Madigan Line

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesOld Andado Tk & Mac Clarke CR Access
FinishQAA Line & Annandale Ruins Access
DifficultyDifficulty 5/5
Suitable For4WD 
Distance525.27 km
Minimum Days5
Average Speed46 km/hr
Travel Time11 hrs 25 mins
Page Updated: 11 Mar 2023

Description

If you're seeking a challenging 4WD adventure in the Simpson Desert away from the hustle and bustle of the main French Line then the Madigan Line in the northern Simpson Desert may be for you. Be warned however, this route is not easy. There are extremely steep dunes to cross and the sand can be very soft. Few people use this route so whilst it is quieter, you are also far from help if needed. You should not attempt this route for your first desert crossing.

This route follows in the footsteps of Cecil Madigan who in 1939 was the first European to successfully find his way across this area of the desert. Madigan and his party made the journey with camels and took 35 days. These days, you can drive in his footsteps stopping at each location where he made camp. Your journey by 4WD will take just 5 days.

The Madigan Line is regarded as the most interesting way of crossing the Simpson Desert and is certainly much less crowded than the main French Line. Note that the Madigan Camps are not necessarily indicative of good camp sites for travellers, but are historical points from C.T. Madigan 1939 Expedition. These points are all marked with a yellow pole and plaque and most are in clear, flat open areas.

Check the permit conditions and take note that some of the route is now one-way only being west - east, so you need to start the trip from Old Andado near Mt Dare and head east across the desert arriving in Birdsville.

To ensure you get the most from this excursion, you could try to get hold of a reprint of Madigan's book "Crossing the Dead Heart" - See https://www.westprint.com.au/crossing-the-dead-heart-madigan.html.
Some details are documented in our History section below. Another good read would be Denis Bartels book, the "Desert Walker". Denis was the first person to successfully retrace Madigan's Line and his trip is the inspiration for the 4WD adventurers that have since followed. See http://www.solarnavigator.net/books/denis_bartell.htm

Today, your trip along the Madigan Line can be started from Alice Springs or Mt Dare. Both routes of which converge at the junction of the Old Andado Track & the track to Mac Clarke Conservation Reserve, so for convenience of all users, we've provided this route from that junction (37.5km from Old Andado).

From this starting point you will begin to follow in the footsteps of Cecil Madigan making your way in a mostly easterly direction for 9.7km to the Mac Clarke Conservation Reserve. This reserve protects the Acacia peuce (Waddywood, Waddi Waddi, Waddy Waddy) which is one of the most rare and striking trees of the Australian arid zone. It grows in this reserve on a stony wind swept plain in one of the driest places in Australia and is only found in 2 other places - Boulia & Birdsville. About 1000 mature trees are protected in this reserve - named about a former Andado pastoralist whose interested in the trees led to the declaration of this reserve.

Camps 1A and 2 are easily located. Camp 1A is the location of the plaque from the original Camp 1. The actual site of Camp 1 is on private property and is inaccessible, so the plaque was moved to somewhere more accessible. Camps 3, 4 and 5 are on aboriginal land. Permits to access them are not being granted. You are also requested NOT to visit Camp 2 due to it being a sacred site used for women's business. If you do choose to visit Camp 2 your next destination will be Camp 6 so you'll need to head back to the south and then east, passing through a tiny section of land at the apex of two triangular areas of Native Title. That point gives access to the Colson Track and then it’s cross country to Camp 6. Most Madigan Line travellers simply go north up the Colson Track and then strike out across country to Camp 6. It’s all clearly shown on the EOTopo map. The route then continues almost due east with each of Madigan's Camps well marked. The permit from CLC now restricts travel through this section to one-way traffic only - (west to east). The dunes here are extremely steep and this minimises head-on incidents and ensures less track damage from failed attempts to cross from east to west.

