The Canning Stock Route
(CSR) is one of the most remote and isolated 4WD tracks in the world and holds it appeal as the "last frontier". Stretching about 1850km from its southern end in Wiluna
, to its northern end at Billiluna Community on the Tanami Track
, there are no towns along the way, no major services
, and a general absence of emergency support.
The route traverses the Gibson Desert, Little Sandy Desert and the Great Sandy Desert
and runs through 4 determined native title areas - Tjurabalan, Ngurrara, Martu and Birriliburu - and through the area around Wiluna
that is currently the subject of a native title claim.
Planning to undertake a trip along the Canning Stock Route
requires significant planning and research, with fuel, water and food (your basic requirements for survival) being your foremost priority. But there are many logistical issues that you may not yet have contemplated. This Trek Note contains information based on years of research, feedback
, first-hand experience, local and community input and is relevant reading for any traveller - whether travelling solo, in convoy, or in a tag-along group.
If you do not already have extensive experience travelling remote desert areas and are not fully equipped to handle emergency breakdowns and repairs, then you should not consider driving this route solo. However, if driving with a group, do not travel in large convoys - 4 is considered plenty. Many campsites are small, as are the stops points of interest; larger groups tend to spread out beyond radio signal strength; generally large groups have difficulty travelling at the same speed and can waste time waiting for all to arrive at stop points along the way; passing large groups is a nuisance for other travellers.
This trek can be undertaken in either direction, and doesn't need to be done in its entirety. There are entry/exit points to both the east and west midway along the track. Exit to the west on the Talawana Track between Wells 22 & 23, or on the Kidman track near Well 33. The southern end can be exited via private station tracks (for a fee) through Granite Peak Station (from Well 5) and Glenayle Station (from Well 9).
Since the northern end is affected by wet season conditions throughout the Australian summer and often into Autumn, access is totally weather dependent. It is typical for the section containing Wells 36 - 51 to be extremely boggy and can even become impassable at the salt lake areas. In times of wet weather, even the southern section can become problematic, with the section between Wells 2 - 5 through Cunyu Station sometimes closed to all traffic. Closures will be noted in the ExplorOz Road Conditions
More planning information is detailed in the information booklet issued with your permit pack. See www.CanningStock Route.net.au
How to Use this Trek Note
The idea of a Trek Note, is that we provide a recommended route to explore an area with point-to-point guidance and extensive trip planning information about when to go, what to see, and where to camp. However, all the facts and data files are available should you prefer to build your own route/itinerary.
To see the route we recommend, click on the "Map" tab. Then, use the Moving Map Control to take a virtual tour of the route. You can reverse the order of the direction notes by clicking the arrow alongside the words Start/Finish at the very top of the information on this page.
Click on the "What to See" & "Where to Stay" tabs to see more about each Place that the route follows. Click each listed Place to open a separate page (and download for Members only) to enrich your understanding of the area.
A text list of Place to Place distances (see Directions tab) is given, plus you can download the route file to load into your GPS/Navigator. Go to our shop
to obtain the complete EOTreks Route Files
If you just want the raw data files (for use with mapping software or to load into a GPS/Navigator), then the track file and waypoints are downloadable for free (Members only), using the Download Treks button at the top of this page.
You can also print this page (use the print icon button) and text from all sections (Description, Preparation, What to See, Where to Stay, Directions, Related, Feedback
) will be reformatted into one easy-to-read document (except for detailed Place information – do these separately).
The desert is a very fragile area and despite being a remote area, the Canning Stock Route
is subject to a large volume of human impact by the volume of campers and travellers that use the track each season. See our Travel Etiquette
, and Care for the Environment
articles for practical tips and protocols for how to ensure your impact on the environment is minimised. Toilets are provided at Well 6 (Pierre Springs) and Water 18 (Durba Springs) but you will need your own toilet paper. In other areas, you should dig toileting pits with a spade (keeping well away from campsites, wells, and roadsides). The Canning Stock Route
contains numerous operational stock watering points, and some that are now in ruin. Regardless of the condition of these water points, you should not use or interfere with the equipment or stock troughs. Do not use the troughs at wells for bathing, and do not pour water into the troughs for the animals. All wells should be left with lids on to stop animals entering and polluting the water supply.
You might be surprised to discover that the desert supports a vast range of flora and fauna. Although much of the route is classified as sand desert, you'll see many sand dunes that are not only stabilised, but vegetated! Rainfall in the region is erratic with some years recording extremely wet periods that fill salt lakes, ground waters and replenish surface rock holes
so the desert you experience one year, may well be very different to the next time you visit.
