Towing on Mitchell Plateau track , yes or no.

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 08:37
ThreadID: 79288 Views:3533 Replies:8 FollowUps:1
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We get asked all the time, should people tow anything into the Mitchell Falls or not.
I never normally make a flat recommendation, there are simply to many variables .

Hundreds of people now take trailers, camper vans and even caravans up there.
While most get in and out ok, many also suffer damage ranging from minor to real bad.

The thing is all these dirt roads up here are never the same, they change from month to month. That is why there are so many varied opinions on if the North Kimberley roads are better than expected or a horror story. People do it once and think that that is what for example the Gibb River Road is always like.
Well it's not and neither is the Mitchell Plateau track.
The three roads I am talking about GR road, Kalumburu & MP track are cared for by different funding and different bodies.
This means that there is no hope of them all being graded at the same times or even the same number of times per year. Add this to the different base quality of each road in different areas of land types etc and even if it was all just worked on, it will still be different in places.
Don't forget we are talking about over 1000 km of roads for the three roads.

Successfully towing anything to Mitchell Falls depends totally on,
state of the road at the time ( no way anyone can tell you in advance)
Strength / build of what you are towing.
How much weight you have in it.
How hard your tryes are.
The speed you do.
How you drive ie: crawl over any bad bits.

We have towed many things , many times in and out of plateau without damage.
On the other hand every year we repair damage done by the same track.

Just because a trailer has 4X4 off road stickers all over it and some salesman told you it would go anywhere doesn't mean it is well built or strong.
If the corrugations are bad and you go fast with hard tryes you will very likely do damage.
If the road has been graded and or you take it easy you may well have no trouble towing in to there.
Having said all that there are still sharp creeks to cross and at present water still on the road so again it comes back to each persons set up.
If for example you have a low hung rig and you don't angle over one creek crossing you will drag on the creek bed.
There is simply no way anyone can advise you on the correct decision.

The track is now done by 4WD tour buses, fuel trucks and many vehicles towing many things.
If you meet any vehicle especially a large one or one towing on one of those bends and either of you is going to fast or on the wrong side of the road you could well have a problem.
The track is narrow in places, tree lined and often has a decent height windrow, so there is often little choice of taking to the scrub to avoid each other.
Again having said that the track is now much wider than it used to be, many of the sharpest bends have been improved. It is also now graded at least once , sometimes twice per season.
In years gone by it could well not be graded at all for one or two years.
The other thing to remember is that the grader can only do so much, in places there is almost no gravel to grade it's just rock with a thin layer of gravel spread over by the grader. It takes no time at all for the traffic to return it to bare surface.

The corrugations do come back fast as well in peak season when the use is heavy.

What I normally say to folks is consider not making the final decision till you get up here. Hope to take tow in but either have swag so you can overnight without the trailer / van ( leave it here for free) or as a last resort do a day trip from the King Edward camp ground.
This second option does make for a pretty rushed trip though, especially if the road is bad.
Thing is once you are in the area you will daily get to talk to other people that have just done the road and you will get a real idea of just what it is like at the time of your trip.

Sorry can't help more than that, we get the question constantly and there simply is no constant answer.
I hate being asked if people should or shouldn't do this or other stuff regarding the roads as Murphy's law says my recommendation will prove to be wrong !
cheers, Anne
Drysdale River Station

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Reply By: blue one - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 09:02

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 09:02
Always pleasant to read your contributions Anne.

Couldn't agree more with the article.

AnswerID: 420599

Reply By: Member - The Bushwhackers -NSW - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 09:03

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 09:03
Hi Anne,

That is probably the most sensible post on this topic I have read. Your advice is so sound, it will help the 'novice' outback tourer (like me), in decision making.

Hope to meet up with you one day, never been up your way, but one day......

Cheers, Dave

AnswerID: 420601

Reply By: vk1dx - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 09:24

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 09:24
Thanks Anne

Totally, totally agree.

This highlights the fact that so many 4wd drivers are not prepared for the "back of Burke" conditions. Before we set out in our "new" interest the car was set up according to what we learned at a club we joined (did training there also) and by a good reliable and experienced 4WD workshop. Workshop that is; not a retailer. Retailers can be biased a bit easier than a workshop.

When we came home after all those "beautiful" roads and tracks the only thing broken was a rear tail light globe. The car performed beautifully. Especially on the Mitchell Falls and Bungles roads which had the "best" corrugations we had seen for ages. But we trusted the advice we had received and the car was a dream.

If you prepare for the worst then the worst won't worry you.

Phil (thanks for the hospitality also)
AnswerID: 420602

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 12:31

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 12:31
Hi Anne,

Great advice here and also in your previous thread about getting help. Could you possibly post them both as blogs so that they are a bit easier to access later on. Its such important info that it deserves maximum visibility.

Hope you have a great season up there,


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

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Follow Up By: Drysdale River Station - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 13:45

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 13:45
Hi Val & John,

Never done a blog, don't know where to start !
Most of the time I don't even get time to get on the forum during the season which is why I vanish for weeks at a time. Shouldn't be here now have a desk full of work looking at me.
Glad you like my comments if of any use please feel free to grab anything I have said and use it anywhere you fancy it may help anyone.
If it helps get folks to send us breakdown details I don't care where it gets put.
I'd promise to do it but I know I just won't end up getting around to it.

cheers, Anne

Drysdale River Station

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Reply By: AlanTH - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 13:12

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 13:12
Thanks Anne.
Both your posts are full of good advice which my group will take on board when we get there in early August.
We will stay at the station and possibly leave our campers there as suggested as it seems the better option.
AnswerID: 420631

Reply By:- Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 16:00

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 16:00
main problem on this track is the kamakaze pilots throwing rocks everywhere wish they would slow down; otherwise enjoy barry
AnswerID: 420640

Reply By: Curlynan - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 17:54

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 17:54
Great Post Anne,

We have done the trip up there twice, 2004 & 2006 first time the road was a nightmare, second time much better conditions.

Our theory is Less is Best. Responsible driving and only ever take a TENT.

In 2006 we saw an off road small van with a broken axel. Another track had to be made for other vehicles to get aound it. Others came limping out with stuffed shockies on either then trailer or vehicle. The type of vehicle is irrelevant. Both times we did it iin a Kia Sportage. Our next trip up will be in our Landcruiser. There is nothing to say that with a much heavier vehicle it would do a better job. As you mentioned, road conditions change constantly.


AnswerID: 420659

Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 19:30

Sunday, Jun 13, 2010 at 19:30
A very good post Anne. When we were there in 2008, we left the final decision until we got to the KE River campground. We then decided to leave the caravan there and continue to Mitchell Falls. It the total of four nights spend at the KE River camp, the only people who took their trailers were going to Port Warrender not Mitchell Falls. Everyone else left their trailers at the camp and did day trips or camped out up there. We planned to stay the night at the falls camp ground, but found we after walking to the falls, spending some time there and taking a late helicopter taxi back that we had enough daylight to drive back down to the caravan at the KE River camp. The road was quite corrugated, but regardless, i cannot see the point of taking a caravan all the way there when you have to come back the same way. Some of the dips are quite steep. The last eight kms before the falls car park is quite narrow, and it would be frustrating to meet a caravan and have to back up or go bush.

We took the caravan to Kalumburu and it was a slow trip - stony not corrugated, but well worth the trip. We spent three days at the McGowan's Island camp.


Red desert dreaming

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