Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Tanami Track

This is a 1057 km dirt track between Halls Creek in West Australia and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It was originally a track used on cattle drives, so followed a less direct route so that it passed water sources close enough together for the cattle. Since the end of droving in the area the track was re-routed in the mid-1960s to follow a more direct route.

The eastern end of the track is 20 km north of Alice Springs along  the Stuart Highway. There are a number of campsites along the track, the fist being at Kunoth Bore. The first part of the track passes through cattle stations, such as Amburla Station. One of the last cattle drives was carried out by this station in the 1970s. They drove 1500 cattle along 1000 from the Kimberleys. Near the old stock watering well near the Stuart Bluff Ranges, one of the few rocky ranges in otherwise flat country. .

The Yuendumu Community

Past the cattle stations the track crosses Aboriginal land. After passing Limestone Bore it arrives at the former government settlement, Yuendumu Aboriginal Community. This community is a "closed' town, requiring a permit to enter. Fuel and supplies are available at the edge of the settlement without a permit.

Granite Tors and Fertile Mounds

North of Yuendumu are scattered tors that are a smaller version of the Devil's Marbles. The track then passes through flatter and sandier country around Mt Doreen Station. At many points the road is lower than the level of the surrounding land. After rain the track here becomes a river. The surrounding grassland is teaming with lizards when dry, but after rain it becomes a swamp full of frogs. After rain washouts can be hazardous.

In the area around Refrigerator Well are many large termite mounds, up to 800 per hectare. Termites are the dominant animal species in the area.

Remote Desert Country

Further north the track passes east of the Granites Gold Mine. The mine dates back to 1910. A bit further is Rabbit Flat Store, thought to be the most remote shop in Australia. The shop is situated north of a wide area draining to the ephemeral salt lakes, such as Lake MacKay. The West Australian border is 122 km from Rabbit Flat. The border is marked by a few signs near a desert wattle.

Across the border the track deteriorates, becoming even more sandy and corrugated. In the dunes along the banks of Stuart Creek, usually dry, is the Aboriginal community of Billiluna, where supplies are available. Billiluna is 152 km south of Halls Creek. There is a store on some maps at Carranya has closed. The track joins the sealed Great Northern Highway 16 km south of Halls Creek.

Supplies are available at regular points along the track at Tilmouth, Yuendumu, Rabbit Flat and Billiluna, it is essential that all vehicles are well equipped. The route is regularly travelled but it travellers should be self-sufficient in case of the unexpected, emergency supplies, fuel, water, etc. It is not permitted to leave the track, especially when passing through Aboriginal title land. It is recommended to travel in convoy. Most of the track passes through Aboriginal  land but permits are not required as long as you stick to the track.

Sources & Further reading

Last Updated 05/11/2008


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                                                                                           Author: M.H.Monroe  Email:     Sources & Further reading