The Watershed Looptm
Outback NSW Touring Routes
Explorer Captain Charles Sturt (and others) believed there was an inland sea into which the few known rivers of eastern Australia flowed; this premise was the basis of his 1844-5 expedition, and there is a lot of merit to that belief. The Watershed Looptm is an adventure design to show, in part, the validity of the assumption that specific waterways drained in the interior of Australia.
With Broken Hill as the ideal start/finish of this great adventure, the Watershed Loop can also be accessed from the Darling River Run (Wilcannia or Menindee) as well as when heading south from Tibooburra and Cameron Corner.
Connecting the Darling River to the Corner Country
Distance: 1,162 km
Road: Mostly unsealed, maintained, roads.
The Barrier Ranges, sometimes referred to as the Barrier Range, was initially named Stanley's Barrier Range by Sturt in honour of Lord Stanley (British Foreign minister 1866-68 & 1874-78). Captain Charles Sturt named it due to the perceived barrier it created to Sturt's expedition. More importantly, though, it forms the western extent of the Darling River basin watershed which is a subdivision of the Murray-Darling Basin.
The Barrier Ranges comprises:
- Coko Range
- Floods Range
- Slate Range
- Robe Range
- Mundi Mundi Range
- Coonbaralba Range
- Mount Darling Range
To the northwest of the watershed is the Bulloo-Bancannia basin which is Australia's second-largest endorheic basin (one that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water) with an area of 98 820 km². (Lake Eyre Basin is the largest endorheic basin)
The basis of this tour, and as the name suggests, is to experience the watersheds that Sturt and others believed existed and formed the theory of the inland sea.
- Murray Darling Basin
- Paroo River Catchment (Murray-Darling Tributary)
- Bulloo-Bancannia Basin
- Lake Bancannia
- Lake Eyre Basin
- Lake Frome
In 1840, Edward John Eyre was the first European to lay eyes on the 9500-square-kilometre lake, which now bears his name in one of the driest desert regions of South Australia.
Sturt, and those who commissioned him, did not know there would be an inland sea, and that is not the premise of his endeavours. The expedition intended to discover what was beyond the Murray-Darling western catchment as they knew that the Darling Catchment drained to the east. Hence, the watershed that lay beyond Stanley's Barrier Ranges could reveal to where the adjacent catchment flowed.
Watershed Elevation Profiles:
The outback, and this region of Outback NSW, is regarded as a very flat country, but when viewing the elevation profile, it is apparent there is indeed elevation across the catchments (that allow the individual basins to work).
Of particular note:
- While travelling the 1,165 km Watershed Loop, the net elevation gain/loss is 1895m -1895m, with the highest point being 333m near Mt Gipps Station and the lowest point along the touring route as at Tandou Lake and Redbank Creek (58m). Redbank Creek is a tributary of the Great Darling Anabranch.
- The touring route also passes the highest point of the Barrier Ranges, Mount Robe (459m) to the northeast of Eldee Creek.
- Broken Hill is in the Darling Catchment, part of the MDB, and the touring route crosses into the Lake Frome Catchment (Lake Eyre Basin), near Silverton.
- The Lake Bancannia catchment is crossed into just north of Mutawinti NP and exited on the section to White Cliffs where the route enters the Paroo River catchment, part of the Murray-Darling Basin.
** NOTE: The creeks listed in the following route guide are ephemeral (they flow intermittently after sufficient rain) and included as an insight into the hydrology of the various catchments.
Broken Hill to Eldee Station
- From the Broken Hill Outback Resort, it is a short 15km trip into Broken Hill (plenty of time for more sightseeing and getting provisions) along the Barrier Highway.
- The iconic Eldee Station is the next destination and less than one hour from Broken Hill (Note Broken Hill is within the Darling Catchment), and after some exploring in Silverton, the route heads west to Silverton crossing Umberumberka Creek and One Mile Creek, and into the Lake Frome Catchment and Mundi Mundi Plains.
