The Track


GRADING: 4WD, Difficult.

TIME: Ten days.

DISTANCE: 722km, Mount Dare to Birdsville.

LONGEST DISTANCE WITHOUT FUEL: 722km, Mount Dare to Birdsville.

BEST TIME OF YEAR: April to October.

PERMITS AND FEES: A permit is required from the Central Land Council.

MAPS: Hema’s Great Desrt Tracks Simpson Desert Map.


From Mount Dare head north towards Old Andado, crossing the Finke River along the way. After Old Andado the track heads north then east through Mac Clark (Acacia Peuce) Conservation Reserve. 

The first of Madigan’s camps is on private land so Camp 1a was created on the main track. As you head across the desert you’ll be looking for small plaques on star pickets that were placed to show the locations of Madigan’s camps by Owen Correa Outback Expeditions in 1994. Camps 2, 3 and 4 are no longer accessible to the public, so the route bypasses these and heads directly to Camp 5, near the intersection with the Colson Track.

East of Camp 7 is where the dunes become trickier, and it’s a good idea to deflate the vehicle’s tyres even further at this point. As you head east across the northern Simpson Desert there is little to interrupt your views of the red sands. While this trek was once a purely

cross-country route between the noted GPS positions for Madigan’s camps, the track has become more defined over recent years. However, in places, particularly between camps 7 and 13, it is still often not clearly visible, especially early in the season.

The track becomes more defined as you hit the eastern end, particularly where it joins the Hay River Track (see Track 71). At Camp 15 the Hay River Track heads north to Batton Camp and Jervois Station on the Plenty Highway, and south to Camp 16. At Madigan’s Blaze Tree turn east becoming as the track becomes less well-used crossing the NT/QLD border, heading across Munga-Thirri National Park.

As the track passes Camp 19 and leaves the Park, track conditions become easier for the run southeast towards Birdsville. On the way south it passes Camp 20, Camp 21 and the ruins of Annandale Station before reaching Camp 22 – the last one that is accessible to the public.

From this point, it’s a run down Eyre Creek to the QAA Line (see Track 70) for a visit to Big Red on the way into Birdsville.


Dr Cecil Thomas Madigan led a scientific expedition across the Simpson Desert in 1939. His party of nine men and 19 camels left the remote homestead of Old Andado on June 4 and, after considerable hardship, arrived safely in Birdsville on July 6. He named the desert after Allen Simpson, who was then president of the South Australia branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. Madigan’s book, Crossing the Dead Heart, is interesting reading that can add a lot to your experience. 

In 1975, Denis Bartell began a series of more than 40 adventures that included the first vehicular crossing of the Madigan Line. Bartell was the one responsible for giving Nappanerica Dune the nickname ‘Big Red’.