The Binns Track - Mt Dare to Tennant Creek

Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 at 15:13

Navigator 1 (NSW)

29th June – 13th July 15days
Bill Binns, who worked for NT Parks for 32 years blazed the Binns Track which traverses some of the most untouched parts and unused Parks in the territory. It opened in 2008 running from Mount Dare in SA to Timber Creek in NT.

We had travelled the Old Andado Track back in 2004 but now we set out the do this southern section of the Binns Track in its entirty.

Part 1: Mt Dare to Old Andado Station … 104km

Leaving Mount Dare in the afternoon we travelled approx. 39km following paralleling the dry Fink River bed. The track traversed bulldust sections, ruts, passed Whitewood bore and stockyards. It was a sandy track and corrugated for most of the way. Where the river changed course and headed west to Fink, we pulled over for the evening. A small campfire made for a perfect evening.
30th June, my birthday, and it was baked beans on toast!!

Our path onward to Old Andado brought more bull dust, bores, stockyards, a claypan and dam. On this section of the track we were running parallel with the orange sand dunes on a single track. It was very picturesque. Before reaching Andado Station we crossed an impresive huge open plain .
From Andado Station the track headed in an easterly direction and in the last 5km we crossed over two sand dunes and into Old Andado Station. What a sight it was, the valley was so lush and green.

We had passed Old Andado caretakers, Trevor & Glenis, on the track heading into Mount Dare so we had time to look around the property before their return. Molly left Old Andado in 2006 but nothing had changed since we met her back in 2004. Thanks go to the many caretakers and Molly’s granddaughter, Megan.
On her return Glenis whipped up a batch of scones and we enjoyed them with a cuppa. We put a candle in the scones for my birthday. They tasted fantastic because they were cooked in Molly’s fuel stove.
That evening we were joined by 3 other campers.

Molly passed away late 2012 and special permission was granted for her to be buried on the property. A headstone is soon to be placed.Old Andado Homestead is now heritage listed. Everything in the house is as Molly left it. With caretakers few and far between time will tell if the property is taken over by the desert.

Molly’s story is a very sad one....
She and her husband, Mac Clark owned the Andado Station outright by 1969. In 1972 Molly began the huge job of restoring the old homestead to its former glory eventually operating a tourism business which showed tourists how life was in the earlier days. She and the family experienced a double tragedy when they lost Mac to a heart attack while flying his light aircraft and later their eldest son, Graham, died when his semi-trailer collided with a freight train.
Andado Station was one of the first cattle stations in the NT to undergo Brucellosis & Tuberculosis testing. Unfortunately all stock was lost and consequently Molly lost the property having to sell it for a pittance. In Jan 1987 she secured a Crown Lease over 45 square kilometres of land around the original homestead, re-naming it ‘Old Andado’.
Molly lived there full time, greeting tourists and running an authentic pioneer’s residence and museum until ill health led her to move to Alice Springs in 2006

Part 2: Old AndadoRoss Hwy – South of Alice Springs - 310km approx

Continuing along the track for about 48km we came to the turn off to Mac Clark Conservation Reserve where one of only three stands of the Acacia Peuce, known as the ‘Waddi Trees’, can be found. It is the wood from these trees that Molly’s husband, Mac, used in the construction of Old Andado Homestead.

The track continued, sandy, gibber, bull dust, pot holes, corrugations and corrugations (oh I already mentioned that). Here and there cattle roamed the wide open plains. We passed used bores and disused bores, cattle grates, gates, and cattle yards, used and disused. The wide open grass plains and the gibber plains were quite impressive. We certainly got the impression that we were remote.

About 50km SE of Johnson Bore we pulled over for the evening along a fence line that led a short distance to the base of Arookara Range. Hugo, our green truck, fitted in beautifully with the orange, rocky range, the blue sky and the green of the vegetation.

Every evening we press the button on our Spot Messenger devise and let the family, and others with our link, know our location.

With the start of another perfect day we made our way to the abandoned Johnson Bore the plate registering the date as 1949.

This section of the Binns is very scenic following Arookara Range and then Train Hills. We passed Allambi HS with its own airstrip (sensible people) and Phillipson Creek. Now this creek would certainly stop your journey if travelling in the wet. We had full intentions of visiting Santa Teresa to view their artwork but found the mission so very depressing we continued our journey straight into Alice Springs.