The most common form of vegetation along the CSR is Spinifex, and all forms of this plant provide habitation for numerous insects, reptiles, small mammals and even birds. The largest eucalypts on the CSR are River Red Gums (Windich, Pierre, Durba) around 20m high. Snappy Gums (up to 10m) are found on stony slopes, laterite ridges and on sand plains and is notable by a white stem and often pink or yellow branches. The Desert Oak is one of the more unusually striking trees that even those with no botanical interest will want to know its name. Often found close to salt lakes (eg. Lake Disappointment
) this tree appears in groves often in the absence of vegetation other than small spinifex hummocks and grow to 12 metres. The Desert Poplar thrives in the northern section of the CSR, with lush foliage along branches from the ground up along a single brown trunk. Also of great surprise to first-time desert travellers is the vast amount of flowering plants. Acacias (wattles) of 2-6m are widespread with the Mulga the most prominent species in the station country in the southern section. Travellers will observe changes in vegetation around salt lakes with salt tolerant plants being at ground level such as the silver and ruby saltbush. The Blackboys/Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea preissii) growing at Well 6 are a unique find being the most northerly stand known in Australia
Amongst the great range of fauna known to exist within the CSR, termites are extensively obvious and their rapid depletion of woods is the reason why Canning's wooden well formations have lost the battle against time. And when the ants are annoying your camp try to remember the important role they play in aiding flower pollination. The non-stinging wild bee produces honey cells and their hives are found in tree tops, hollow logs, and rock crevices. The much larger black bee found north of Durba Hills
, and predominantly north of Killagurra has a ferocious sting. Bees are more active in the cooler parts of the day. Centipedes and millipedes are common and although cause significant pain if bitten are not dangerous. We must mention snakes as the Bandy Bandy, Death Adder and King Brown are known to be present in the CSR region. Over 100 species of birds are reportedly living in close proximity to the Canning Stock Route
with honey eaters, finches, doves, galahs, pigeons, budgerigars, and parrots being predominant and widespread although Durba Springs with its almost permanent water supply is one of the best birdwatching areas of the stock route.
HistoryThe Canning Stock Route
was created by Alfred Canning, who was chosen to survey a route for Kimberley
cattlemen to take their stock to the southern markets at a time when cattle tick issues prevented the use of other transport methods. From 1906 to 1907, Canning conducted a full survey from north to south came back in 1908 to 1910 with a team to sink the 51 wells along the 1850km between Halls Creek
. Wells were constructed one day's travel apart for a mob of cattle although 26 native wells were used to supply additional water but generally could not be relied on by droving parties. Extra wells were established in southern parts of the route to accommodate the more limited range of sheep.
In 1929 the condition of the original wells and equipment had deteriorated with fire, termites and the occasional act of vandalism to a stage where it became imprudent to drove cattle along the route. At this stage, only 8 mobs of cattle had actually made the trip; the fear of attack by natives was the reason given for the limited acceptance of the route. In 1929 the Government contracted a reconstruction team, lead by William Snell to refurbish all the wells, although the task was never completed. The stock route remained unsuitable for its purpose due to the incomplete refurbishment so in 1930, Canning (now 70 years old) was requested to complete the job.
During WWII (1942 - 1944) the stock route was redefined and the wells brought back into operation in anticipation of an emergency evacuation if the NW was bombed. At the end of the war, shipping of livestock resumed and again the stock route was not required for its original purpose.
The earliest use of vehicles dates back to Snell in 1929, then progressively others with business along the route (eg. drover support, surveyors, government doggers) managed to penetrate further into the sand dune
country, as four wheel drives become more available. However, it wasn't until the 1970s that the first complete traverse of the Canning Stock Route
by motor vehicle was achieved.
When the fuel dump was established in the 1980's, travellers intrigued by the Canning Stock Route heritage
and the challenging overland adventure across Australia
's most remote deserts began to travel the Canning Stock Route
in greater numbers. Today, the attraction is the journey itself rather than a destination and up to 100 vehicles per day are known to spread out across the route during the peak season.
Do not attempt the Canning Stock Route
unless you have extensive outback travel experience and have a very reliable and capable vehicle that has been specifically prepared for a remote, long distance, desert travel. Drivers should focus on assessing the vehicle's suspension
, brakes, shock absorbers, steering, bearings etc and spares should be taken of critical components.
For detailed checklists & advice regarding remote area travel, you are strongly encouraged to read the following articles: 4WD Driving Skills & Rules
; What to Take
; Recovery Gear Needs
; Spare Parts and Tools
; Food & Water
; Water Tank
; Long Range Fuel Tanks
; HF Radio
; UHF Radio
; Staying in Touch
as well as Travel Etiquette
; Care for the Environment
; Snake Bite Treatment
; Outback Survival
; & Driver Fatigue
. Every single one of these articles should be read in their entirely before doing this trip. There is so much invaluable advice to be gained. These articles contain extensive factual information and practical advice. Written by the ExplorOz editorial team, these articles are regularly updated to ensure facts remain current.
It is irresponsible to rely on other people having this equipment for your benefit and you should ensure that you have at least one form of emergency contact device. Of major importance is using the designated UHF Channel 40 to alert your presence to other oncoming vehicles on the track. Particularly in dune areas, solo vehicles or lead vehicles in a group should periodically call out from the dune tops giving your location and direction of travel. This precautionary effort is very effective in limiting unnecessary head on collisions. In summary, you need an UHF radio
for vehicle to vehicle communication, plus either an EPIRB
, Satellite Phone
or HF radio
for emergency communication.