When you reach Camp 15 there is a three way intersection, take the track to Camp 16 and Madigan’s Blazed Tree. From here, most travellers will head south along the Hay River Track and onto the QAA Line for a final climb over Big Red and then an easy run into Birdsville. However, if you are a purest and want to faithfully follow Madigan's Line, you'll need to apply for permission to access the private lands on which the remaining Madigan Camps now lie. See our Permits section for details. From the Blaze Tree, if you have sought such permission, you will strike east cross-country until you reach Camp 17 which lies just before the NT/QLD border. Adria Downs permission covers Camps 17 to 22 , camps 23 and 24 are prohibited. On Adria Downs you'll you'll travel alongside Eyre Creek and just past Camp 21 you'll pass through Annandale Homestead ruins, once part of S.Kidman and Co from 1896. The Madigan comes to its end at the junction with the QAA Line approx 20km west of Big Red. After crossing Big Red its a short easy run into Birdsville where Madigan's final camp 25 was just across the road from the Birdsville Hotel.

Visiting “Camp 25” you need to enter the Birdsville Hotel, where you'll see the plaque on the door between the Bar and the Dining Room. And finally, ensure you visit the Memorials to Madigan and to Ted Colson which are across the side street from the pub.

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 2023 mapset!

Environment

The Simpson Desert is the 4th largest desert in Australia covering 170,000 square kilometres. It straddles three states: the Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland. Much of the Simpson is protected within four national parks (or conservation reserves), protecting a total of 54,338 square kilometres of land. The desert consists of 1100 parallel sand dunes that run north-north-west to south-south-east. Some of these dunes are 200 kilometres long.

History

The first aerial surveys of the deserts of Central Australia were undertaken by Adelaide geologist Dr Cecil Madigan in 1929. He then named the Simpson Desert after Alfred Allen Simpson, who later funded Madigan's subsequent ground expedition in 1939 on camels to explore and document the unchartered areas of the northern Simpson Desert. Madigan’s expedition crossed the desert in 35 days with a party of nine, pioneering the use of mobile radio communication and making extensive botanical collections to study the ecosystems of the desert. This was the first scientific examination of the Simpson Desert. In 1946 he published his book detailing the journey. The book is called "Crossing the Dead Heart".

While Madigan's expedition was a success and achieved a much better understanding of the desert ecosystems, nothing of significance came of it until the oil and gas seekers arrived some 25 years later and forged tracks such as the French Line but no tracks were made in the northern area where Madigan had travelled.

In 1977 a group had tried to re-enact Madigan's journey but failed and had to be rescued. It wasn't until 1979 that anyone cared to make another attempt. The avid adventurer Denis Bartell took Michael Richardson (then editor of Overland Magazine) and 2 Suzukis setting off from Old Andado Station. There were no tracks and they had no GPS equipment but Denis was able to navigate and locate trees that Madigan had blazed and with the use of a compass found the camps that Madigan had noted in his journal. Their trip took 7 days from Old Andado to Birdsville. This brave feat set the scene for other four wheel drivers to follow him.

In 1990 Ron Moon and his son Trent drove the Madigan Line. It was one of the very early crossings with no track or GPS equipment. Later, in 1994 Owen Correa Outback Expeditions accurately marked the positions of all of Madigan’s camps and visitors today will find each camp is marked with a star picket and yellow sign. There are also numerous plaques along the way. These modern improvements have led to the popularity of the route and improve ease with which it can be traversed. Today, the Madigan Line can generally be completed in 5 days.

TrekID: 27808

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.
This trip is for experienced desert travellers and is extremely remote. Trailers are not permitted. Reduced tyre pressures are required with soft sand sections at almost every dune. You will need to be self-reliant and carry a form of emergency communications such as sat phone, StarLink or HF radio. Desert essentials such as a first Aid kit, air-compressor, recovery tracks, long handled shovel is all necessary. This area is remote and travellers should not be complacent about navigation and safety.

Whilst the location of each of Madigan's camps are now well signed, and the Trek gives you the exact locations so you can simply follow the route between each historic site you should ensure you know where you're going and have a backup device.

This route remains completely cross-country so any earlier wheel tracks may become covered by sand drifts. Always travel with plenty of fuel, water, food and medical supplies and take your own recovery equipment, spare parts, tools and communications equipment. Ensure your vehicle is well prepared and equipped for desert travel and that passengers are not in ill health. You must be fully self-sufficient and be able to attend to your own mechanical and medical emergencies.

