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". This Trek Note contains extensive trip planning information for those that wish to travel self-sufficiently. The Canning Stock Route
can be traversed from top to bottom or vice versa. The northern end is approached in the southern Kimberley
, near the Billiluna Community on the Tanami Track
and as such is affected by wet season conditions throughout the Australian summer and often into Autumn. It is typical for the section containing Wells 36 - 51 to be extremely boggy and can even become impassable at the salt lake areas. Access is totally weather
In times of wet weather
, the section between Wells 2 - 5 through Cunyu Station may be closed to all traffic. This section is also permanently closed to all vehicles towing trailers and "oversize" vehicles. i.e.., any wide track vehicle over the size of a Toyota Troopcarrier (PC) - definitely no Okas, or Akas. Alternative entry points are via private station tracks through Granite Peak (meets CSR Well 5
) and Glenayle Stations (meets CSR at Well 9). From the south these tracks are approached from the Gunbarrel Highway
or can be used as exit points off the Canning Stock Route
for southbound travellers. Both stations charge a fee of approximately $20.
There are 2 alternative access/exit points to the Canning Stock Route
being via either of the other 2 stations further to the north (near Well 5, and Well 9) accessed off the Wongawol Road (maintained by Wiluna Shire) about 50km to the east of Wiluna and CSR. Both these stations charge a small fee which is used for track maintenance.
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A permit (with a substanial fee) is required for all travellers of the CSR. The reason for this is that Aboriginal groups hold native title over the majority of the area traversed by following the Canning Stock Route
. The formality of the native title is complicated for travellers of the existing route and so to simplify this, the permit system allows you to travel in good conscience to most of the wells and popular areas that have so long been a part of the CSR journey. Whilst there is a "public access corridor", this route includes significant Aboriginal sites that are registered and protected by law that you would wish to visit.
The permit enables visitors with access to these registered sites, and into areas where the track deviates into native title lands. These sites includes many of the wells and the areas around them. However, despite holding a permit, you will also be restricted from visiting certain nominated areas that do not lie on the CSR itself but which may have been previously accessed by some CSR travellers as side trips, eg. Calvert Ranges. Be sure to check these restrictions carefully before your plan your trip.
Please ensure you visit the new official Canning Stock Route
website created and managed by the WDLC for all details including the option of online application and payment. There is also some valuable information to assist in your trip planning and understanding of the area. See www.CanningStock Route.net.au
Please note, that this is the new 2012 permit system. Contrary to previous advice that the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council would cease issuing travel permits after 30th September 2012, the WDLAC have just advised that permits WILL continue to also be available through the ANFWDC until further notice. See ANFWDC website
The contact number for information is (08) 9425 2099 (use +61 8 9425 2099 for international dialling). Alternatively, you may send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Things to See & Do
Travel the full length of Australia
's longest stock route and to see 51 Wells tapping the great artesion basin constructed by Alfred Canning & Co; see waterholes, gorges, spring and soaks, and enjoyable camping in the remote desert environment.
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. Your vehicle will need to be extensively prepared for remote area travel, with all fuel, water, food and vehicle repair equipment and spare parts. All travellers should read the 4WDriving Topic for related articles and checklists for vehicle setup and driver awareness.
Calvert Ranges & Other Restricted Areas
The Calvert Ranges track, the ranges themselves and the track to Constance Headland are all strictly unpermissible areas. This area is just just one of 11 areas off the main CSR to which public access restrictions apply, and for which the CSR permit does not grant access, and for which no separate permit can be obtained under any circumstances.
For full details of which areas are restricted from access under the CSR permit, we suggest you download the information pack found here - http://www.anfwdc.asn/permit/terms_conditions.php
Strictly no trailers or wide-track vehicles can be taken on the section of track between Wells 2 - 5. In this case you MUST take the alternative route via Glen-Ayle or Granite Peak stations.
