4WDING THE BIRDSVILLE TRACK
When I was in my younger years (and an inexperienced but enthusiastic 4WDer), I had planned a trip in 1990 with some friends from university to drive the Birdsville Track. We were getting excited and making preparations when we heard that the Cooper Creek had flooded the track. We changed our plans and went on another 4WD adventure. I never ended up driving the Birdsville track until seventeen years later, when I decided it had been niggling at me for all this time.
The Birdsville track is iconic. The 517km track is the place where adventures are made, with nothing but remote, rugged outback guiding you from Birdsville to Marree. Flanked on all sides by deserts, few areas of the country are as inhospitable and uninhabited. There is just one place to restock on supplies, about halfway at the Mungerannie Roadhouse. It was going to be an adventure alright.
DAY 1: MARREE
Before we set off from Marree, I wanted to get a look at the old railway station at sunrise. It was stunning, with an old rusty red train sitting on the tracks. As always, I didn’t think about taking a photo until we had already set off. I was pleasantly surprised with the conditions for the first 20 or so kilometres out of Marree.
However, before long we arrived at what I had been expecting. The loose gravel and rocky sections of the famed Birdsville track. We stopped for some grub around the Lake Harry ruins, munching on our sandwiches we had prepared in almost silence before we got back on the road again.
The landscape remained almost unbroken until we came to a grid crossing a fence. There was no signpost but this was evidently the crossing for the Dingo Fence, although unless you know the region, there was nothing to indicate the significance of the crossing.
Not too long after crossing the Dingo Fence, we took a small diversion off the track to check out Cannuwaukaninna Bore. The wetland was home to some interesting birdlife and we spent half an hour with our eyes glued to our binoculars enjoying the natural spectacle of birds on offer.
We called time on the first day at the Brennan campsite, near the Cooper Creek which had flexed its muscles and spoilt my trip seventeen years earlier.
DAY 2: THE COOPER CROSSING
On day two, we set off and found that the rains had left the Creek too high to cross. A little disappointed but almost expecting it, we took a detour to Etadunna and came to the ferry site for the Cooper Crossing. It was surprisingly empty, I had anticipated there would be more people about but we were only the fifth vehicle to cross that day. The crossing took no time at all but we had to spend the duration of it wearing hefty personal life jackets, which added both to the amusement and humility of the situation.
Just 20km past the crossing, we marvelled at the Mulka Ruins. What used to be a store, was now a crumbling relic of the lonely and metered out existence of George and Mabel Aiston.
We stopped for the rest of the day at Mungerannie, enjoying the outback grog and camping in the wetlands. We also took the opportunity to give our vehicle the once over to make sure the first 200 km hadn’t caused too much damage.
DAY 3: WARBURTON CROSSING
We were a little anxious about Warburton Crossing; we knew that with even the slightest rain this crossing could become impassable and we had been forced to take the ferry at Coopers Creek. But we had also had several days of intense sun and had been taking our time coming down the Birdsville Track so we reasoned that it would be fine. If the wide floodplain was unpassable, we would have to take the Outside Track to the East.
We were greeted with water at Warburton Crossing and had to take the Outside Track in the end. Another slight disappointment but we thought we might be able to catch a break on the return leg of the journey.
After pressing on to Walker’s Crossing, we made camp for the evening.
DAY 4: BIRDSVILLE
We had taken our time, but on our final day we finished the last of the 517 km and arrived in Birdsville. The next two days were spent admiring the sunset in the Simpson Desert, drinking in the Birdsville Pub and swimming in the billabong.
It had been a long time in the making and was not without its hiccups but Birdsville still has a place among one of the best outback journeys in Australia for me. It is one if you enjoy long stretches of nothing but flat and treeless landscape.
Do you have anything to add to this article? Do you have any recommendations for tackling the Birdsville Track, Let us know in the comments section below.