Permits

The Madigan Line is designed to be followed from west to east. To travel the NT section of the Madigan Line apply online from the Central Land Council. No access is permitted to camps 1, 3 or 4 and you are requested not to access Camp 2 for cultural reasons. Between camps 5-15 travel is only permitted one-way (west to east).

From Camp 15, you can simply head south down the Hay River Track that joins the QAA line for an easy run east into Birdsville, however, if you're prepared to make a bit more effort you can continue following Madigan's Line where it enters Adria Downs. This is a producer of organic beef and there are strict regulations to minimise your impact on their business so please respect the requirements. To obtain permission, send an email to: adriadowns@activ8.net.au . You should provide approximate dates, vehicle registration number and names of travellers.

To access and camp in Munga -Thirri National Park, call the Wirrarri Information Centre in Birdsville (07) 4564 2000.

Fuel Usage

Fuel usage can be heavy depending on conditions.
DieselULPLPG
4cyl 74 litres4cyl 85 litres4cyl 105 litres
6cyl 81 litres6cyl 95 litres6cyl 92 litres
8cyl 81 litres8cyl 87 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Travel through the Simpson Desert is not permitted between 1st December and 15th March.

Closest Climatic Station

Birdsville Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 225.04km E
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C40.238.135.231.825.621.121.824.729.932.936.038.5
Mean Min. °C26.424.721.717.111.27.37.08.713.617.021.223.8
Mean Rain mm20.933.040.51.36.411.85.44.17.211.418.28.4
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Map

Working on it...

Get Traveller App Get the ExplorOz Traveller App to download all ExplorOz Treks for navigational use on your tablet, phone, iPad or laptop.
Embed this Map
Embed this trek map directly into your website or page. It is easy and free, click the button to retreive the embed code and copy and paste it to your website or page.
Download Trek
Use this download for GPX, Hema Navigator and OziExplorer. Geo data only no map included.

