Canning Stock Route

Constructed in the first decade of the 20th century, the Canning Stock Route runs for a distance of 1850 km from Hall’s Creek to Wiluna, in the top half of Western Australia. These days, it’s regarded as one of Australia’s more challenging 4WD journeys, but from 1910 to 1959 was a challenge for drovers bringing mobs of cattle south from the east Kimberley region.

The Canning was designed to break the monopoly that west Kimberley cattlemen had on the beef trade in the West. Construction involved the sinking of 54 wells, necessary to ensure adequate water for mobs of up to 800 cattle, as they travelled through the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson Desert and the Little Sandy Desert. But it proved problematic, and after about 1930, there was seldom more than one mob a year brought down the Canning.

The construction phase had involved some controversial encounters with Aboriginal people living along the route, and Albert Canning, the surveyor in charge of the contract, came under intense criticism.

The Australian Museum in Sydney has a special exhibition about the Canning Stock Route showing at the moment, and until 29th April. It’s titled “Yiwarra Kuju”, meaning “One Road”. I saw the exhibition today, and highly recommend it. It features many stunning aboriginal paintings, plus graphic displays showing aspects of the construction, and some of the reprehensible treatment of aboriginal people. There’s also an amazing interactive map of the Route.

The exhibition will probably be shown elsewhere in due course. If you get a chance, don’t miss it!


About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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4 Responses to Canning Stock Route

  1. Ray says:

    Ronele and Eric Gard have written a first rate paperback of 540 pages titled “Canning Stock Route”.
    It details the history of the development of the track, the highs and lows of Alfred Canning’s career,
    problems with his employees and the aboriginies they encountered on the track. The book is also
    a travellers guide to getting about on the track and will be in my glovebox when I do that drive.
    I don’t recall who supplied me the book, it was either Westprint in Nhill or ExporeOz in WA. It’s the third edition, published by Western Desert Guides, Wembley Downs WA.

  2. Kev Florence says:

    I too read Ronele & Eric Gard’s book “Canning Stock Route”.. 3rd. edition.. before travelling
    “The Canning”.. Billiluna to Wiluna in 2006. Recommend this book to all wishing to travel this wonderful part of OZ or just to learn of another great part of Australian Outback History.
    The Canning is just a beautiful drive through wonderful country !…..Regards Kev

    • Ray says:

      G’morning Kev, I have lots of “practical” type books, no fiction in this household. My two tradie sons,
      practical young blokes, read the Gard’s book in almost disbelief that such was part of Australian history and culture. They are now taking a different view of 4-wheeling and travelling.

      • Kev says:

        G’day Ray.. Sounds a bit like my upbringing… bush camping & learning about this wonderlul land of OZ… my bookcase is full of Reference Books (No Fiction) I think it’s a great way to increase your knowledge.. This forum is tops as well !

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