

Vehicle and crew preparation is vital and weight must be minimised. Trailers can make it, but fuel consumption and access are affected.

Very experienced travellers can tow camper trailers along the CSR, although the lighter the trailers the better. Heavy trailers can be a liability in soft sandy and boggy sections and also contribute greatly to increased fuel consumption.

It’s essential that anyone towing a trailer has an accurate knowledge of real-world fuel consumption in CSR-type conditions.

Another restriction on trailers is the fact that the CSR section between Wells 2 - 5 through Cunyu Station is permanently closed to all vehicles towing trailers.
canning stock routeThis restriction also applies to wide-track 4WDs, such as OKAs and Fuso and Isuzu light trucks.

Alternative CSR-access points for these and any other vehicles are private station tracks through Granite Peak Station (intersecting the CSR at Well 5) and Glenayle Station (meets CSR at Well 9). Both stations charge a small fee.

Speed is the enemy of reliability so take it easy on the CSR and drop tyre pressures on corrugated stretches and in soft sand to reduce mechanical stress.

Heavy Wet Season rains cause water flows across many track sections, so while bog detours are inevitable in some places, in others silt fills up corrugations, giving a smoother ride. Rain compaction also firms up many of the soft sand sections.

canning stock routeA permit is necessary to travel the CSR. Permits need to be obtained from the Kuju Wangka people before you commence your journey and are best obtained by on-line application through http://permits.canningstockroute.net.au/

A permit costs $100 per vehicle, plus an additional $50 per trailer. A CSR information booklet is also available, for an outlay of $16.50, or you can download a free digital version once you’ve paid for your permit.

Note that from 30 September 2012 the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council no longer issued travel permits for the CSR.

Some travellers do a part-CSR, rather than run the entire track and there are several options in this regard.

It’s possible to drive from Wiluna to Well 22 and take the Talawana Track east to Newman or west to the Gary Highway and Gunbarrel Highway.

Another option is to strike the CSR via the Gary Junction Road from Alice Springs and head north or south up the CSR. There’s fuel at Kunawarritji Community (near Well 33) on the CSR.

Access difficulties at the southern end of the CSR often force travellers to take alternative routes. Access to the CSR is possible via Glenayle Station, intersecting with the CSR at Well 9 and via Granite Peak Station, intersecting at Well 5.

Access via Granite Peak means it’s possible to visit the fully restored Well 6 at Pierre Spring

There’s fuel at Carnegie Station, on the Gunbarrel Highway, for those entering or leaving the CSR via Well 9.

Fuel considerations limit side trips from the CSR, but some detours are definitely worth making. Diebel Hills and Spring are almost opposite Durba Hills and it’s only a 40km return drive to check out the boulder-strewn gorges at this site.

It’s also worth taking a walk onto the salt crust of Lake Disappointment, but don’t drive onto this treacherous surface or you risk sinking your vehicle into the black ooze that underlies the salt surface.

CSR history

canning stock routeIn 1906 Alfred Canning, a surveyor with the Western Australian Department of Lands and Surveys, led a survey team to find a way to draft stock from Kimberly cattle properties to the Kalgoorlie goldfields. With the help – freely given or enforced at times – of local Aboriginal people he marked 52 well sites and returned with a construction team in 1908 to sink the wells and build drinking troughs for the cattle.

When the work was completed in 1911 the first cattle draft began  and on that journey three drovers died from Aboriginal attacks. A pattern of attacks and reprisals began and this situation significantly reduced the appeal of the CSR to cattlemen.

Only eight mobs of cattle had been driven down the CSR by 1930 and many of the wells had deteriorated or had been put out of action by angry Aborigines.

A 70-year-old Alfred Canning came out of retirement to supervise well refurbishment and that effort, plus some wartime work in the 1940s, allowed the CSR to host a further 20 mobs in the years until the late 1950s. By then, sea transport was the preferred method and, from the 1960s, road trains did the job.

canning stock routeToday, Alfred Canning’s 52 wells dot the track, emphasising the CSR’s original purpose. Most are dilapidated, but several, including Wells 3, 6, 15 18, 26 and 41, have been restored by various volunteer groups, giving visitors a clear impression of what the original CSR looked like. Some have reliable water that needs to be boiled before drinking.

There are several important Aboriginal sites on the CSR and Durba Hills is the best known.

The nearby Calvert Range is also rich in Aboriginal lore, but vandalism forced the indigenous owners to close access.

Durba and Killagurra Springs usually hold water. In fact, Killagurra Spring is a natural rockhole that became Alfred Canning’s Well 17. There’s interesting bushwalking at Durba Spring and the ability to top up your water supply means there’s no risk of dehydration by walking about.
canning stock route

The basalt caps of Durba Hills protect softer underlying sediments and a walk along the edge of this rocky plateau shows clearly the process involved in ‘breakaway country’, where cracks in the protective layer progressively widen, eventually resulting in massive boulders tumbling from the edge.

There are also fossils from the time when this area was an inland sea. Last time we visited we found and recorded a previously undiscovered shellfish fossil.


CONTACT NUMBERS
Halls Creek police (08) 9168 6000
Wiluna police (08) 981 7024
Road conditions 1800 013 314


FUEL AND SUPPLIES
Wiluna, Kunawarritji, Billiluna Capricorn Roadhouse (08) 9175 1535 for fuel drops at Well 23


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