Kennedy Range Road Trip

This was a Road Trip with many twists and turns (and a big hill climb).

Originally the trip had many participants, however, people gradually dropped out to leave just four vehicles (Kim, Greg, Steve, and Gary).



Route of Kennedy Range Road Trip


From the Meeting Place at the BP Truckstop, Muchea it was a short run to an overnight stop a Koojan Salmon Gum Reserve, 20 kilometres south of Moora on the Bindoon-Moora Road.  We settled in for a cool evening around our fake fire, necessitated by extended fire bans because of the long period of dry weather in WA's southern half.

In the morning we were on the road by 8:00 a.m. but only about half a kilometre up the road Kim's Nissan decided to become a three-wheeled vehicle.  The left rear wheel fell off! The big 4WD ground to a halt off the road as Kim steered it off the bitumen.

After the initial shock and a check to make sure everyone was okay, a close inspection of the hub showed no wheel nuts present and one broken stud. 


Greg returned from his mission into the adjoining paddock to chase down the speeding wheel that covered at least 500 metres. 

The tyre had been replaced a day before the Road Trip by a tyre shop.  Hmm.  Cooky walked back along the road and tracked down several wheel nuts while Kim, Gary and Greg gathered jacks and bits of wood to support the vehicle.  A spare wheel was eventually worked on to the hub. The four remaining studs were badly damaged and the nuts jammed as they were being tightened.

There was no mobile reception at the site of the breakdown. We returned to the overnight camp (only about a kilometre south) where we used the satphone to initiate recovery assistance. Tony Overstone agreed to drive his 6 tonne flatbed truck up to Gillingarra to retrieve the stricken Nissan Patrol.

With this initial arrangement in place we limped five kilometres south to Gillingarra where there was mobile phone reception. Cooky was tasked with driving behind the Patrol to keep a sharp eye on the left rear wheel for the slightest sign of wobble. 

Recovery arrangements were confirmed and the remaining three crews continued on the Road Trip with Gary as Trip Manager.

The rest of the day was uneventful with a stop at Mingenew to refuel the vehicles and visit the bakery. Then into Mullewa and to the overnight stop at the Murchison Settlement Oasis Caravan Park for a shower and a peaceful night.

Next day we headed out to see Erabiddy Bluff, before getting back to the Carnarvon Mullewa Road (CMR) to look at the Worramel River crossing and the Wooramel River Gorges. We stopped at Pioneer Well 19 on the old stock route which the CMR broadly follows. 




We reached Gascoyne Junction around the middle of the day, refuelled, had lunch and then headed towards the west side of the Kennedy Range.

The turnoff was well signposted and the message stressed it should be driven only by “experienced 4wd drivers”.  This was quickly tested as we approached the Gascoyne River crossing through deep and soft sand – only to find the river wide, flowing quickly, and looking a bit deep.



Finding a way across the Gascoyne River.


We saw some tyre tracks heading upstream and Greg followed them to find a spot to cross the river via a rocky ford about 400 metres away.  We ploughed through the soft sand and crawled over the rocky crossing.  It was then onto the desired track.

We passed the Mookaite mine being actively worked and stopped for a look at Mooka Spring – an impressive stretch of water in this arid area.  Our route was then along the track to visit Venny Well, Pharoh Well, and Chaffcutters Spring.  The track is rocky but cut by many dry creek washaways, some of them with steep entry and exits. We had a slow drive to a bush camp not far from Munday Well (which we didn't see). 

Our camp was another nice spot. We had a warm night and were plagued by an immense number of flies.  We decided to try getting up at dawn to beat the flies but that was not successful – they were already out in strength and we decided to skip breakfast in favour of driving.


kennedy range - just-mesa.jpeg

Route of trip across the Kennedy Range mesa.


We were soon on the climb up to the top of the Range.  It is a steep track up granite rocks with some loose rock areas – slow going but well within the capability of modern 4WDs. 



Ascending the mesa.


We eventually reached the top - a plateau of sand and spinifex country.

The Club’s visit was recorded in a book at the site (we think) of the Kennedy Range 1 oil exploration well - marked by a post and plate with welding printing. 

A very large part of the plateau has been burnt fairly recently and left as a sandy desert with burnt sticks from the few small trees – however, there are signs of regrowth. 



Driving across the top of the Kennedy Range. A recent fore had scorched the plateau of vegetation.


We eventually reached the east side of the range and took in the views from several lookouts with their vertical multi-coloured cliffs. 




It was then down the track which started rocky but turned to sand at the bottom.  Spotting a sign we went down a side track to visit the ruins of Merlinleigh Station.



Abandoned Merlinleigh Outstation.


Leaving Merlinleigh we then came upon the stone and iron woolshed ruin on Mt Sandiman Station before heading to the developed tourist sites around Temple Gorge. 



Ruins of the Mt Sandiman woolshed.


We had a quick look at Honeycomb Gorge and the Sunrise Track but it was the middle of the day and 36ºC so we didn’t attempt any long hikes.



Honeycomb Gorge


We made a rapid trip back to Gascoyne Junction Caravan Park to relax for the afternoon after a very welcome shower.

As the caravan park is also the fuel station and A PUB, we celebrated the end of the trip with a Saturday night meal at the pub. (Pro Tip - don't order the 'shrimp').

Cooky wanted to get an early start for the long drive home tomorrow so he had a donga room, allowing him to make a quick getaway at 5:30 a.m. Greg and Gary made a more leisurely exit just before 7:00 a.m., planning to stop near Geraldton.  The Gascoyne Junction-Wooramel Road through Towerana cuts off 94 kilometres versus going west to Carnarvon and then heading south on the North West Coastal Highway. We arrived at Geraldton around lunchtime, from where we went our separate ways home.

This Road Trip threw up some surprises in some excellent 4WDing country. We were really challenged by the flies.  There are no real exits on the Kennedy Range Loop and it is quite isolated so travelling with others is strongly recommended.


© Gary Arcus and Cockburn 4WD Club