Directions

Old Andado Tk & Mac Clarke CR Access to Mac Clarke Conservation Reserve
Driving: 9.74 km
Heading: 98°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 12:42
  • Head southeast on Old Andado Track for: 0.08 km time: 00:06
  • Continue left onto Old Andado - Mac Clark CR for: 9.66 km time: 12:36
Mac Clarke Conservation Reserve to Madigan Camp 1A
Driving: 29.68 km
Heading: 55°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 38:42
  • Head northwest on Old Andado - Mac Clark CR for: 0.87 km time: 01:09
  • Turn left onto old runway for: 0.53 km time: 00:21
  • Turn left for: 20.59 km time: 27:05
  • Make a slight left for: 7.7 km time: 10:08
Madigan Camp 1A to Madigan Camp 2 (Sacred Site)
Driving: 25.08 km
Heading: 17°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 32:42
  • Head northwest for: 0.03 km time: 00:01
  • Continue onto Madigan Line for: 7.69 km time: 10:02
  • Keep left onto Madigan Line for: 17.36 km time: 22:39
Madigan Camp 2 (Sacred Site) to Junction
Driving: 13.84 km
Heading: 79°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 18:03
  • Head southeast on Madigan Line for: 13.84 km time: 18:03
Junction to Madigan Camp 6
Driving: 57.98 km
Heading: 58°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 01:15:37
  • Head northeast on Madigan Line for: 0 km time: 00:01
  • Turn left to stay on Madigan Line for: 31.22 km time: 52:50
  • Keep left onto Madigan Line for: 0.15 km time: 00:15
  • Continue onto Camp 5 bypass for: 2.45 km time: 02:05
  • Make a slight right onto Madigan Line for: 24.16 km time: 20:27
Madigan Camp 6 to Madigan Camp 7
Driving: 28.07 km
Heading: 96°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 36:36
  • Head southeast on Madigan Line for: 28.07 km time: 36:37
Madigan Camp 7 to Madigan Camp 8
Driving: 20.12 km
Heading: 95°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 26:14
  • Head southeast on Madigan Line for: 20.12 km time: 26:15
Madigan Camp 8 to Madigan Camp 9
Driving: 22.84 km
Heading: 100°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 29:47
  • Head east on Madigan Line for: 22.84 km time: 29:48
Madigan Camp 9 to Madigan Camp 10
Driving: 19.45 km
Heading: 97°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 25:22
  • Head east on Madigan Line for: 19.45 km time: 25:22
Madigan Camp 10 to Madigan Camp 11
Driving: 1.35 km
Heading: 23°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 01:45
  • Head southeast on Madigan Line for: 1.35 km time: 01:46
Madigan Camp 11 to Madigan Camp 12
Driving: 19.54 km
Heading: 67°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 25:29
  • Head northeast on Madigan Line for: 19.54 km time: 25:29
Madigan Camp 12 to Madigan Camp 13
Driving: 23.25 km
Heading: 86°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 30:19
  • Head east on Madigan Line for: 23.25 km time: 30:20
Madigan Camp 13 to Madigan Camp 14
Driving: 26.38 km
Heading: 79°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 34:24
  • Head southeast on Madigan Line for: 26.38 km time: 34:25
Madigan Camp 14 to Madigan Camp 15
Driving: 3.44 km
Heading: 106°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 04:29
  • Head southeast on Madigan Line for: 3.42 km time: 04:28
  • Make a sharp left onto Hay River Track for: 0.01 km time: 00:01
Madigan Camp 15 to Madigan Camp 16 Blaze Tree
Driving: 17.62 km
Heading: 153°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 22:58
  • Head southeast on Hay River Track for: 17.62 km time: 22:59
Madigan Camp 16 Blaze Tree to Madigan Camp 17
Driving: 28.32 km
Heading: 91°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 36:56
  • Drive southeast on Hay River Track. for: 0.01 km time: 00:01
  • Keep left to take Madigan Line. for: 28.31 km time: 36:56
Madigan Camp 17 to Madigan Camp 18
Driving: 28.21 km
Heading: 132°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 36:47
  • Drive northeast on Madigan Line. for: 28.21 km time: 36:48
Madigan Camp 18 to Madigan Camp 19
Driving: 28.14 km
Heading: 135°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 36:42
  • Drive south on Madigan Line. for: 28.14 km time: 36:42
Madigan Camp 19 to Madigan Camp 20
Driving: 26.29 km
Heading: 115°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 34:17
  • Drive southeast on Madigan Line. for: 26.29 km time: 34:18
Madigan Camp 20 to Madigan Camp 21
Driving: 26 km
Heading: 159°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 33:54
  • Drive west on Madigan Line. for: 0.2 km time: 00:13
  • Keep left to stay on Madigan Line. for: 25.81 km time: 33:42
Madigan Camp 21 to Annandale
Driving: 3.89 km
Heading: 174°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 05:04
  • Drive south on Madigan Line. for: 2.8 km time: 03:35
  • Turn right. for: 1.1 km time: 01:30
Annandale to Charles Sturt Camp 1845
Driving: 1.49 km
Heading: 150°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 01:56
  • Drive southeast. for: 1.49 km time: 01:57
Charles Sturt Camp 1845 to Madigan Camp 22
Driving: 15.44 km
Heading: 151°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 20:08
  • Drive southeast on Madigan Line. for: 15.44 km time: 20:09
Madigan Camp 22 to QAA Line & Annandale Ruins Access
Driving: 49.11 km
Heading: 161°
Avg Speed: 46 km/hr
EST Time: 01:04:03
  • Drive south on Madigan Line. for: 49.09 km time: 01:04:01
  • Turn right at the end of the road, onto QAA Line for: 0.03 km time: 00:02
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

A journey into the remote Simpson Desert will reward you with endless opportunities to see the open night sky and observe the most untouched places in the nation. Take photos and make memories.

Facilities

Where to Stay

Travellers are welcome to select a camp anywhere along the route. The best spots are wherever there is a stand of Gidgee Trees. Take note that the marked "Madigan Camps" are not designated campsites for today's modern traveller although they generally have cleared space for camping you'll find better bush camp opportunities away from these points of interest.

Sites listed here have been suggested by previous ExplorOz campers.

Services & Supplies

No Services & Supplies available for this trek

Wildflowers

Related Travel Journals

The following are links to Members' Blogs that contain the words Madigan Line. Creating Blogs is restricted to Members only. Not a Member? Join here.

Showing 2 blogs.

Comments & Reviews

Post a Comment
Loading...

Sponsored Links

Popular Products (9)