For any dune driving you should also fly a dune flag (sandflag) from the front of your vehicle to avoid head on collisions on dune tops. Why not get an ExplorOz Sandflag
? These are sold in our online shop
as flag only, or as a complete kit
with rugged offroad pole and bracket.
Warnings & Restrictions
If traveling with a trailer, you will not be allowed to travel the section of the CSR track north of Wiluna
through to Well 5. If you do, you will be turned back at Well 2a (northbound), or if travelling south you'll be turned back at Windich Springs. Detours at located at Well 9 and Well 5 onto private station tracks (fee payable). See permits section for more details.
is located near the track at Well 33, backed up with weekly RFDS nurse support. Other airstrips are located at each pastoral lease to the south; Cotton Creek (100km west of Well 23); and at Billiluna community in the far north near the Tanami Track
Drinking Water and Use of Wells
Drinking water is generally available from Wells 6, 12, 15, Georgia Bore
, Well 26, tank at 33 & Well 49. However, this can vary with every season due to flooding and other acts of nature. Other wells may be found flooded at any time or have suspicious water. Well water quality is poor at many wells and you will need to be able to take on large amounts (100L plus) at wells where water is good. A stainless steel water tank
either in or under the body of the vehicle, coupled with some reserves
in plastic jerry cans is recommended. You will also need to take a strong bucket (galvanised 15L) to draw water up from most wells, plus a length of either metal or nylon rope of approx. 20m.
Keep this handy reference in case of emergency or to make advance enquiries:Wiluna
Police: (08) 9981 7024
Cunyu Station (no access): (08) 9981 2934
Granite Peak Station: (08) 9981 2983
Glenayle Station: (08) 9981 2989Capricorn Roadhouse
: (08) 9175 1535Kunawarritji Community
(fuel 7 days): (08) 9176 9040
Billiluna Store (fuel 5 days, limited hours): (08) 9168 8076Halls Creek
Police: (08) 9168 6000
Mandatory permits are available to enable people to access the Canning Stock Route
for tourism and/or sightseeing purposes. For tourists, the application and payment process is done online and is straightforward, however there are certain restrictions that are detailed within the permit so you are recommend to apply early to ensure you have time to read the documentation and plan your trip around these conditions. If you seek access to the CSR for reasons other than general tourism then government approvals may be required.
People wishing to travel the full length of the CSR and/or across sections are required to have applied and paid for two (2) permits as explained below:
One permit covers access to the Birriliburu, Ngurrara and Tjurabalan sections between Wells 5-15 and between Wells 40-51. To obtain your permit you need to visit the Canning Stock Route Online Visitor Permit System
to apply and pay fees ($50 for non-commercial light vehicles ie. standard 4WD vehicles; or $100 for non-commercial heavy vehicles ie. Oka, Mitsubishi Canter 4WD; all commercial vehicles $125; all trailers $25; all walkers/cyclists $25). Manual applications and payment are also offered (see details online) however additional administration charges are applied. Also be aware that if you request a cancellation and refund, you will be charged an $11 service fee.
The second permit you require is for the Martu section between Wells 16-39. To obtain this permit go to the Four Wheel Drive Australia
website to obtain your permit. The permit cost is $100 for tourist vehicles, or $250 for commercial operators' vehicles. The minimum total permit fee per tourist vehicle is therefore $150 if you plan to travel the full length of the CSR.
Fees for Access via Glen Ayle or Granite Peak Stations
If you need to access the CSR via Glen-Ayle or Granite Peak stations you will need to pay the following fees upon arrival. Please bring cash. Granite Peak (exit/access to CSR via Well 5) is currently $30 per vehicle, $15 per trailer, $40 for Oka-type vehicles, trucks and buses. Glen Ayle (exit/entry to CSR via Well 9) is a flat rate of $20. Please note that these stations do not offer any other services/supplies to tourists.
Fuel Supplies & Usage
|Billiluna Community Store
||Diesel||4cyl 317 litres *
||ULP||4cyl 247 litres *
||LPG||4cyl 401 litres|
|6cyl 338 litres *||6cyl 421 litres *||6cyl 353 litres|
|8cyl 330 litres *||8cyl 333 litres|
Fuel is reliably available from bowsers at the Kunawarritji Community
about half way along the route (in the vicinity of Well 33). For those with limited fuel range, or those in larger convoys able to make use of shared drums of fuel, you may be able to organise a fuel drop in the vicinity of Well 23 - you can organise this through the Capricorn Roadhouse
by calling (08) 9175 1535.
Best Time To Visit
Recommended travel is between June and September due to extremes of heat, isolation and chance of wet, boggy conditions outside these times.
Closest Climatic Station
Distance from Trek Mid Point 205.48km NW
Best time to travel Ok time to travel Travel NOT recommended
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