The Sandy Blight Junction Road
sees far fewer visitors than other major outback destinations that Australia
has on offer. One very special experience of this trip is that about every 30 minutes the country that you are passing through will change drastically, from Desert Oakes, to Mulga scrub, to open Spinifex plains. The track conditions vary as much as the scenery, from hard packed tracks, deep sand to stony sections and the usual outback corrugations. With correct tyre pressures and driving to the track conditions, you will be rewarded with a remote outback trip that will make you start planning your return trip. Speaking with the late Len Beadells’ wife, Anne, she said that of all the tracks that Len opened up, this was his favourite track.
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.
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The remote location of the area where the Sandy Blight Junction
Track is located meant that it still remains today, what it has been like for thousands of years. The most common plant that you will encounter along the way will be Spinifex. Depending if the area has been burnt out, or left untouched, Spinifex will be seen from small new growth patches, through to tall clumps of Spinifex, with the largest clumps and flower stems over 1.6 metres tall. The next most common tree that you will come across, are the very large stands of Desert Oak Allocasuarina decaisneana. Mature trees will reach 12 metres tall and are protected from the hottest of fires by their thick bark and regenerate by epicormic growth in the crown. After fires, there is massive seed germination in the ground litter. Other common trees that you will encounter along the way are Blue Mallee, stands of Mulga, Grevillea, the Desert Poplar and if after good rains, many wildflowers
. The most common animal that you will encounter is the introduced Camelus dromedarius – the one humped camel. Camels can easily walk sixty kilometres a day in search of food and usually go for water only once in four days.
As remote this area is, for thousands of years before white man ever set foot in this area, these lands were the tribal areas of 4 separate Aboriginal groups. The first area of tribal lands after leaving Giles belonged to the Ngadadjara, which extended northeast to the Schwerin Mural Crescent. The next small section of tribal land is the very North West section of tribal land of the Pitjantjatjara People. The next and largest section of land along the Sandy Blight Junction Track was the tribal lands of the Wenamba people and the very northern section of the track was tribal lands of the Pintubi people. Each of these desert nomad groups lived off the land and lived in small family groups.
The first white person to travel within the Sandy Blight Junction Track area was Ernest Giles. During the early 1870’s through to the mid 1870’s, Giles made visits through the Rawlinson Ranges area in an attempt to make an East West crossing of the continent, and named a number of geographical features. One very important feature of these Ranges was that they held reliable, permanent supplies of water, and were forced to retreat to the safety of the Ranges when they were unable to find water when further west into the desert. One member of his party who later went on to do further exploration was William Tietkens. During the 1873/1874 expedition that nearly claimed the like of Giles, Giles and Tietkens re entered the now Gibson Desert, in search of Alfred Gibson who perished without trace, after Gibson’s horse died and Giles gave him his horse to return for supplies of food and water.
The next European explorer to enter the Sandy Blight Junction Track area was William Tietkens, when he was in charge of the Central Australian Exploring Expedition. Unemployed in Adelaide in 1886, Tietkens gave a lecture to the South Australian branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, where he secured the command of an expedition to the Lake Amadeus area. Leaving Alice Springs in March 1889, Tietkens expedition reported no new country suitable for settlement, but discovered Lake MacDonald, the Kintore Range, Mount Rennie and the Cleland Hills. During his expedition, Tietkens defined the western boundary of Lake Amadeus, was the first person to photograph Ayers Rock and Mount Olga. For his services
, the government awarded his £250 and the Royal Geographical Society elected his a fellow of the Society. On the 27th May 1889 while in the Kintore Range area, he named a prominent bluff, Mount Leisler and blazed a bloodwood tree with the blaze of a T above the letters 5.89. This tree would remain a hidden symbol of early exploration until it was rediscovered over 70 years later.
Another early explorer in the Southern section of the Sandy Blight Junction Track area was Frank Hann, who in 1903/1904 did exploration in the Sir Frederick Range, the Crocket Range, the Dixon Range, the Walter James Range and the Dean Range.
After these early exploration visits, the area remained unvisited by white people for over 50 years, with the small groups of Wild Aboriginal people living as they had done so for countless thousands of years as hunters and gathers, and not knowing what was happening in the outside world.
In 1953, the first motorized vehicle exploration of the Rawlinson Ranges took place, when a party of men, under the command of then, Perth politician, Mr William L Grayden, Member of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament, to try and find and solve a then 105 year old mystery of the German explorer, Ludwig Leichardt. There had been varied stories handed down by local Aboriginal people of a white man dying out in the desert at the Western end of the Rawlinson Ranges and a very large and heavy metal trunk that was too heavy for the aboriginals to move or open. Was this the last resting place of Leichardt and what was in that heavy metal trunk? Guided by a local Wongi Aboriginal man, Mitawalinya, who had only recently come in from the desert as a wild Aboriginal man, travelled cross country from Warburton up to where Giles is now located and along the northern side of the Rawlinson Ranges. During their journey, they encountered numerous groups of wild Aboriginal that had never had contact with white man or the strange Jeep Army four wheel drives that carried them through their tribal lands. Within 3 years, there would be major changes in this area that would change this country for ever.
Often referred to as Australia
’s last true modern day Explorer, Len Beadell would change the face of outback Australia
for ever, with his legacy of over 6000 kilometres of newly formed outback highways. Every four wheel driver in Australia
would have heard of Len Beadell and such tracks as the Gunbarrel Highway
, and at same stage in their four wheel driving history, would love to travel some or all of the tracks that made him and his Gunbarrel Construction Party famous. Requiring reliable weather data for the UK atomic bomb tests in the remote deserts of South Australia
, the site of Giles was chosen by Len Beadell in 1955, and construction of the weather station was carried out and the first weather observations were transmitted by radio on the 2nd August 1956. The Giles Weather Station was transferred from the Department of Defence to the Bureau of Meteorology in 1972.
On the 31st March 1960 and approximately 29 kilometres east of Giles, Len Beadell and the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party commenced work on building this new road north. Along the way he visited the Bungabiddy Rockhole on the 14th April 1960, blazed at track to the summit of the Sir Frederick Range on the 19th May 1960, reached the Tropic of Capricorn on the 25th June 1960 and rediscovered the historic Tietkens Blaze tree on the 29th June 1960. This historic tree was still alive at that stage, but today it has fallen over to the ground and if it is not recovered by a museum or the like, white ants and nature will let this tree be lost for ever. On the 4th July 1960, Len passed the general area where today stands the Junction of the Sandy Blight Junction Track and the Gary Highway. The team continued to grade further north and ceased grading on the 7th July 1960. Following a reconnaissance of the area, the actual junction of the Sandy Blight Junction Track and the Gary Highway was decided on the 27th August 1960, 26 kilometres south of where they ceased their work, resulting in the last 26 kilometres of track never being used. The reason why this track was given the name “Sandy Blight Junction Track” is that Len was suffer from the painful eye disease Sandy Blight at the time, so what an appropriate name for this new outback highway.