David Carnegie Road

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesGunbarrel Hwy & David Carnegie Rd & Eagle Hwy
FinishTjukayirla Roadhouse
DifficultyDifficulty 4/5
Suitable for4WD 
Distance272.13 km
Minimum Days2
Average Speed26.17 km/hr
Driving Time10 hrs 23 mins
Page Updated: 4 Sep 2015


The David Carnegie Road is best accessed by turning south off the Gunbarrel Highway. There are a couple of significant features to look out for in this area, however before leaving the Gunbarrel to head south, make sure you check out Mungilli Claypan, just a little further east - this claypan is often wet which attracts good birdlife and is a nice spot to rest or camp. Another good place to visit is Breaden Bluff, which is a large red sand stone bluff, named by explorer D.W. Carnegie on 15th August 1896 after Joe Breaden, a member of his exploring party. Some other highlights in this area are the Pikalu Rock Holes, which is an Aboriginal name provided by the late Mickey Warren in the 1970s, and the Breaden Bluff Ceremonial Grounds.

Enjoy a pristine desert environment, with vast spinifex plains, rocky outcrops and some challenging 4WD driving. On this trek, you can visit sites such as the breakaway country at Breaden Bluff and Forrest’s Camp 59, which is where John Forrest camped whilst on his 1874 expedition to the Overland Telegraph Line. Another popular spot is Empress Springs, which is where a tired and dehydrated David Carnegie and his companions were led to by local Aborigines.

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The track is well defined and easy to follow, although a lack of maintenance has left much of it at the northern end in poor condition. At the northern end, the David Carnegie Road has many washaways; rocky outcrops and track deviations, there are few sand dunes. Two large rocky plateaus need to be traversed making the going slow. The southern end from Empress Spring south is often graded to allow tourist access from the Great Central Road, although there are a few sandy patches on this section.


The Hon. David Wynford Carnegie

David Carnegie was an explorer and gold prospector in Western Australia. In 1896 he led an expedition from Coolgardie through the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts to Halls Creek, and then back again.

David Carnegie invested his profits from two earlier gold mines and proposed a major expedition to travel almost 1600kms from Coolgardie to Halls Creek. Much of the area through which he intended to travel was unexplored and unmapped at the time and Carnegie hoped to find good pastoral or gold-bearing land, and to make a name for himself as an explorer.

Carnegie's party consisted of five men and nine camels. Some of his travelling companions were the prospectors Charles Stansmore, Godfrey Massie, bushman Joe Breaden and Breaden's Aboriginal companion Warri. They left Coolgardie on 9th July 1896 and travelled north to Menzies and then north east.

On 23rd July 1896, they had entered largely unexplored country and were finding it difficult to locate water. On 9th August 1896, the dehydrated party came across a native who they captured and forced to show where water was located. The water supply they were led to was an underground spring in a hidden cave – which Carnegie named Empress Spring after Queen Victoria. Luck would have it, they were saved and the party knew they could never have found this hidden underground cave on their own. Soon this became the pattern for the remainder of the expedition – to capture natives to help them whenever they were short of water.

Leaving the Empress Spring, the expedition continued north. Throughout the months leading to October, the party passed through the desert country of the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts. It was difficult travel as they crossed over endless sand ridges. Nearing the end of their epic journey, tragedy struck the party and on the 2nd November 1896, Charles Stansmore died. He slipped while crossing a ridge, ended up dropping his gun and was shot as the gun hit the ground. Stansmore was buried by his companions and David and the remaining members of the party reached Halls Creek four days later - a journey of 149 days and 2,274 kms. Carnegie had spoken highly of his good friend Charles Stansmore and his sudden death on the threshold of success was a sad blow to the company.

Carnegie's expedition was originally intended to terminate at Halls Creek, but since they had found no gold-bearing or pastoral land, the party decided to continue exploring, by returning to Coolgardie by a more easterly overland route. Later after returning to England, he wrote and published a book on his experiences in Western Australia, entitled Spinifex and Sand.


There are no fuel, water or supplies available on the David Carnegie Road so all of this must be carried. The nearest limited supplies are available at Tjukayirla Road House and Carnegie Station. The nearest significant supply points are Wiluna or Laverton.

Remote Desert Country

Temperatures can rise to 50°C in summer and it has been known to rise to 60°C. Travel during summer is not recommended. This is remote desert country, so be fully self-sufficient. Keep in mind that this is not a well travelled route and there are absolutely no facilities for travellers, not even stations or aboriginal communities.

Your vehicle will need to be extensively prepared for remote area travel, with all fuel, water, food and vehicle repair equipment and spare parts. All travellers must be totally self-sufficient and should read the 4WDriving Topic for related articles and checklists for vehicle setup and driver awareness. High clearance vehicles recommended, and depending on the season, a spinifex blind is highly recommended.

