Cape Melville and the Stracke Track

Submitted: Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 11:32
ThreadID: 133843 Views:5206 Replies:6 FollowUps:3
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As a side trip on our way back south from Cape York I plan to head up to Bathurst Head and Cape Melville on the way back south. We'll be detouring into these places from Musgrave Roadhouse. I'll be in the area in late May to early June, I'll be towing a camper trailer and travelling as a solo vehicle unless others are heading up that way too. My question is aimed at those who have done this trip in recent times:

In favourable conditions (dry weather and dry tracks), how difficult is the drive to these places and what can I expect.

Is the Starcke Tracks a viable option for getting to Cooktown from Cape Melville, or should I go back the way I came in which is via Lakefield and Kalpowar.

I don't mind a slow drive but if it is full of obstacles, deep water crossing, rock hopping and so on, I might not go that way.

Your advice would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance
WBS (aka Tom)
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Reply By: Member - Bigfish - Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 11:58

Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 11:58
Once again it depends on what sort of wet season we get up here. If its a late wet then the tracks could be rugged and too boggy to travel. I,d be asking this question closer to when you do the trip. Many of the tracks are easily travelled in June onwards as most are drying out. Just depends on the weather. Get a cyclone go through and who knows what damage it will cause to waterways and vegetation.
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Follow Up By: Member - WBS - Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 14:00

Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 14:00
Thanks Bigfish,
I understand that the vagaries of the weather are a dominant factor when travelling anywhere up in the Cape and I'll be keeping a close eye and ear on the weather until I'm due to head off. I wouldn't even need to be asking this question if back in 2006 Cyclone Larry hadn't come through and ruined our plans for the Cape that year. We got as far a Cooktown but could go no further. Its been that long before another opportunity has presented itself.

I haven't really heard much about the Starcke Track so that is a complete unknown quantity for me. I was wandering if it is worth considering or is it like the Frenchmans track going in to Lockhart River, not really worth the effort!

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Reply By: Member - Bigfish - Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 15:00

Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 15:00
If the wet has been reasonable I,d do the Starke. Its different and would add to the diversity of the drive. Considering doing the same track next August...just depends on my other fellow travellers.

AnswerID: 606249

Reply By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 21:23

Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 21:23
Hi WBS, in late August we left Kalpower Crossing heading to Melville and developed a crack in the exhaust while towing our 14 foot Goldstream pop top off roader. Ended up cracked clean through. Had to turn around at the turnoff to Bathurst Bay and return to Cooktown for a $330 repair. Ouch. Kalpower to Bathurst turnoff was 45 km of very good 2WD standard road.
A young bloke at Kalpower in a Hilux was towing a 10 foot tinnie on a 2WD trailer. He had been to Cape Melville with the same rig and said it was no problem. The road from Kalpwer to Wakooka is good and only the last 35 or so from Wakooka is slowish but he made it and was expecting no problems going again. Gave us some nice Barra which he had caught at Kalpower.LOL
We had talked to NPWS in Cooktown who confirmed horror story of Starcke track which is on their website. I always like to check with a live person as websites are prone to exaggerating how bad a walk or track is. Later on at Mareeba we met an early 90's Landcruiser owner towing a trailer who had just returned from Melville via Starcke. He spoke of rock steps 500 to 600 mm high and very slow going on a genuine 4WD track. Sounds like fun IF you have the rig to do it.
Musgrave across to Kalpower is an absolute doddle. A beautiful graded and rolled 2WD road compared to when we did it in 2008. You will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of tar on the PDR too......... W

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Follow Up By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 21:41

Sunday, Nov 27, 2016 at 21:41
Part 2. Consider this for theFrenchmans track. Turn off PDR and it's 21 km of level country to the Wenlock with a few narrow bits with tree branches to dodge. Camp at Wenlock as it is a steep descent down to the river crossing. Unhitch van and 4WD to the Pascoe River. This is a fun half day 70 km return trip with 600 mm deep creek crossings, deep sandy sections and a steep climb over a range. You couldn't ask for a better 4WD course. Have morning tea at Pascoe and watch others manage the rocky western side descent, the deep hole 3/4 way across and some slippery slopes on the eastern side. Return to Wenlock and camp another night.
Next day go back to PDR and south to turnoff to Lockhart River etc. At Yam Ck leave van and take 11 km track back to Pascoe. Great scenery on an easier track. Return and rehitch van and continue 6 or 8 km to a nice camp beside a creek.There's your day.... W

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Follow Up By: Member - WBS - Monday, Nov 28, 2016 at 17:53

Monday, Nov 28, 2016 at 17:53
Thanks Warrie,
I certainly will consider your suggestion.

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Reply By: Member - TonyV - Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016 at 16:52

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016 at 16:52
Lakefield is not open until late June with the gate closed at Saltwater Creek and the Kalpowar crossing may be gated.The Cape Melville gates will be locked at the old Wakoola Station until then.

As note: 2016 even though it was a dry wet, Lakefield and Cape Melville didn't open until August.

Camping permits have stopped from Dec 1st this year until those dates.
The Rinnyirru Rangers Station telephone number is 07 4060 3271 if you want to verify closures. They may not be there as they are in shutdown mode.

Have a look onQueensland Parks booking site it will show no bookings available a decission on opening date will be made in June.

Bathurst Head may be accessible from the Starcke end but I would check with the indigenous owners to see if its accessible

AnswerID: 606312

Reply By: wooly0005 - Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016 at 21:01

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016 at 21:01
Hi there WBS,

We drove that road back in late August this year. We were in our Cruiser single cab (VDJ79) with our Kimberly camper behind us. Road was a doddle as far as Wakooka Ruins which is where it gets a bit tougher. I would call that section through to Starke river a real 4wd track but still quite do-able if you take your time and drive to conditions. It was fairly dry when we went so no real problems but could be different after a decent wet season. I remember going that way through there was one fairly steep decent for about 3/4 of a km and I thought at the time this would be interesting going the other way up it but no real problem for us going down steady in low range 1st. Beautiful country though and well worth the effort in my opinion.

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Reply By: Lindsaydi - Sunday, Dec 11, 2016 at 01:36

Sunday, Dec 11, 2016 at 01:36
Mate been along Starkes a couple of times last time 2015 I like the track slow but interesting with a trailer. Prior to going to Bathurst I would get hold of Eddie or his brother as he is the traditional landowner a darn nice bloke who welcomes visitors a whole lot better than some places in mainstream Australia.
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