The major safety issue seems to be how to protect yourself from yourself! In essence, there is a general absence of emergency support and for this reason you must be fully aware of the risks you take upon yourself when travelling the Canning Stock Route
and therefore you need to take a wide variety of emergency medications, equipment and communication devices as well have at least one person in your travel party capable of administering first aid
and you should ensure that all travellers in your group are conscious of the various hazards (lack of fresh water being the most obvious and the risk of dehydration due to inexperienced desert travel is very common). See our Survival article for tips. Medical emergencies are the more common reasons for evacuations and advice from the RFDS indicates that there is usually a small number of these each year. Be advised that there is one airstrip
near the track at Well 33 - with regularly weekly RFDS nurse support. Other airstrips are located at each pastoral lease to the south, and at Cotton Creek (100km west of Well 23) and and Billiluna community in the far north near the Tanami Track
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. Please ensure you read our Communications articles and take at least an UHF radio
plus either an EPIRB
, Satellite Phone
or HF radio
with RFDS frequencies.
Drinking Water and Use of Wells
Drinking water generally available from Wells 6, 12, 15, Georgia Bore
, Well 26, tank at 33 & Well 49. 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
Fuel Supplies & Usage
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.
Camp Sites & Accommodation
Other than at Pierre Springs (Well 6) and Durba Springs (Water 18) where toilet facilities have been installed there are no designated campsites. In general most travellers tend to stop overnight at the sites of Wells for convenience (water supply), ease of navigation (calculating distance), something to do (a point of interest), and most contain decent clearings for convoys to spread out, however there are many beautiful sites where you can simply pull over and camp anywhere along the route - taking note not to enter restricted areas nor to impact upon the environment unnecessarily. A good list of suggested campsites is included on the information booklet which we suggest you download from here - http://www.anfwdc.asn/permit/terms_conditions.php
Most travellers will be surprised to discover that the desert of the Canning Stock Route
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 botantical 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 Cannings 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 honeyeaters, finches, doves, galahs, piegeons, budgerigars, and parrots being predominant and widespread although Durba Springs with its almost permament water supply is one of the best birdwatching areas of the stock route.
Code of Conduct
- All vehicles should carry a sand flag in sand dune country to avoid head-on collisions
- All vehicles should be equipped with the minimum radio communications of an auto-scanning UHF radio. Travellers should ideally scan all stations, but the recommended station for communication (as dictated by the Halls Creek Shire Council) is Channel 40. The use of other channels is dangerous, as some travellers may not have auto-scanning radio sets.
- Do not travel in large convoys - 4 is 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.
- Always be wary of oncoming vehicles - the lead vehicle should periodically call forward on UHF radio at the top of highest dune in area to check for other vehicles on the track.
- At least one vehicle in a convoy should have an HF radio or Satellite Phone for emergency use.
Heed all signs on the Canning Stock Route for safety and directional use and always keep to the track.
- Avoid travelling with trailers, if required remember you are not allowed to travel north of Wiluna as you will be turned back at Well 2a, or south of Windich Springs (take detours at either Well 9 or Well 5).
- Use toilets provided at Well 6 (Pierre Springs) and Water 18 (Durba Springs) and bring own toilet paper.
- Dig toileting pits well away from campsites, Wells and roadsides with your spade as deeply as possible - thoroughly burn toilet paper at bottom of pit before covering with soil - compact with a spade.
- Never bury rubbish of any kind, even organic - thoroughly burning of small amounts of plastic, paper and foodstuffs at campfires is ok, but you must carry out all your rubbish. Do not leave tins in fires. Carry garbage bags and knot them well - place into large vinyl or hesian sacks that birds cannot penetrate and carry on roof racks. Disposal bins are available at Kunawarritji Community (Well 33).
- Reuse existing campfire pits wherever possible - and ensure they do not build up with ash.
- At less used campsites, create your campfire so that it can be fully covered up - do not leave a big pile of ash and dirt, instead dig a hole so that when you cover it up the ground can be compacted level, leaving no sign of your campsite.
- Do not wash/swim in well troughs
- Do not pour water into troughs for animals - this is problematic
- Replace lids on wells to avoid animals entering and polluting the water supply
- Obey regulatory signs on station properties.
- Do not travel at night
- Do not take souvenirs - the Canning Stock Route is protected under the National Trust and is listed on the register of Australian Heritage Council (WA).
- Recommended travel is between June and September due to extremes of heat, isolation and chance of wet, boggy conditions outside these times.
The Canning Stock Route
was created by Albert 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
and Wiluna. 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.