We advise that you refer to the latest information and advice about outback communications in the Communications Topic. For any dune driving you should fly a dune flag from the front of your vehicle to avoid head on collisions on dune tops. Additionally, the lead vehicle in any direction should periodically make calls on Channel 10 from the top of large dunes on the UHF radio to advise oncoming traffic of your position.

Fuel Information

Please note that unleaded fuels have long been unavailable in the region in an attempt to combat petrol sniffing issues in nearby Aboriginal communities. Recently, a new fuel from BP called Opal Unleaded, has been introduced to better serve travellers interests, whilst combating petrol sniffing problems. BP Opal Unleaded is available at Warburton, (and also Warakurna Roadhouse and Docker River along the Great Central Road).


None unless using access/exit through Cosmo Newberry Reserve or Warburton on the Great Central Road. Permits are available online from the Ngaanyatjarra Council website www.Ngaanyatjarra.org.au Their contact email address is ngcouncil@ngaanyatjarra.org.au

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel SymbolTjukayirla Roadhouse.There is also fuel available at Wiluna (start of Gunbarrel Hwy), Laverton (Great Central Rd) and Carnegie Station. (These places are not shown on this trek note).
4cyl 41 litres *4cyl 44 litres4cyl 54 litres
6cyl 42 litres6cyl 50 litres *6cyl 48 litres
8cyl 42 litres8cyl 45 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Closest Climatic Station

Distance from Trek Mid Point 152.52km W
Mean Max. °C38.837.033.830.025.321.221.324.028.532.835.437.3
Mean Min. °C23.822.919.816.
Mean Rain mm30.152.434.122.915.414.811.
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

The following locations have various services And supplies:Tjukayirla Roadhouse
There are good facilities and supplies available at Wiluna (start of Gunbarrel Hwy) and Laverton (Great Central Rd) and limited supplies at Carnegie Station and Tjukayirla Road House.


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What to See

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Where to Stay

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LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Gunbarrel Hwy & David Carnegie Rd & Eagle Hwy to David Carnegie Rd & Forrest's Camp 59 Access40.6 kmS191° 1 hr 19 min
David Carnegie Rd & Forrest's Camp 59 Access to Forrest's Camp 591.44 kmE91° 5 min
Forrest's Camp 59 to David Carnegie Rd & Forrest's Camp 59 Access1.44 kmW271° 5 min
David Carnegie Rd & Forrest's Camp 59 Access to Woodland Campsites77.95 kmS175° 2 hr 15 min
Woodland Campsites to Campsites3.48 kmS173° 6 min
Campsites to Woodland Campsites16.18 kmS177° 37 min
Woodland Campsites to Claypan Campsites7.61 kmS193° 12 min
Claypan Campsites to Empress Spring28.23 kmSE144° 40 min
Empress Spring to David Carnegie Rd & Breaden Bluff Access18.05 kmSE147° 23 min
David Carnegie Rd & Breaden Bluff Access to David Carnegie Road & Ceremonial Ground Access11.65 kmS193° 35 min
David Carnegie Road & Ceremonial Ground Access to Nice Camp Spot (Pikalu Holes)1.12 kmNE48° 3 min
Nice Camp Spot (Pikalu Holes) to Pikalu Rock Holes0.2 kmE90°
Pikalu Rock Holes to Track to Ceremonial Ground (Ends here)1.33 kmNE51° 5 min
Track to Ceremonial Ground (Ends here) to Breaden Bluff Caves0.18 kmN1 min
Breaden Bluff Caves to Breaden Bluff Ceremonial Grounds0.1 kmN338°
Breaden Bluff Ceremonial Grounds to Breaden Bluff Caves0.1 kmS158°
Breaden Bluff Caves to Track to Ceremonial Ground (Ends here)0.18 kmS180° 1 min
Track to Ceremonial Ground (Ends here) to Pikalu Rock Holes1.33 kmSW231° 5 min
Pikalu Rock Holes to Nice Camp Spot (Pikalu Holes)0.2 kmW270°
Nice Camp Spot (Pikalu Holes) to David Carnegie Road & Ceremonial Ground Access1.12 kmSW228° 3 min
David Carnegie Road & Ceremonial Ground Access to Great Central Road & David Carnegie Rd44.02 kmS180° 58 min
Great Central Road & David Carnegie Rd to Tjukayirla Roadhouse15.58 kmNE59° 13 min
Gunbarrel Hwy & David Carnegie Rd & Eagle Hwy to Tjukayirla Roadhouse272.13 km  10 hr 23 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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