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Driving the Madigan Line


This area is remote and you need to be well equipped and experienced at desert travel. Any recovery from out here is time-consuming and very expensive.

While the route was easy to follow on our trip, dry windy conditions may cover the tracks, making good navigation essential.


You require a permit from the Central Lands Council (CLC) to travel the Madigan Line. It is easy to get and free. Go to:

If you have any queries, Ph: (08) 8951 6211.

Heading east on the Madigan Line from the Hay River demands permission from Adria Downs Station and the Qld NP&WS to cross the Simpson Desert (Munga-Thirri) NP.

If you head south on the Hay River Track to the public access routes across the desert you require a Desert Parks Pass from NP SA; See:

For info on Outback Qld parks go to:


It's about 720km from Mt Dare to Birdsville via this route.

Fuel usage can be heavy depending on conditions. Both Patrols on our trip and the Hilux consumed 130–140 litres of diesel. We each carried 200 litres; you'd be advised to carry similar. Petrol vehicles would need more. 

Our trip following Cecil Madigan's 1939 expedition started in Birdsville. From Big Red, the famous dune on the eastern edge of the desert, we pushed west along the well-travelled QAA Line. After 18km of dunes we swung north on a lesser used track that parallels the Eyre Creek. 

When Madigan and his men first crossed the desert, they filled in one of the last great blanks on the map of Australia. From Bore No1 north of the Old Andado homestead on the desert’s western margin, Madigan's men loaded their string of 19 camels and headed first north towards the junction of the Hale and Todd Rivers before striking east across the desert.

Denis Bartell drove the Madigan Line in 1979, when the northern Simpson was completely untracked. The going was a lot tougher than today and took a hard-pushed seven days to cross the desert. Now it’s an easy five-day run.

After crossing Eyre creek we wandered north and then west to camp at the base of a dune among a sea of green. The next morning we pushed north along the western margin of the greenery left behind by the receding flood.


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