Old Roebourne - Tablelands Track (Cooya Pooya Back Country)

Sunday, Dec 27, 2015 at 17:20

17 South

Exit via Roebourne and follow Woodbrook Road down past Harding Dam (good for a peek as well - some great views from up off the top).

The turn off to Table Hill is just after Lake Poongkaliyarra (part of the Harding Dam) - it's not signed posted but you can see it heading off in the direction of the hill.

The track is an easy follow - no junctions. Skirting along the edge of Table Hill you make your way to the eastern side and the remains of a busted up old gate marks the start of the ascent.

The track up the hill was originally put in place by Rio Tinto (they have a comms tower on top) and gated it off - I guess 'robin hood' members of the public kept pulling the gate down and eventually Rio just gave up on it - good thing too, why spoil access to such an epic view.

It's a straight forward ascent, a couple washouts on the way but High Range 4WD is more than enough. A note for the wary - there are no barriers on the downhill side so at times it can seem a little close for comfort.

But once you reach the top completely worth it - the views are panoramic and there's a number of side tracks to take you to the different edges as well as a couple of great camping spots. Note these side tracks can be quite rocky and slow going.

The main track runs back to the western edge where there comms tower is and here there are some great views over Woodbrook Rd and Lake Poongkaliyarra.

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To get to Old Roebourne - Tablelands Track it's back the way you came to the main road and turn left and travel 2.4km down Woodbrook Rd and turn left into the track (not sign-posted).

With Table Hill on your left head follow the main track skirting around Purragurra Hill (on your right) and crossing the Harding River. On the far side there's a junction (right goes to Yennibookal and Karrawingina Pools approx 2.4km south and some nice camping spots), keeping left the track crosses The Springs Creek. Just before you cross The Springs there's another track heading south - this is an alternate creek crossing and rejoins the main track after a few kms.

After crossing the creek there's a T-junction/corner with the left track going up to the old Cooya Pooya Homestead and right is the continuation of the Old Roebourne - Tablelands Track. It's a 3.6km run into the old Homestead and well worth a visit. This site is heritage listed and for the most part avoided vandalism.

Cooya Pooya Homestead
The first settlers / pastoralists William Taylor and Thomas Lockyer settled during the mid-1860s. Several years later, Taylor sold his interests and left the area.

Lockyer originally named the lease Table Hill Station and 1885 Lockyer and his four sons ran 28,000 sheep. The Lockyers acquired a run further inland on the Fortescue River which when combined with Table Hill had a total area of 900,000 acres (3,642 km2). The merged station became known as "Cooya Pooya".

Following a drought the station was abandoned for a time in 1897, with all stock being relocated to the tableland.

Samuel L. Burges purchased Cooya Pooya in 1911 and acquired neighbouring Springs Station in the same year. By 1912 the property was carrying 22,000 sheep.

The Stove brothers acquired the station prior to 1925, adding it to their portfolio which included Mount Welcome and Cherritta stations. The region was struck by a severe cyclone in early 1925, causing severe damage to Cooya Pooya and many other properties in the area.

By 1950, Percy Stove and his wife left the station to move south. Their son Jack took over management of the property in their absence. The following year Stove was lucky not to be killed when a fire broke out in the storeroom, and a box of gelignite exploded blowing the roof clean off.
The old homestead was placed on the state heritage list in 1998. The building is a single storey stone structure with an iron roof and detached kitchen.

Roebourne - Tablelands
Back at the Cooya Pooya Homestead intersection continue along the Roebourne - Tablelands track crossing sweeping grass plains fringed by mountain ranges. 6km down the track is Gum Flat Well and a further 2km is the Karrooinia Junction (right). This takes you down to Karrooinia, Yinningomunna and Murghanna Pools. At the Pools Junction (Pools RM in the gpx file) bearing right will take you back to Woodbrook Rd. Some great camping spots amongst the pools and plenty to explore.

3km further down the main track is old The Springs Homestead ruins and Mardeburra Pool. Driving towards this location the road forks, bear right to reach the site - the left fork (original track) bypasses the ruins.

The Springs Homestead
The homestead was on one of the early pastoral leases in the Pilbara, taken up by Henry H Hicks in the 1860s. It was a key point in the route between the coast and the Tablelands and was also used as a stop over by mail carters and others who were travelling the road.

The ruins are situated on the banks of a creek and spring, a short distance from the old road. Local stone was used extensively in building the homestead, out buildings, paved areas, walls, tank stand and well. Evidence of garden beds marked out with corrugated iron is still evident at the front of the house. Small humpies or hides are located along the edge of a stone ridge, possible for itinerant workers or Aboriginal residents. They overlook the substantial ruined stone yards and paved wool shed that would have been used for shearing and possible storage of the fleece. In the river bed stone walls were used either to keep stock away from the river or to water them.

There is a significant amount of rock art at the site on the low outcrop of stone that divides the homestead from the sheep yards.

The site is an excellent archaeological record of the station organisation, which appears to involve distinct areas for the homestead, different areas for types of residents, working areas, execution of rock art, and animal management. The rock art is important as a tool for communicating and recording the colonial-era for Aboriginal people. The art depicts horses, new European costume such as women’s dresses, and the earliest known depiction of a European – the smithy.

Roebourne - Tablelands
Heading back out into the grass plains another 5km down the track is a great little camping spot and some very nice waterholes scattered about - best just to poke around a bit until you find the one you like best.

From here on it's one of the nicest parts of the drive as the grass plains slowly converge with the mountain ranges. About 2km down is Lyre Well and from here you can park up or cross the plains to Hill Pass and walk up into the hills for some great views and photography. Just past Lyre well is another junction with this track (right) running down into Millstream Chichester National Park.
2.3km further on down the track from Lyre Well and you cross into Millstream Chichester National Park (no signage) and a further 6.7km to Hicks Gap.

The Pass is very pretty and it's a great spot to stop and go for a walk. Its an easy scramble up the hills and from the top are some of the best views in the Pilbara - looking south across Millstream, Chichester, Cooya Pooya grass plains to the west and Roebourne Plain and Pyramid Hill to the east.

As you exit the Gap the remains of the old road a clearly evident with a built-up rocky causeway to protect the road from the water run off in the hills. Heading down onto the plain it's a easy 7.5km run out to the Roebourne Wittenoom Rd. The last section of this track runs through Pyramid Station so please be mindful of leaving the gates as you find them (mostly they're always open, but they do close them for mustering.)

Old Roebourne - Tablelands Track: 41.7 km
Table Hill Track: 7.8 km
Cooya Pooya Track: 3.6 km
Karrooinia Track 16.2 km

Recommended travel time - 3 days

Only short distances with plenty to see and do and lots of places to camp and relax. There can be a decent amount of back tracking if you cover it detail - it's beautiful country, well worth taking your time. Best travelled in the Dry Season.

4WD Track Classification (Dry Weather): EASY

4WD Track Classification (Wet Weather): DIFFICULT

In the Additional Files Section is the GPX file with Tracks and Waypoints.
Old Roebourne - Tablelands Trek
Wildling from the North
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