Gary Junction Road

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesKunawarritji Roadhouse
FinishNarwietooma Turnoff
DifficultyDifficulty 2/5
Suitable ForAWD 
Distance933.99 km
Minimum Days3
Average Speed76 km/hr
Travel Time12 hrs 17 mins
Page Updated: 17 Apr 2023

Description

The Gary Junction Road follows a route surveyed and built in the 1960's by Len Beadell and his Gunbarrel Road Construction Party (GRCP). This road, like most of Len Beadell's other remote roads was a commissioned government project for the purpose of building the Woomera rocket range. This project led to the building of a wide network of roads through previously inaccessible parts of the outback. Whilst "inaccessible", they were not uninhabited areas. Both the Woomera rocket range project and earlier pastoralism activities interfered with the indigenous people's land use and disrupted their homes and families.

It is worth reading up on both Len Beadell and the aboriginal displacements before you do this journey to better understand and appreciate the history of the area you will be travelling through.

Today, the Gary Junction Road traverses the traditional lands of several major Aboriginal groups and you'll be very aware of significant aboriginal occupation throughout the area. The road is an essential link connecting the communities of Papunya, Kintore, Kiwirrkurra and Kunawaritji. The road is regularly graded and maintained for the use of residents and contractors but tourists must obtain permits before travelling. (See Permits section - permits are free and easily obtained online).

Travellers, local people, and business people will refer to the road with various names and some maps will use some of these names. We'll just stick with Gary Junction Road as that is what the road was called when it was built by Len, and is what you're looking for when you request your transit permit. You'll hear talk of Kintore Road, Kiwirrkurra Road, Desert Road, Jenkins Track etc - but it's all the same stretch of road between the Tanami Track and Kunawaritji Community.

For travellers, the Gary Junction Road is a practical major arterial road heading east-west across the country and can be travelled in either direction. Technically, one end starts at the Narwietooma turn-off on the Tanami Road whilst the other end starts at Gary Junction (the northern terminus of the Gary Highway) - a distance of about 830km. Most travellers however, consider the western end to be Kunawarritji, with the Gary Junction Road naturally leading into the Jenkins Track which runs for a further 70km to where it meets the Canning Stock Route near Well 33.

The condition of the track will vary slightly in terms of smoothness depending on when the grader was last through and if there's been any traffic travelling whilst the roads have been wet. However for its entirety it is a very wide open mostly flat dirt highway that can be traversed comfortably at 60km/hr. It is recommended for your comfort and safety of handling the variable conditions that you use a 4WD vehicle and if towing, only use an offroad van or camper trailer to handle the unending dust, dirt, stones, and corrugations. Be aware that there is no unleaded fuel available along the route, only diesel and opal. The fuel bowsers at located within the communities and are designed for 24/7 access with self-serve operation and payment by card.

Along the route there are numerous opportunities to contemplate the lives of current and past indigenous peoples as well as the efforts of Len Beadell and his road gang. There are numerous Len Beadell markers with information about sites that you should stop at.

You can also stop in at the Mt Zeil Wilderness Park adjacent to Narwietooma to marvel or even attempt the hike to the summit of the tallest mountain peak in the Northern Territory at 1531m. It is considered a bucket list hike for peak climbers as it is one of the "State 8" - top peaks in each state/territory of Australia. Mt Zeil is also the tallest peak west of the Great Divide.

Water is always an important but limited resource and historically the finding of natural water resources was an important part of the development of this area so you will see signs pointing to emergency water sources, these are old bores. Don't interfere with these old bores as water is still a critical resource for the local people and users of the track.

Each of the aboriginal communities are worth a stop with the very friendly Papunya community also offering an excellent art centre, but Kintore and Kiwirrkurra are off the road by more than just a few kilometres so time your trip to ensure the fuel bowsers and stores are open as you cannot camp inside the community areas. At Kiwirrkurra you will also be able to take a look around at the Water Dreaming Fountain and enjoy seeing Len Beadell's Ration Truck, which was moved here after restoration.

