Birdsville Track

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesMarree
FinishBirdsville
DifficultyDifficulty 3/5
Suitable for4WD AWD Camper Bike 
Distance533.93 km
Minimum Days2
Average Speed50.9 km/hr
Driving Time10 hrs 29 mins
Page Updated: 22 Nov 2016

Description

The Birdsville Track is one of the great icons of the Aussie outback. Whilst it is actually the Inside Track that strictly follows the old stock route established in the 1860s, most travellers today use the "Outside Track", which was created in 60's to avoid the main hazards of the Diamantina floodplain. Recent track maintenance have meant that the track is passable by conventional vehicles most of the year. In fact, many 4WDrivers consider the track more of a "highway" and some will tow caravans. Despite this, track conditions are rough and challenging. The surface is generally extremely dry on a sandy base covered with large pebbles (very large) called "gibbers". Travelling speeds vary depending on conditions and your load. The track will take its toll on tyres and travellers in 4WD vehicles are in a much better position to handle the terrain and minimise breakdowns and tyre punctures.

Unfortunately, many people underestimate outback conditions and there are many serious accidents on this track. The reasons usually come down to driver error, with sudden braking at speed on slippery gibbers playing a big part. The gibbers are piled thick you'll hear them crunch beneath your tyres. They are also prone to be kicked up by rear tyres and flick back to cause stone damage on trailers, rear windows and passing windscreens. The gibbers make for difficult traction if you start to slide around a corner and many cattle grids appear quite unexpectedly so please keep your speed appropriate to what you can handle with your vehicle and load. It is advised by the locals that you keep tyre pressures low to improve traction - don't worry, the gibbers have rounded edges and stone fractures are unlikely.

The unexpected dangers are straying stock (cattle) and crazy emus and kangaroos that will dart out of nowhere. Other less obvious hazards are the cattle grids with mound rises and narrow openings that because of the dusty haze and low contrast surroundings can appear unexpectedly.

The terrain varies considerably along the track from harsh red stones of the Sturt Stony Desert to the yellow dunes of the Natterannie Sandhills. Try starting your trip in the late afternoon to experience the richness of desert colours. Without a field guidebook the trip could be easily done in a full day but you'd just be blasting along the dirt and missing all the history and sights. Little is marked or signed and you really need to know what you're looking for to get the most out of your trip.

Take your time to meet stationowners, storekeepers & pub proprietors in one of Australia's most remote and lonely regions.

Prepare for this trip by reading the history of the Birdsville Track and its icons such as Tom Kruse. There are videos and books and some great guidebooks (all available from our Shop) that will provide you with some background on the region and identify some ruins and their significance. That way, you won't be just another tourist that blasts down "the track" arriving at the end disappointed, saying "the Birdsville Track is just a highway", because it is so much more than that.

How to Use this Trek Note

Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places on each POI page.

If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
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  • You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
  • If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
  • If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.

Environment

The Birdsville Track is surrounded by deserts. Sturt's Stony Desert in the southern and central parts, and the Strzelecki and Simpson Desert in the north. Despite the apparent barrenness of the region, the Birdsville Track area is considered good cattle country. In fact organic beef is produced in this area, with lifestock free from ticks and hence no need for chemical treatments.

Surface water is rare unless there's been flooding. However the many artesian bores that were sunk by the Afghan camellers, are still operable and create areas of desert oasis attracting birdlife and interesting stops.

History

Up until the 1930's only stock and Afghan camel trains would use the Birdsville Track. The track was first pioneered by the surveyor E. A. Burt in the 1880s. Drovers would take about 5 weeks to move cattle from stations in Queensland to the railhead at Maree in South Australia. The journey to market was notorious with the lives of many people and stock lost in some of Australia's driest country. In an area of extreme summer temperatures, dust storms, and no surface water, they had to cross wide gibber plains, the Natterannie Sandhills, and the few times they saw rain, the Cooper Creek flooded and progress was not possible. Over time, artesian bores were drilled at 40km intervals all along the Birdsville Track to make the movement of stock easier. The Afghan camel trains were the only means of transporting supplies, and mail was delivered by buggies, drawn by bullocks and horses. Pre-Federation, Birdsville was a major toll collection point for the droves of cattle enroute to market, however tolls were eventually abolished and the town's population dwindled.

In 1936, the first vehicle-based mail run to the area commenced with Tom Kruse. He became the first person to tackle the journey in his Leyland Badger truck, yet he suffered many hardships on each trip and although the supply run was reduced from five weeks to two weeks, it was still a feat of endurance.

Despite Tom's mail run and the cattle droves, few people outside the area knew of the Birdsville Track until the 1954 documentary "The Back of Beyond". The film depicts the extreme obstacles faced by Tom Kruise in tackling the arduous journey along the Birdsville Track, including break-downs, flooding creeks and rivers, and getting bogged in desert dunes but it also shows the strength of the man and the people of the communities in the region. When the treacherous Goyder Lagoon was bulldozed in the 1960's drivers were able to use the new "Outer Track" to avoid the main hazards of the Diamantina floodplain. Following this locals, cattle trucks and tourists began to use the track more regularly and today, due to maintenance, the Birdsville Track is usable by conventional vehicles for most of the year.

