Canning Stock Route

Canning Stock Route

The Canning Stock Route is one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs from Halls Creek to Wiluna, both in Western Australia. With a total distance of 1781 km (1113 miles) it is also the longest historic stock route in the world. For the first few hundred kilometres it runs concurrent with the Tanami Track.


In the beginning of the 20th century Kimberley cattlemen were looking for a way to traverse the western deserts of Australia with their cattle. Between 1906 and 1910 Alfred Canning surveyed the route and sank a total of 52 wells. The route was used for the first time in 1911, but all the cattlemen were killed by Aborigines along the way.

Canning's party constructed the wells with the forced help of Aboriginal people whose land the route traversed, the Mardu. Canning himself found it difficult to locate desert water sources. In order to gain Mardu assistance in locating water along the route, Canning captured several Mardu men, chained them by the neck, forced them to eat salt, and then waited until they got thirsty enough to lead his party to a native well.

Before 1930 the route was not used regularly. In 1929 Alfred Canning (then aged 68) was commissioned once more to reopen the route after another contractor was unable to do the work. [John Slee, ' [ Canning, Alfred Wernam (1860 - 1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition] , Australian National University, accessed online December 28, 2006, ISSN 1833-7538] With these improvements, the route between 1930 and 1950 was used on a fairly regular basis.

In 1973 (before the route was successfully negotiated in four-wheel drives) an ambitious attempt to complete it on foot took place. Two English brothers, John and Peter Waterfall and a New Zealander, Murray Rankin, fashioned home made carts from bicycle tyres and metal tubing, and began their attempt. Although one of the brothers (John) turned back, Peter and Murray continued to Lake Disappointment, before returning to a food drop they had left along the route. They took two months to complete their trek. Murray Rankin eventually succeeded accompanied by Kathy and Rex, members of Perth Bushwalking Club. This attempt, assisted by food drops, took 1 week short of three months .

In 1968 the entire length of the track was driven for the first time. During the 1980s fuel dumps were created and adventurous travellers became interested in the history of the track and the challenge to drive it.

In 2005, Jakub Postrzygacz became the first person to traverse the entire track without backup, traveling alone by bicycle for 33 days. Using large tyres and a single-wheel trailer, he carried all his food with him, stocking up on water at the periodic wells.


Today, while quite a few travellers successfully make the trip, it still requires substantial planning and a convoy of well-equipped four-wheel drives or equivalent vehicles, and is only practical during the cooler months. Fuel drops typically need to be organised in advance. Fuel is now available at Kunawaritji Aboriginal community near well 33.

Journey distances

The nearest capital city to the Wiluna start point is Perth, 1000 km (625 miles) south west of Wiluna. Then to return to Perth via sealed roads it's 2800 km (1750 miles) from Halls Creek. This gives a total driving distance of 5581 km (3488 miles).

See also

*Highways in Australia
*List of highways in Western Australia


Further reading

* Stanton, Jenny (editor) "The Australian Geographic book of the Canning Stock Route" Terry Hills, N.S.W. : Australian Geographic Pty Ltd, 1998. Rev. ed. ISBN 1862768005
* Deckert, John. (Author). Canning Stock Route map by Westprint. Includes history, features and guidance for travellers. ISBN 0 646 18223 4.


External links

Canning Stock Route by bike -

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