There are some old and worn but informative signs that document all the history.You are likely to notice numerous turning bays off the edge of the track which are created by the road graders. Some people might choose to use these as a camp, however there are a couple of sites setup for camping within the IPA areas that are much better options. These are noted in the Trek as Places so please use these by preference. The most popular camp is located at the site of Jupiter Well, which is located in a beautiful grove of desert oaks. The site offers both a toilet and fresh water which you can access from the handpump, and a short walk will bring you to the historic site of the original well that was dug in 1961. You can read about the history of each of the sites along the route by reading the information section of these Places.

Do not access any track marked Private, No Entry etc. Also, don't assume that because an area appears "abandoned" that it is unowned. There are a few aboriginal family outstations here, technically termed Homelands and they are private property. They are not occupied full time but are setup to easily connect essential services when required (you'll see phones, plumbing, gas etc). These are important locations where people can getaway away from the community to spend time on country and also used for cultural training so be respectful and don't camp there!

The route passes through some very attractive country and can be an enjoyable experience. Most people use the Gary Junction Road as an arterial to get across the country.

Possible access/exit points are:
*Leave or enter the Gary Junction Rd via the Kintore-Namatjira Link road (via Haasts Bluff) that connects Papunya to the West McDonnell Ranges.
*Leave or enter the Gary Junction Rd via the Sandy Blight Junction Track (another permit is required)
*Leave or enter the Gary Junction Rd via the Gary Highway to the south which you can take all the way to Everard Junction on the Gunbarrel Highway.
*Use the Telfer Road to travel between Marble Bar to Kunawaritji - another mostly easy travelling remote 4WD "highway".
*Access the Canning Stock Route at Well 33 and head either north or south.

As you'll note when you receive your Transmit Permit, you are not free to roam where ever you like as you traverse the Gary Junction Road itself - nor can you stay and camp out for days on end. The permit from Ngaanyatjarra Council asks that you stick to the main route and complete the journey within 3 days.

How to Use this Trek Note

  • To download this information and the route file for offline use on a phone, tablet, headunit or laptop, go to the app store and purchase ExplorOz Traveller. This app enables offline navigation and mapping and will show where you are as you travel along the route. For more info see the ExplorOz Traveller webpage and the EOTopo webpage.

TIP

ExplorOz Traveller now features the NEW EOTopo 2024 mapset!

Environment

The vegetation of the Great Sandy Desert is dominated by spinifex.

Animals in the region include feral camels, dingoes, goannas (including the large perentie) and numerous species of lizards and birds. Other animal inhabitants include bilbies, mulgara, marsupial moles, rufous hare-wallabies, thorny devils, bearded dragons, and red kangaroos.Some of the bird-life found within the desert include the rare Alexandra's parrot, the mulga parrot and the scarlet-chested parrot.

History

Long before the Gary Junction Road was built across the Great Sandy Desert, this area was exclusively occupied by the Pintupi and Luritja people and Martu in the far west. In the 1950s the British began conducting Blue Streak Missile tests over the Western Desert region, and the Australian government decided to "round up" the desert nomads and move them into settlements to "protect" them from potential harm. Some were sent to the Haasts Bluff mission, and the Hermannsburg mission and others sent to a new government depot at Papunya established in 1959.

Len Beadell and his road building gang (the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party), were commissioned by the Australian government to survey and build a network of roads through the desert areas that would become access roads for scientific observations relating to Woomera, Emu, Maralinga and the subsequent worldwide geodetic survey.

The Gary Junction road was one of the last few roads built in this 8 year construction project. It was named after Len’'s only son, Gary. It was built in two stages, starting in August - November 1960 when work was interrupted when the grader broke down and the ration truck caught fire and was destroyed. The grader had to be towed back to Giles behind the bulldozer, via the Sandy Blight Road. Completion of the Gary Junction Road was delayed by more than two years, and recommenced in May 1963 after the GRCP had built the south to north Gary Highway. Construction of the 2nd stage began from Gary Junction east towards Jupiter Well to link up with the earlier stage.

In the 60s and 70s Aboriginal people were allowed to move back to their land, but Kiwirrkurra and Kintore communities were built in the 1980s as outstations to help facilitate the Pintupi people's desire to return and live on traditional homelands. In 1984 the Pintubi Nine became the last known group of traditional indigenous Australians to make contact with Western Society.