- Once across Mundi Mundi and onto the plain, the trip north follows the Barrier Ranges, past Umberumberka Reservoir, and across (predominantly west-flowing):
- Umberumberka Creek
- Rockhole Creek
- Mundi Mundi Creek
- Eldee Creek
- Distance: 70 km
- Road: Sealed to Broken Hill then to Silverton, Unsealed to Eldee Station
- Provisions: Broken Hill
- West along the Barrier Hwy to Broken Hill: 15km
- Silverton Rd to Silverton: 25 km
- Wilangee Rd past Mundi Mundi: 29 km
- Arrive at Eldee Station
Eldee Station to Mt Gipps Station
- Heading north from Eldee Station, which is within the Lake Frome Catchment, the route tracks along the western side of the Barrier Ranges.
- Along the way, not far from Eldee, Mount Robe, the highest peak of the Barrier Ranges, can be seen on the right, with the route crossing (predominantly west-flowing)::
- Little Aller Creek
- Big Aller Creek
- Cartwrights Creek
- Soapstone Creek
- Smiths Creek
- Campbells Creek
- Tarltala Creek
- Willurrawa Creek
- The route then heads west to Corona Hills before heading south-east to the west of Byjerkerno Ridge (333m), along the way crossing (north-west to west flowing):
- Morphett Creek
- Willowurrawa Creek
- Alberta Creek
- Poison Creek
- Campbells Creek
- Spring Creek
- Jones Creek (Darling Basin)
- Distance: 115 km
- Road: Unsealed to Mt Gipps Station
- Provisions: -
- Wilangee Rd to Mount Woowoolahra Rd: 55 km
- Mount Woowoolahra Rd to Corona Rd: 16 km
- Turn right onto Corona Rd: 45 km
- Arrive at Mt Gipps Station
Mt Gipps Station to Packsaddle
- Darling Catchment, and leaving Mount Gipps Station south along Corona Rd, the route crosses Dead Creek and Yancowinna Creek. (Yancowinna Creek flows southeast to Lake Cawndilla, one of the Menindee Lakes which, when sufficient, would flow into the Murray River via Redbank Creek and the Great Darling Anabranch).
- Once on the Silvercity Highway and heading north to turnoff east to Mutawinti National Park, the route crosses Salt Hole Creek and Smiths Well Creek (both tributaries of Yancowinna Creek), and Treloar Creek before the Mutawintji turnoff.
- Along Mutawintji Rd, the route Gairdners Creek several times, before the turnoff to the Visitor Centre.
- Continuing the journey to Packsaddle, returning to Mutawintji Road and head north, the route leaves the Darling Catchment into the Bancannia Catchment (a division of the Bulloo-Bancannia basin, which is an endorheic basin (one that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water).
- Heading north-east, the journey crosses:
- Mount Wright Creek
- Old Coonigans Creek
- Noonthorangee Creek
- Ten Mile Creek
- Tekum Creek
- Kayrunnea Creek
- Joining Henry Roberts Rd and heading north-west all the way to the Silver City Highway, creeks crossed include:
- Kayrunnera Creek
- JK Creek
- Morden Creek
- Funeral Creek
- Ponto Creek
- Palgamurtie Creek
- At the intersection with the Silver City Highway, the location of the Tool Tree, the final section of this leg of the touring route heads south crossing :
- Wonnaminta Creek
- Box Holes Creek
- Barons Creek
- Packsaddle Creek
- Distance: 340 km
- Road: Mostly unsealed
- Provisions: Packsaddle Roadhouse
- Mt Gipps to Mutawintji NP: 107 km
- South along Corona Rd to Silver City Hwy: 10.0 km
- Silver City Highway to Mutawintji Rd: 23 km
- Mutawintji Rd > Waterbag Rd > Access Rd 74 km
- Mutawintji NP to Packsaddle: 233 km
- Access Rd > Waterbag Rd: 14 km
- Mutawintji Rd: 73 km
- Kayrunnera Rd: 24.0 km
- Henry Roberts Rd: 75 km
- The Tool Tree
- Silver City Hwy: 47 km
- Mt Gipps to Mutawintji NP: 107 km
Packsaddle Roadhouse to White Cliffs
- The Packsaddle to White Cliffs section traverses the southern section of the Bancannia Catchment before entering the Paroo River Catchment (a division of the Murray Darling Basin)
- After a short 12 km drive south along the Silver City Highway before heading east along Wonnaminta Rd towards Henry Roberts Drive, the route passes beside Nundora Creek before crossing:
- Conns Creek
- Wanaminta Creek
- Morden Creek
- Back on Henry Roberts Road, heading southeast, the route crosses the northeast flowing waterways:
- Turkey Creek
- Williams Creek
- Yanda Watercourse
- Shortly before reaching White Cliffs, the route enters the Paroo River Catchment, as indicated by crossing the southwest flowing Bunker Creek, a tributary of the lower Paroo River. South of White Cliffs, the route again crosses Bunker Creek.
