The David Carnegie Road
is best accessed by turning south off the Gunbarrel Highway
. There are a couple of significant features to look out for in this area, however before leaving the Gunbarrel to head south, make sure you check out Mungilli Claypan, just a little further east - this claypan is often wet which attracts good birdlife and is a nice spot
to rest or camp. Another good place to visit is Breaden Bluff, which is a large red sand stone bluff, named by explorer D.W. Carnegie on 15th August 1896 after Joe Breaden, a member of his exploring party. Some other highlights in this area are the Pikalu Rock Holes, which is an Aboriginal name provided by the late Mickey Warren in the 1970s, and the Breaden Bluff Ceremonial Grounds.
Enjoy a pristine desert environment, with vast spinifex plains, rocky outcrops and some challenging 4WD driving. On this trek, you can visit sites such as the breakaway country at Breaden Bluff and Forrest’s Camp 59, which is where John Forrest camped whilst on his 1874 expedition to the Overland Telegraph Line. Another popular spot
is Empress Springs, which is where a tired and dehydrated David Carnegie and his companions were led to by local Aborigines.
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The track is well defined and easy to follow, although a lack of maintenance has left much of it at the northern end in poor condition. At the northern end, the David Carnegie Road
has many washaways; rocky outcrops and track deviations, there are few sand dunes. Two large rocky plateaus need to be traversed making the going slow. The southern end from Empress Spring south is often graded to allow tourist access from the Great Central Road
, although there are a few sandy patches on this section.
The Hon. David Wynford Carnegie
David Carnegie was an explorer and gold prospector in Western Australia
. In 1896 he led an expedition from Coolgardie through the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts to Halls Creek, and then back again.
David Carnegie invested his profits from two earlier gold mines and proposed a major expedition to travel almost 1600kms from Coolgardie to Halls Creek. Much of the area through which he intended to travel was unexplored and unmapped at the time and Carnegie hoped to find good pastoral or gold-bearing land, and to make a name for himself as an explorer.
Carnegie's party consisted of five men and nine camels. Some of his travelling companions were the prospectors Charles Stansmore, Godfrey Massie, bushman Joe Breaden and Breaden's Aboriginal companion
Warri. They left Coolgardie on 9th July 1896 and travelled north to Menzies and then north east.
On 23rd July 1896, they had entered largely unexplored country and were finding it difficult to locate water. On 9th August 1896, the dehydrated party came across a native who they captured and forced to show where water was located. The water supply they were led to was an underground spring in a hidden cave – which Carnegie named Empress Spring after Queen Victoria
. Luck would have it, they were saved and the party knew they could never have found this hidden underground cave on their own. Soon this became the pattern for the remainder of the expedition – to capture natives to help them whenever they were short of water.
Leaving the Empress Spring, the expedition continued north. Throughout the months leading to October, the party passed through the desert country of the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts. It was difficult travel as they crossed over endless sand ridges. Nearing the end of their epic journey, tragedy struck the party and on the 2nd November 1896, Charles Stansmore died. He slipped while crossing a ridge, ended up dropping his gun and was shot as the gun hit the ground. Stansmore was buried by his companions and David and the remaining members of the party reached Halls Creek four days later - a journey of 149 days and 2,274 kms. Carnegie had spoken highly of his good friend Charles Stansmore and his sudden death on the threshold of success was a sad blow to the company.
Carnegie's expedition was originally intended to terminate at Halls Creek, but since they had found no gold-bearing or pastoral land, the party decided to continue exploring, by returning to Coolgardie by a more easterly overland route. Later after returning to England, he wrote and published a book on his experiences in Western Australia
, entitled Spinifex and Sand.