TrekID: 27567

Preparation

MUST READ: You are strongly encouraged to read the following articles prepared by the knowledge experts at ExplorOz for your safety and preparation before undertaking any published ExplorOz Trek - Outback Safety, Outback Driving Tips, Outback Communications, and Vehicle Setup for the Outback.

TIP

Please refer to Road Reports published by the local shire and/or main roads for the area you intend to visit. Road/Track conditions can change significantly after weather events. Travellers must be responsible for their own research on current conditions and track suitability.

Permits

You will require 2 transit permits, one from the Central Land Council (CLC) for the section from Papunya to Kintore and another from Ngaanyatjarra Council for the Kiwirrkurra to WA border section. The permit only covers 3 days of travel as you are not permitted to be in the area for general sightseeing, touring, camping and exploring - just transiting. These permits do however allow you to enter Papunya, Kintore, Kiwirrkurra and Kunawaritji to purchase fuel and food/supplies from their community stores. Papunya also welcomes tourists to drop in to visit their art centre.

Fuel Usage

Kiwirrkurra, Kintore, and Papunya aboriginal communities offer diesel and OPAL fuel (no ULP) via 24/7 card operated bowsers. Kunawarritji is closed Sundays but fuel available on demand.
DieselULPLPG
4cyl 131 litres4cyl 151 litres4cyl 187 litres
6cyl 143 litres6cyl 169 litres6cyl 164 litres
8cyl 143 litres8cyl 155 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Closest Climatic Station

Walungurru
Distance from Trek Mid Point 80.2km SE
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C40.438.835.833.327.423.223.326.631.635.737.438.0
Mean Min. °C26.426.023.920.815.410.710.412.316.720.723.224.6
Mean Rain mm29.132.458.01.717.410.318.65.910.019.818.742.6
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Map