- Distance: 173 km
- Road: Mostly unsealed
- Provisions: Packsaddle Roadhouse & White Cliffs
- Head south along Silver City Hwy: 12 km
- Turn left onto Wonnaminta Rd: 65 km
- Turn right onto Henry Roberts Rd then along Whipstick Rd: 96 km
- Arrive at White Cliffs Hotel: 1 km
White Cliffs to Wilcannia
The route from White Cliffs to the Darling at Wilcannia crosses Chinamans Creek and Bunker Creek before reaching the Darling River about halfway along its reach from just north of Bourke to Wentworth and its confluence with the Murray River.
- Distance: 96 km
- Road: Sealed
- Provisions: White Cliffs, Wilcannia
- Opal Miners Way: 92.5 km
- Barrier Hwy/A32: 2.70 km
Wilcannia to Nelia Gaari Station
The run along the Darling River provides a wonderful contrast to the journey so far as it travels along Australia's third longest river (and longest waterway when combined with the Culgoa, Balonne, and Condamine Rivers.
The next two sections provide an introduction to the Darling River Run, a highly regard touring route along our most iconic waterway.
The route to Nelia Gaari Station is along the western side of the river (access to the station is not possible from the other side of the river)
- Distance: 88 km
- Road: Unsealed
- Provisions: Wilcannia
- Take Barrier Hwy, turn left onto Reid St: 3.2 km
- W Wilcannia Rd: 81 km
- Arrive at Nelia Gaari Station
Nelia Gaari to Menindee (Bindara)
- Shortly after leaving Nelia Garri and again heading south along the western side of the Darling River, the first of several ephemeral lakes become visible:
- Malta Lake
- Balaka Lake
- Tandure Lake
- Lake Pamamaroo
- Lake Menindee
- Lake Cawndilla
- Lake Tandou
- Lake Tandou is the lowest point of the touring route at 58m.
- Kinchega National Park is regarded by many as the best Park to experience the Darling River and is well worth a visit before heading on to Bindara Station.
- Distance: 160 km
- Road: Unsealed
- Provisions: Menindee
- West Wilcannia Rd: 60 km
- Menindee Rd: 16 km
- Arrive at Menindee
- Little Menindee Creek Rd: 4 km
- Turn left onto Old Pooncarie Rd: 50 km
- Turn left to stay on Old Pooncarie Rd: 30 km
- Arrive at Bindara Station
Bindara Station to Broken Hill
- With Bindara Station the last stopover on this amazing journey it is time to head back to Borke Hill, continue along the Darling, or explore further afield:
- Distance: 175 km
- Road: Unsaeld/Sealed
- Provisions: Broken Hill, Menindee (backtrack if required)
- Head north on Old Pooncarie Rd: 30 km
- Turn left onto Tandou Rd: 47 km
- Turn right onto Silver City Hwy/B79: 80 km
- Bonanza St/Silver City Hwy/B79: 3 km
- Barrier Hwy/A32: 15 km
- Arrive back at Broken Hill Outback Resort
Towns - Parks - Localities:
The Darling River is Australia's most iconic river and when combined with its longest tributaries creates Australia's longest waterway stretching from Queensland's Darling Downs across Outback NSW to its meeting with the Murray River at Wentworth in the southwest corner of New South Wales.
Part of the Murray Darling Basin, which covers an area of 1,061,469 square kilometres (14% of the total area of Australia), the Darling River rises from Queensland's Darling Downs and New South Wales's northern rivers region.
