The Canning Stock Route today - from the viewpoint of a person on foot

Map of the Canning Stock RouteI have done a lot of reseach since I wrote the articles on Pioneer and Aboriginal History of the Canning Stock Route. In light of that research those articles need to be re-written, the old versions deactivated until then. The following is an introduction to the CSR from the point of a view of a person on foot or bicycle.

The Canning Stock Route of today is a remote 4x4 track following a breadcrumb trail of man-made wells and natural springs through the centre of Western Australia.

Starting from Old Halls Creek in the north, the track winds its way through The Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts for approximately 1850km to Wiluna in the south. Many CSR travellers of today are content to call  the shorter track distance of 1657km between Billiluna and Wiluna The Canning Stock Route, Canning's most northerly Well 51 south of Billiluna.

Whilst these deserts are daunting due to their apparent lack of food, water and extreme heat in the summer months, they are not true deserts, but rather arid lands. Precipitation does occur, but it is erratic and unreliable, making the availability of surface water a conundrum for a person travelling on foot. Rain and dew cannot be relied on.

In 2011 and 2013 there were days when my tent was soaking wet with dew and I could wipe my dry-light towel over it and on the leaves of trees and other plants in order to harvest the water with suitable success. In contrast, in 2015 I cannot remember a single day of dew ... for 3.5 months ... and only a handful of light rain days with one reasonable rainy day! It was different in the south for those who came later, flooding experienced. The summer rains had come late and with a vengeance. Desert rain is fickle.

What makes this desert trek a serious challenge for someone on foot are several sections of 100km distances without reliable water, the longest being a whopping 212km, the overall distance 1657km. Add 800 or so sand dunes, unforgiving, bone rattling, equipment breaking corrugations, little bushtucker, heat and flies and you have a real test of commitment and fortitude, not to mention serious planning, training and preparation required to succeed.

In the past more frequent water was made available by the considerable efforts of Alfred Canning and the men who built and restored these wells starting with the surveying in 1906. Between 1908 and 1910, 51 wells were built linking the north to the south through the centre of the Western Australian deserts, providing water for droves of cattle, horses and working camels approximately 25km apart; the distance horses and cattle could walk between drinks. This is not the case today. Today the vast majority of these wells have fallen to neglect, caved in, and in some cases there isn't even a hollow to show that water was once drawn from the aquifers, a network of water veins beneath the sandy surface. But water is out there and learning where to find that alternate water is what I attempted to do in 2015.

Take a look at this page Canning Stock Route Wells and Water

 

 

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