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Directions

Kunawarritji Roadhouse to Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Canning Stock Route
Driving: 3.86 km
Heading: 150°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 03:02
  • Drive south. for: 3.86 km time: 03:03
Kidson Track (Wapet Rd) & Canning Stock Route to Turnoff To Kidson Track
Driving: 10.33 km
Heading: 173°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 08:09
  • Drive south. for: 10.33 km time: 08:09
Turnoff To Kidson Track to Gary Junction
Driving: 55.56 km
Heading: 98°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 43:51
  • Drive south. for: 0.24 km time: 00:11
  • Turn left. for: 55.31 km time: 43:40
  • Turn left at the end of the road, onto Gary Junction Road for: 0.01 km time: 00:01
Gary Junction to Jupiter Well Hand Pump
Driving: 155.58 km
Heading: 107°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 02:02:49
  • Drive northeast on Gary Junction Road. for: 155.58 km time: 02:02:49
Jupiter Well Hand Pump to Turnoff To Len Beadell Tree
Driving: 17.14 km
Heading: 61°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 13:31
  • Drive northeast on Gary Junction Road. for: 17.14 km time: 13:32
Turnoff To Len Beadell Tree to Kiwirrkurra Rangers Upgraded Camp & Bore
Driving: 51.78 km
Heading: 81°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 40:52
  • Drive northeast on Gary Junction Road. for: 51.78 km time: 40:53
Kiwirrkurra Rangers Upgraded Camp & Bore to Kiwirrkurra Turnoff
Driving: 58.2 km
Heading: 103°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 45:56
  • Drive east on Gary Junction Road. for: 58.2 km time: 45:57
Kiwirrkurra Turnoff to Kiwirrkurra
Driving: 6.26 km
Heading: 56°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 04:56
  • Drive southeast on Gary Junction Road. for: 0.01 km time: 00:00
  • Turn left onto Kiwirrkurra Access. for: 6.25 km time: 04:55
  • Turn right. for: 0.01 km time: 00:02
Kiwirrkurra to Len Beadell Ration Truck Fire Site
Driving: 37.15 km
Heading: 116°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 29:19
  • Drive north. for: 0.01 km time: 00:00
  • Turn left. for: 0.09 km time: 00:04
  • Turn right onto Kiwirrkurra Access. for: 2.08 km time: 01:56
  • Bear left to stay on Kiwirrkurra Access. for: 4.07 km time: 03:52
  • Turn left at the end of the road, onto Gary Junction Road for: 30.89 km time: 23:27
Len Beadell Ration Truck Fire Site to SOS Marker
Driving: 38.61 km
Heading: 102°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 30:28
  • Drive east on Kiwirrkurra Road. for: 38.61 km time: 30:29
SOS Marker to SOS Water Marker
Driving: 36.18 km
Heading: 112°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 28:33
  • Drive east on Kiwirrkurra Road. for: 36.18 km time: 28:34
SOS Water Marker to WA/NT Border
Driving: 33.88 km
Heading: 100°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 26:44
  • Drive east on Kiwirrkurra Road. for: 33.88 km time: 26:45
WA/NT Border to Kintore Rd & Kintore Access
Driving: 40.46 km
Heading: 95°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 31:56
  • Drive east on Gary Junction Road. for: 40.45 km time: 31:54
  • Turn right onto Kintore Road. for: 0.01 km time: 00:02
Kintore Rd & Kintore Access to Kintore
Driving: 9.28 km
Heading: 182°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 07:19
  • Drive south on Kintore Road. for: 9.28 km time: 07:19
Kintore to Sandy Blight Junction Road & Ngutjal Rd
Driving: 7.66 km
Heading: 135°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 06:02
  • Drive southwest on Kintore Road. for: 0.03 km time: 00:01
  • Enter the roundabout and take the 1st exit, onto Ngutjul Road for: 1.17 km time: 00:32
  • Bear left onto Ngutjul Road. for: 6.38 km time: 05:26
  • Turn right onto Sandy Blight Junction Road. for: 0.08 km time: 00:05
Sandy Blight Junction Road & Ngutjal Rd to Ngutjul Rocky Outcrop
Driving: 3.49 km
Heading: 58°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 02:45
  • Drive northeast on Sandy Blight Junction Road. for: 3.49 km time: 02:45
Ngutjul Rocky Outcrop to Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Kintore Rd
Driving: 16.07 km
Heading: 39°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 12:41
  • Drive northeast on Sandy Blight Junction Road. for: 16.07 km time: 12:41
Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Kintore Rd to Papunya Fuel Bowser
Driving: 247.74 km
Heading: 91°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 03:15:35
  • Drive north on Sandy Blight Junction Road. for: 0.01 km time: 00:00
  • Turn right onto Gary Junction Road. for: 173.43 km time: 02:17:03
  • Bear left to stay on Gary Junction Road. for: 73.5 km time: 58:04
  • Turn left to stay on Gary Junction Road. for: 0.44 km time: 00:12
  • Turn left at the end of the road, onto Takulu Road for: 0.12 km time: 00:03
  • Turn right onto Nyananyana Street. for: 0.18 km time: 00:08
  • Turn right. for: 0.07 km time: 00:05
Papunya Fuel Bowser to Turnoff To Mt Zeil Wilderness Park
Driving: 53.26 km
Heading: 101°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 42:02
  • Drive south. for: 0.08 km time: 00:04
  • Turn right at the end of the road, onto Nyananyana Street for: 53.18 km time: 41:59
Turnoff To Mt Zeil Wilderness Park to Narwietooma Turnoff
Driving: 51.5 km
Heading: 77°
Avg Speed: 76 km/hr
EST Time: 40:39
  • Drive east on Gary Junction Road. for: 51.39 km time: 40:36
  • Turn right at the end of the road, onto Tanami Road for: 0.11 km time: 00:04
Distance is based on the travel mode shown (Driving, Straight, Cycling, Walking etc), Direction is straight line from start to end, Avg Speed & EST Time is calculated from GPS data.

What to See

Facilities

Where to Stay

Services & Supplies

Well stocked stores at Kunawarritji, Kiwirrkurra, Kintore, & Papunya offer fresh food including fruit and vegetables, a wide range of groceries and toiletries plus hot takeaway fast food, cold drinks, icecreams etc. The community stores also carry camping and household goods plus some basic supplies for vehicles passing through. There is another store (although the range of stock is very limited and basic) at Mt Zeil Wilderness Park.

Wildflowers

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