The Hay River Track

I am generally dismissive of Australia’s culture of ‘must do’ 4wd tracks. For me it detracts somewhat from the exploration side of 4x4 adventure. Although I understand not everyone wants to pick something interesting looking on a map, and then go find out if that squiggely line actually is worth trekking all the way out to.

However, every now and then, a ‘best 4wd tracks in Australia’ blog, throws up a curve ball I didn’t know about. Case in point.


So this Hay River Track, never heard of that one before? Unlike many of these things, it is ‘close’ to me (all these things being relative). One of the many tracks that goes through the Simpson Desert, which has a couple of very well travelled routes through it. This one though? Not so well known or well travelled.

It wouldn’t appear to be a river likely flowing anytime soon. Although maybe it did once/might do again. Outback rains/waterways have their own rhythm (if you have ever flown over outback Australia you will know what I mean, for somewhere so dry it is riddled with ‘waterways’).


I’ve been drawn to the ‘Simmo’ for a while now. This might be the track that makes me make that trek. A bit of history:

All travellers to this area, both now and in the future, owe their thanks to the persistence of Jol Fleming fromAlice Springs to have this area opened up for outback travel. Jol, like many other people, had read the book, “Crossing the Dead Heart” by Cecil Madigan, with a view of one day seeing first hand the country that Madigan had described, during his 1939 scientific expedition of the Simpson Desert.

During the mid 1990’s, Jol met Lindsay Bookie on one of his four wheel drive training courses. Lindsay told Jol he was from out that way, but Jol thought no more of it until 1998 when he was approached by the Ford Motor Company to do a Sales Incentive trip from Alice Springs to Birdsville. Jol contacted the Central Land Council regarding getting a permit to travel the Hay River Area, who in turn put Jol in contact with Lindsay Bookie. Lindsay was not keen at first to let anyone travel through his lands, but with further discussions, Jol was given the OK. In May 1998 Jol and Lindsay went to scout for a track down the Hay River. The going was so tough, that they only managed to get as far south as the Lake Caroline turn off. They then back tracked and an alternative road was found for the Ford venture.

In 1999, Jol and Lindsay headed off again with a waypoint for Madigan’s camp 15. They were able to retrace their tracks from the previous year to as far as the Lake Caroline turn off, then continued on to Madigan’s Camp 15 and 16 and then out through Beachcomber Oil Well. After the trip, Lindsay approached Jol about using Batton Hill as a base to do Bush Tucker Tours of the surrounding area, which were advertised and the first Bush Tucker Trip was carried out in August 2000.

Seeing the potential of the area as a tourist draw card, the Rural Enterprise of the Central Lands Council put a business plan together for Lindsay for funding to equip the bore and to erect shower/toilet blocks at BattonHill. The grants were approved in early 2003 and in time for the 2003 tourist season, 2 Shower/Toilet Blocks with donkey boilers, a bush kitchen and 2 bow sheds were erected by April 2003. Water for the site was from a solar powered bore that pumped water to and overhead tank and a reserve tank of 10,000 litres.

This area is now open to visitors by prior arrangement only. Unfortunately Lindsay has since passed away but Jol continues to manage the permit system to ensure that visitor numbers remain sustainable for such an isolated place. Visitor activity will be highly scrutinised so it is imperative that all who come view their access as a privileged and show great respect for the tracks and facilities. We cannot stress, how improper it would be for anyone to use these trek notes without first arranging a permit from Jol. In fact, certain details have been omitted from this trek but this information will be provided with your permit.


This (above), and the lead pic (thanks Boobook) come from with the notation ‘you will scratch your 200 series’...

The track starts at the border of three states, South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. Then heads north-west through a very remote area for around 900km/550miles. Or probably about a 2 week round trip.


I had a 9 day trip planned for this winter until I realised I really should pull my head in an spend some time/money on things other than 4x4 adventures... Anyway, it’s good to have things to aim for, this is probably the trip after that trip. In terms of logistics and seriousness (remote). So just a few weekend jaunts coming up for the mean time.


A good account of a couple of bikes, a 70 and a Defender 90, doing this track (and some lovely photos) here:


By this this chap, whose own site looks definitely worth further investigation.

Anyway, speaking of the route less travelled. I enjoyed this.

Alright, this certainly isn’t All 4 Adventure, or Ronny D. However, an interesting mix of trucks and a genuine off the map ‘track’

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