Kidson Track - WAPET Road

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesGreat Northern Hwy & Kidson Track (Wapet Rd)
FinishKidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Canning Stock Route
DifficultyDifficulty 4/5
Suitable for4WD Camper Bike 
Distance609.94 km
Minimum Days2
Average Speed44.2 km/hr
Driving Time13 hrs 48 mins
Article By: Michelle Martin - ExplorOz Team (updated April 2013)
Page Updated: 30 May 2015


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.


Vehicles should be fully equipped for extensive, remote desert expedition touring. You should be fully self-sufficient, with all food, fuel, & water requirements and you will need an extensive equipment supply, especially tools and spare parts, plus spare tyres, tubes, repair equipment & air compressor.

Long-range communications should be taken (eg. HF radio, Satellite Phone), emergency beacons (eg. SPOT2, Epirb), and for vehicle-vehicle communications along the track a UHF radio.

Sand flags are also recommended for the dune section to assist with visual identification of oncoming vehicles. An advanced medical emergency kit should be carried by at least one party in your group. Due to possible growth of grasses in the middle of the Kidson Track, there may be a danger of accumulation of flammable solids under your car. Be prepared for this case by not only carrying a fire extinguisher, but also carry a spray bottle filled with water and frequently check the vehicle for grass build-up.

You could phone Kunawarritji Community some days before travelling and ask them for the latest reports given by other travellers. Nearly everybody coming down the Kidson fuels up at Kunawarritji, so they will be the ones with the latest information. Fuel availability is reliable there and fuel is also available (by arrangement) from Punmu.


The Nyangumarta People, the Kulyakartu People and the Martu People have Native Title grant and claim to the whole of the Kidson Track. 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.

For full tourist permit information, see here:

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel SymbolKunawarritji Roadhouse.
4cyl 86 litres4cyl 99 litres4cyl 122 litres
6cyl 94 litres6cyl 110 litres6cyl 107 litres
8cyl 94 litres8cyl 101 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Closest Climatic Station

Telfer Aero
Distance from Trek Mid Point 83.2km SW
Mean Max. °C40.638.637.334.529.125.325.328.432.737.039.440.2
Mean Min. °C26.025.423.920.615.311.910.612.516.520.823.425.4
Mean Rain mm49.1102.777.320.018.914.313.
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies


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What to See

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Where to Stay

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LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Great Northern Hwy & Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) to Wapet Rd (Kidson Track) & Unnamed old track60.39 kmSE122° 1 hr 29 min
Wapet Rd (Kidson Track) & Unnamed old track to Old Landrover Ruins19.93 kmE105° 22 min
Old Landrover Ruins to Ruins of Windmill and Tank249.04 kmSE115° 6 hr 42 min
Ruins of Windmill and Tank to Swindell Field16.46 kmSE127° 35 min
Swindell Field to Twin Gum Hill48.19 kmS193° 1 hr 1 min
Twin Gum Hill to Razor Blade Bore6.37 kmS168° 10 min
Razor Blade Bore to Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Callawa Rd40.65 kmE112° 43 min
Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Callawa Rd to Wapet Rd (Kidson Track) & Punmu Rd57.12 kmS174° 1 hr 12 min
Wapet Rd (Kidson Track) & Punmu Rd to Bore and Tank (Wapet Rd/Kidson Track)5.61 kmE100° 9 min
Bore and Tank (Wapet Rd/Kidson Track) to Rocky Knoll - Wapet Rd4.3 kmSE127° 9 min
Rocky Knoll - Wapet Rd to Wapet Rd Antenna18.69 kmSE119° 20 min
Wapet Rd Antenna to Kunawarritji Roadhouse79.39 kmE100° 1 hr 14 min
Kunawarritji Roadhouse to Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Canning Stock Route3.8 kmSE150° 4 min
Great Northern Hwy & Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) to Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Canning Stock Route609.94 km  13 hr 48 min
Distance is GPS recorded driving distance (not straight line), Direction is straight line from start to end, Time is calculated from actual GPS driving data.


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