The Darling River system is sourced primarily from the subtropical summer rains of South East Queensland (the Darling Downs). By comparison, the Murray River receives its flow from the New South Wales/Victorian alpine region's snowmelt, and as such is more of a 'boom/bust' with regards to its flow.
Broken Hill is a true outback icon, sitting on an iron-rich red landscape under a big Azure sky. Remarkable colours and contrasts that are synonymous with Australia's Corner Country (and area radiating out from Cameron Corner, the place where the states of NSW, QLD, and SA meet).
Broken Hill, its name conjures up so much that we identify with Australia. Henry Lawson once stated "if you know Bourke, you know Australia", an adage that could apply equally to Broken Hill as it does to Bourke (but with a slightly more modern context). While Bourke grew out of the river trade, Broken Hill grew out of mining and iron and is where the Big Australian (BHP) was born.
The icon, and Heritage Listed, Broken Hill has a BIG history with wonderful attractions and unique experiences.
This adventure route also takes in Mutawintji National Park with its evocative historic site (guided access only). Mutawintji National Park is one of the most moving and culturally significant areas of New South Wales and should be put towards the top of any visitor wish list. The wonderful sandstone ridges and gorges fill the senses with wonderment and are one of those places where you can feel the cultural significance of the area and the land; and why it is so significant to the indigenous culture.
Many outback towns claim to be 'really unique', but White Cliffs is one of the truly 'must-see' destinations. White Cliffs is the oldest Australian opal field, discovered by chance in the 1880s by a group of kangaroo shooters.
White Cliffs is where the Australian opal industry started and its population peaked in the late 1890s at around 5,000. It began to decline after WW1 and now boasts a population of around 200.
It is very small by comparison to Lightning Ridge, another Opal mining town, but here most of the living is made underground. An excellent 92km drive along the sealed Opal Miner's Way from Wilcannia will have you in this unique place in no time. For those that like 'the road less travelled' and want to take in Mutawintji National Park and White Cliffs without having to backtrack, this loop (Dry weather gravel only) is a fantastic drive.
Wilcannia, the Darling River town on the Barrier Highway between Cobar and Broken Hill, is a largely undisturbed port on the Darling River. Cross the bridge driving from Sydney to Broken Hill and turn either to your right or left when you enter the town, and you will be amazed at the richness of the architecture. About one hours drive (sealed) north of Wilcannia is the opal town of White Cliffs. Well worth a visit!
Being at the junction of the major east-west highway and the iconic 'Long Paddock' (The Cobb Highway which runs down to Echuca-Moama on the Murray River), it is an excellent access point for the Darling River Run. Upstream from Wilcannia is Tilpa and downstream is Menindee and the Menindee Lakes.
Menindee and the wonderful Menindee Lakes is a beautiful central Darling River destination where you can experience the best of what the Darling River Run touring route can offer. An iconic Darling River town, an hour southeast of Broken Hill (and Silverton), Menindee is a perfect base to explore the Darling River, the Lakes and one of the best National Parks in Outback NSW, Kinchega National Park.
Discover also that the beautifully penned 'The Man from Snowy River' by Banjo Paterson is an immortal Australian poem there is a line, "There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup". While many assume it was the famous Melbourne Cup being referred to, it is actually the Presidents Cup held at Menindee. There is a story to tell and something to learn in most outback towns, and Menindee on the Darling River is no exception.
Kinchega National Park, located in the central Darling about one hour south-east of Broken Hill, provides wonderful access to the Darling River for birdwatching, historical insights, river camping and fishing. Rich in indigenous and pastoral history, Kinchega is bounded by the Darling River upstream from Menindee Lakes.
The park provides some of the best access to Darling River. Kinchega National Park is rich in natural history, a place that seems designed for nature lovers and photographers. It's also a place to immerse yourself in Aboriginal and European heritage. Sit back, relax and watch the native wildlife, where the red sand reaches up and touches the clear blue sky. The area of Kinchega incorporates half the lakes which make up Menindee Lakes; man-made lakes (originally pondages of the Darling River) feed by the seasonal flow of the Darling River.