Although not on the Binns Track a diversion into Alice was necessary to stock up on supplies, communications and to visit the Laundromat A well known member of Exploroz, ‘Mick O’, spotted the truck with its Exploroz wheel covers, and came in for a chat. He had just finished another of his epic journeys and we look forward to reading his blog.

We had two days R&R in Alice before heading off on NT Federation Day.

Part 3: Ross Highway - Plenty Highway 250km approx


This leg of the Binns Track led us along the sealed Ross Highway past Emily Gap and Jessie Gap to Nemery Road. With much less traffic, the road conditions were great. Approx 40 km along we turnoff to the north to N’Dhala Gorge and our campsite for the next two nights. It was a very picturesque drive crossing the dry Ross River in three places. When in camp we did the 1km walk up the gorge where we saw some of the 6,000 petroglyphs in the area but from what we saw, they were very weathered.

After a great camp we continued north through the beautiful N’Dhala Gorge, crossing the Ross River 4 or 5 more times, 3 with water, passed the Ross River Tourist Resort.

At the intersection with the Ross Highway we made a little diversion from the Binns to revisit Trephina Gorge, a little to the west. We met up once again with Ranger Dan. The beautifully coloured bluffs were as we remembered them from 10 years ago. A little more infrastructure had been but in place especially the drive through sites for caravans. It was tempting to stay but we moved onto Arltunga Historic Reserve where the only camping was at the Old Pub camp ground.

An early morning start allowed us to explore the Old Police Station, then took the 1km walk along the dry river bed to the Government Works. Many of the buildings have been restored. The Gold Room and Office also served as the first Assay Room. However, its location next to the Battery Site resulted in complaints because the ground shook making it impossible for the Assayer to weigh the gold and pay the miners correctly. After several years another building was constructed to serve this purpose. The windmill marked the site of the Star of the North Well. Six wells were in common use during the active days of the goldfield but The Star of the North Well was the second best in the area. It could deliver over 8000 litres of water per day. At the Battery Site the Cornish Boiler, the deep foundations of the 10 head stamper battery and the Horizontal Steam Engine were still in good condition. Little remained of the Post Office, bar the chimney and a few half walls, but records show that mail went every two weeks between the Government Works and Adelaide. The Manager’s Residence was the most impressive residence at Arltunga in its day and the Assayer’s Residence was the home of probably the second most senior person at the Governments Works. This site was a wonderful reminder of the mining activity that took place in this area years ago.

There were also mine workings to explore in the Historic Reserve but having done them in the past we continued our journey after first taking time out at the Crossroads Cemetry.

Many kilometres passed between the turnoffs to several remote cattle stations. One station, Ambalindum, which was very close to the road, offered accommodation and camping for the weary traveller.
We crossed the Hale River several times and made our way across the expansive Hale Plains before turning off onto Pinnacles Road. A lot of cattle could be seen grazing in this area.

Just a short way up Pinnacle Road we found a track leading us to Pinnacle Bore and a lovely bush campsite on the banks of the dry Hale River.

An early morning start, 10.00am, and not before long we turned onto the Plenty Hwy. A turn to the west at this point and you can camp at Gemtree

Part 4: Plenty Hwy – Sandover Highway - 236km approx

The Plenty was wide but still corrugate (when will we get away from the corrugations!). The Hart’s Ranges made an impressive backdrop as we made our way to the Hart’s Ranges Police Station. The side track led us down to the air strip where we met James, the pilot of a Cessna 210 known as the workhorse of the outback. He was on a ‘community run’ collecting drinking water samples for testing.

Just a little further on we turned off to visit the Atitjere Community who welcomed visitors to their store, to purchase fuel and to buy their artwork. Closer reading of the sign at the community border stated that any vehicle carrying alcohol could be seized.Well, that was the end of that idea! We continued on to the turn off to the north.

About 10km north from the Plenty Highway we crossed the wide, dry Plenty River and decided that it would be our campsite for the night. We were just off the road but traffic was minimal, just a few locals returning to their communities. The night was still with clear skies so we sat by the campfire for some time.

Next morning, about 20km along the track, we could have, should have, taken the turn off to Mount Swan HS and onto Tower Rock. Every camper we have met since who came up the Binns Track said it was really worthwhile.

