The Canning Stock Route is a track that runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia to Wiluna in the mid-west region. With a total distance of around 1,850 kilometres it is the longest historic stock route in the world.
The Canning Stock Route is now a popular but challenging four-wheel drive adventure. On rare occasions, people have traversed the track on foot, by bicycle, and in two-wheel drive vehicles.
The building of the stock route impacted on the cultural and social life of the more than 15 Aboriginal language groups and today the Aboriginal history of the track, recorded through oral and artistic traditions, is increasingly being recognised.
The stock route was proposed as a way of breaking a monopoly that west Kimberley cattlemen had on the beef trade at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1906, the Government of Western Australia appointed Alfred Canning to survey the route. When the survey party returned to Perth, Canning's treatment of Aboriginal guides came under scrutiny leading to a Royal Commission. Canning had been organising Aboriginal hunts to show the explorer where the waterholes were. Despite condemning Canning's methods, the Royal Commission, after the Lord Mayor of Perth, Alexander Forrest had appeared as a witness for Canning, exonerated Canning and his men of all charges. The cook who made the complaints was dismissed and Canning was sent back to finish the job.
Canning was appointed to lead a construction party and between March 1908 and April 1910, 48 wells were completed along the route. Commercial droving began in 1910, but the stock route did not prove popular and was rarely used for the next twenty years. The wells made it difficult for Aboriginal people to access water and in reprisal they vandalised or dismantled many of the wells.
A 1928 Royal Commission into the price of beef in Western Australia led to the repair of the wells and the re-opening of the stock route. Around 20 droves took place between 1931 and 1959 when the final droving run was completed.
Most of the region has a hot and dry desert climate although the northern sections can get wet in the season (October - April).
The Canning Stock route is considered one of the world's great four-wheel drive adventures. Apart from keeping the track open, the route is not maintained. Some wells have been restored but others are in ruins and unusable. While quite a few travellers successfully make the trip, it still requires substantial planning and a convoy of well-equipped four-wheel drives or equivalent vehicles, and is only practical during the cooler months. Fuel drops typically need to be organised in advance and trip will take two to three weeks. Fuel is now available at Kunawaritji Aboriginal community near well 33.
The nearest capital city to the Wiluna starting point of the route is Perth, 958 kilometres south west of Wiluna by road. Then to return to Perth via sealed roads from Halls Creek it's 2,857 kilometres. Including the Canning Stock Route route this gives a total driving distance of 5,665 kilometres.
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