The Kidson Track, also known as the WAPET Road, is an abandoned oil exploration track that was built during the 1960's by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd. Geologists call this region the Canning Basin, which contains two depocentres, one of which is named the Kidson Sub-basin. Both Canning and Kidson were pioneer explorers
of the area. Kidson however never traversed the route of this track. The name comes from the geological region and for the fact that the track leads to a site that the West Australian Petroleum company called the Kidson oil well. (see History for more info).
The land through which the route passes is now under native title ownership (the Martu and the Nyangumarta) and access on these tracks and land without prior permission is strictly prohibited. (Permits are obtainable however, go to Preparation tab). Of most importance is current mining exploration activity in the area.
The Traditional Owners of these lands have agreements with several exploration companies for the reinstatement and use of this track, with strict protocols in place for exclusive use by the exploration companies. Subsequently, triple road trains, trucks, road graders and other heavy vehicles are now travelling along this single lane track under strictly controlled work site conditions every day and night in both directions.
Public travellers MUST NOT IGNORE the access restriction warning signs at both ends of this part of the Kidson Track, which effectively states you must not travel without a permit.
There are no restrictions for travellers using the Punmu
Road enroute between Kunawarritji
and the Telfer Road to the Great Northern Highway.
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Whilst some may consider the desert terrain to be a little "boring", the land beneath the Kidson Track is a magnificent hydrogenological entity representing Australia
's second largest sedimentary basin. The Kidson Sub-basin is the least explored Palaeozoic basin in the world with a proven petroleum system.
The land you'll traverse alters from sand, gravel (buckshot), dry river beds, culverts and densely treed areas. Most experienced 4WD travellers returning from a trip down the Kidson report it is generally of a reasonable condition but care is needed in the low areas as there are some deep washouts and you'll have some tight maneuvering.
The latest report (July 2013) confirms the track from the north through to the Gwenneth Lakes Rd turnoff has been graded. However, the track south remains in its original state.
You may encounter very dense, scratchy wattle, so if you don’t want any scratches on your vehicle, then this is not the track for you! The few sand dunes you'll encounter, were originally capped with clay by the oil exploration team in order to haul their drilling rigs over but the sheeting has eroded now and there are some deep scours, which require caution and careful wheel placement. Much of this has now been graded out in the northern section however the southern section still remains a challenge if you take a trailer, but with that said it is not impossible and quite a few people will successfully negotiate the track with a small, light, easily maneuverable, high clearance off-road camper trailer.
Edward Kidson, was a pioneer geophysicist/magnetician who conducted an expedition along the Canning Stock Route
in 1914 to measure and map the earth's regional magnetic field. However, Kidson never traversed the route that takes his name. The name of this track is given because the track leads to an oil well spudded in 1965 near Canning's (water) Well 33, and was probably identified from Kidson's geology reports. The track also refers to the name geologists give to the region - beign the Kidson Sub-basin. Hence, the conflict in naming convention between who is using the road. The WAPET team apparently refered to their track as the Kidson Track because it lead to their Kidson Well #1, whereas future travellers refer to the track as WAPET because it was their road. In any case, both names remain in use today and are interchangeable.
The Kidson No. 1 Oil Well site is about 9k NW of Kidson airstrip
(built and used by the WAPET team in the 1960s). It was spudded on 21st November 1965 and is 14,539 feet (4,431m) deep. The well was later abandoned on 20th July 1966. This site lies about 50km SW of Well 33, which is accessible off the WAPET Road to the east of the CSR, which is known as the Gary Highway. This position of the well site lies between the windmill and tank and the Kidson airfield.
The establishment of the oil search well necessiated the construction of a major access road to bring in the heavy drilling and ancillary equipment. The WAPET road covered a distance of about 660 km. It ran from near the Wallal Downs homestead
turnoff on the Great Northern Highway to Swindell's Field airstrip
(about 340 km south east of the Wallal Downs turnoff). It then ran about 300 km further to the Kidson drill site and beyond for about 20 km to an associated airstrip
and its termination at Beadell's Young Range
to Well 35 access track (later referred to as the Gary Highway).
Interestingly, renowed outback road surveyer/builder Len Beadell had also built a road through the same region in 1963, naming it the Callawa Track
. When Len Beadell built his road it was superseded almost immediately by the WAPET road, as they are very closely aligned.
The WAPET crew had more resources at their disposal. Unlike Beadell's graded scrapes, the WAPET Road was constructed by gravelling over the long sandy flats, and they cut into any sandhills, clayed the tops, gravelled and side-fenced the edges to limit sand drift. It has since suffered the ravages of the wet seasons and the corrugating effects of vehicle use over time. After WAPET abandoned the oil well, the road was then used extensively by NatMap (during the late 1960s and 1970s) and has been kept in use by 4WD travellers. Unfortuantely, Len Beadell's Callawa Track
however became overgrown and could not be negotiated.