We passed several more remote properties, Dneiper and Old MacDonald Downs before we turned off the main track and crossed over the wide Bundey River. Their were at least 4 channels and the sand was very soft. It would be an impressive sight in the wet (from a helicopter)! Once we cleared the river bed the track narrowed and became very rough, rocky 4x4 territory. I questioned my navigation for a while as we were off the ‘main’ track. Tyre tracks at least gave us a little comfort that someone else had gone before us. The track was not showing up on any of my Ozi mapping so I switched over to Shonkey Maps and there it was.
Bushes scratched along the sides of the truck and finally, after 10km, we were back on the ‘main’ track.

Mr Binns obviously wanted us to have a little4x4 adventure!

We continued on to Ammaroo HS and the turn off onto the Sandover Hwy.

Part 5: Sandover Hwy to Davenport Range NP - 193km approx

About 34km up the track we pulled into an area that was suitable for lots and lots of campers but we were all alone once again. The evening was perfect and the stars were out in their millions. An app on our phone, ‘Night Sky’ proved invaluable once again for identifying the stars.

The country side was flat in the area that followed and I would love to be able to identify the vegetation which kept on changing. We had a good run before turning off to the Davenport Ranges.

This section of the track was very picturesque as we soon entered the ranges. We continually crossed the dry rocky creeks and floodways which would be impassable in the wet. We made our way through the hills to Coulter Waterhole that could possibly be a permanent waterhole. A side track made it an excellent spot for camping, morning or afternoon tea. We stopped at the end of the waterhole for coffee then continued on past the dry Errolola Waterhole and onto Hatches Creek mine ruins. Durning WW1, WW2 and the Korean War Tungstan was mined. We wandered around the shaft head, winch, large tank, hopper and gazed down into the many open shafts.

With only a short distance to the Davenport Ranges National Park we passed the rough, slow 17km 4x4 Frew River Loop Track (a short cut) and continued on via the ‘main’ road to Old Police Station Waterhole and our campsite for the next two nights.

It was quite a large, permanent waterhole lined with trees. Five or six campers were in each night and it was good to exchange stories about travelling the Binns Track. We took several dips in the river but it was chilly.
Across from the camping area were the ruins of the Old Police Station reached by a long walk around the waterhole. Little remained but we walked amongst the rubble imagining life in this remote location. We wondered why it would have been built there in the first place. The information back at the camping ground revealed that unrest experienced with pastoralists, aboriginals and the mine workers made it necessary. The Police Station was built on the site of the original homestead.

During our stay we had visits from the army, one group driving a 19.5 tonne tow truck. They were stationed up the road at Camp Birt, a huge camp of 500 men. Their purpose in the area was to construct buildings at Mutungurra, an aboriginal communiy.

Part 6:Davenport Range NP to Tennant Creek - 213km approx

It wasn’t far up the track that we came upon Camp Birt. We drove in and took a few pictures and left before we got locked up. With 500 men in camp you can imagine the size and being a construction group, they had all the gear.

Wutunugurra Aboriginal Community, just a little way further on, had their big welcome sign up to the Army.

At Epenarra, another aboriginal HS, a track ran north to 11km east of Barkley Homestead. It would have made a good short cut had we not been following the Binns and if a ‘Road Closed’ sign hadn’t been prominently displayed.

Out of the blue Cloughs Bluff Lookout rose from the plain. We took the short track up to the top and sat taking in the view with a cup of coffee in hand. If we had a few more km on the clock for our days travel we could have been tempted to make camp.

We passed the turn off to Whistle Duck Creek and continued on to the Stuart Highway having been told that although the ranges were lovely, the creek was almost dry and camping was located back from the water.

Although we love travelling on the dirt it was a relief to reach the Stuart Highway and have a smooth run into Tennant Creek. It was late Sunday afternoon and the Liquor Shops were closed so we headed to Tennant Creek Caravan Park. ExplorOz member Jeff and his wife Karin, who had managed Mt Dare for the past 5 years, had taken over the management and were gradually upgrading the park.

With the Liquor Shop not opening till 2.00 for mid strength beer and 3.00 for full strength beer, we headed to Three Way and then east along the Barkley Highway.

Although the Binns continued north to the Gregory NP and Timber Creek we had travelled this section in the past so now it was time for a new adventure.

We could highly recommend travelling the Binns Track. We had a wonderful time.

Track reference guide: The Outback Travellers Track Guide – Binns Track
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