It seems that for most travellers these days a stop at the Mungerannie Pub is all that is left of the "atmosphere" of the track. The sights are mostly bores and hills with occasional grave sites and ruins, but the most notable thing about the Birdsville Track is imagining what it would have been like for the original mailman and stockmen who travelled the track before the road was at its present state. You can see the actual vehicle used by Tom Kruse the mailman when you get to Maree at the end of the Birdsville Track displayed opposite the pub.

Preparation

The Birdsville Track is travelled heavily during the peak outback travel season (April - October) by the growing breed of 4WD tourists, many even towing camper trailers. However do not take a trip into this region lightly - all vehicles should be specifically prepared for outback driving on sometimes very corrugated dirt roads. All travellers should understand that mobile phones are not a reliable form of communication when driving in this region.

NOTE: The Diamantina Shire (comprising the towns of Birdsville, Betoota and Bedourie) request that UHF Ch 8 and 38 are NOT to be used unless in an emergency - these channels are monitored by the Clinics, Police and station operators and must remain clear.

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel SymbolMungerannie Hotel.
DieselULPLPG
4cyl 75 litres4cyl 86 litres4cyl 107 litres
6cyl 90 litres *6cyl 101 litres *6cyl 94 litres
8cyl 82 litres8cyl 89 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

If you plan your trip to arrive in Birdvsille on the first weekend in September be prepared for the Birdsville Races, when crowds of around 6000 people come for the annual horse race, regarded one of Australia's most famous country meets.

Closest Climatic Station

Moomba Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 149.45km E
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C38.736.733.729.123.619.919.522.627.430.433.936.3
Mean Min. °C24.623.620.215.610.77.26.48.112.315.719.522.1
Mean Rain mm13.734.025.16.99.910.817.65.314.210.923.014.4
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

Map

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What to See

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Where to Stay

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Along the Birdsville Track shady camp sites are fairly limited but with a bit of an adventurous spirit (and a good map) you can always find somewhere. One good spot is quite secluded and not far off the main track at Melon Creek, about 155km south of Birdsville.

Showing 4 Places

Directions

LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Marree to Lake Harry Ruins30.92 kmNE37° 29 min
Lake Harry Ruins to Lake Harry0.03 kmE83° N/A
Lake Harry to Clayton Wetlands Campsite22.01 kmNE34° 27 min
Clayton Wetlands Campsite to Clayton Creek 0.11 kmSE134°
Clayton Creek to Dulkaninna30.17 kmN16° 42 min
Dulkaninna to Milners Pile19.98 kmN15° 31 min
Milners Pile to Etadunna18.64 kmNE39° 29 min
Etadunna to Birdsville Tk & Flood Bypass Tk (South)1.07 kmNE30° 2 min
Birdsville Tk & Flood Bypass Tk (South) to M V Tom Brennan11.28 kmNE37° 18 min
M V Tom Brennan to Cooper Creek, Birdsville Tk0.85 kmN17° 1 min
Cooper Creek, Birdsville Tk to Birdsville Tk & Flood Bypass Tk (North)9.74 kmN359° 14 min
Birdsville Tk & Flood Bypass Tk (North) to Apatoonganie Waterhole12.45 kmN352° 19 min
Apatoonganie Waterhole to Old Mulka Ruins7.53 kmN347° 12 min
Old Mulka Ruins to Ooroowillannie Ruins12.45 kmN358° 25 min
Ooroowillannie Ruins to Birdsville Tk, Lake Eyre Basin (Southern Boundary)6.39 kmN10° 12 min
Birdsville Tk, Lake Eyre Basin (Southern Boundary) to Mungerannie Hotel21.31 kmN356° 51 min
Mungerannie Hotel to Mungeranie Gap13.34 kmN15 min
Mungeranie Gap to Mirra Mitta Bore23.29 kmN18° 28 min
Mirra Mitta Bore to Kilanbar Bore28.71 kmN351° 28 min
Kilanbar Bore to Birdsville Tk & Yelpawaralinna-Warburton Tk44.25 kmN17° 38 min
Birdsville Tk & Yelpawaralinna-Warburton Tk to Tippipilla Ck Campsite23.69 kmNE57° 23 min
Tippipilla Ck Campsite to Birdsville Tk & Birdsville Inside Tk0.87 kmE104° 1 min
Birdsville Tk & Birdsville Inside Tk to Melon Ck Bore31.36 kmE91° 30 min
Melon Ck Bore to Birdsville Tk & Walkers Crossing Tk27.79 kmNE56° 26 min
Birdsville Tk & Walkers Crossing Tk to Blue Ute Bore 122.73 kmNE30° 21 min
Blue Ute Bore 1 to Page Family Grave Site Turn Off10.41 kmN348° 7 min
Page Family Grave Site Turn Off to Page Family Grave7.32 kmNE27° 8 min
Page Family Grave to Page Family Grave Site Turn Off7.32 kmSW207° 8 min
Page Family Grave Site Turn Off to Wiripirie Bore33.01 kmN339° 26 min
Wiripirie Bore to Birdsville Tk & Pandie Pandie Access27.45 kmN339° 20 min
Birdsville Tk & Pandie Pandie Access to Birdsville Tk, SA-QLD Border14.32 kmN349° 10 min
Birdsville Tk, SA-QLD Border to Birdsville Tk & Birdsville Dev Rd9.22 kmN12 min
Birdsville Tk & Birdsville Dev Rd to Birdsville3.91 kmNW309° 4 min
Marree to Birdsville533.93 km  10 hr 29 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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