The Watershed Looptm

Broken Hill Touring Routes

Explorer Captain Charles SturtCaptain 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 TibooburraTibooburra and Cameron CornerCameron Corner.

Landcape heading out of Mutawintji NP, Outback NSW


Distance: 1,162 km

Road: Mostly unsealed, maintained, roads.

Provisions: Broken Hill, Packsaddle, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Menindee


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 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
  • Bulloo-Bancannia Basin
    • Lake Bancannia
  • Lake Eyre Basin
    • Lake Frome

The Watershed Loop, Outback NSW, AustraliaWatershed Loop Route (ORANGE) and Catchments (GREEN)

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 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).

watershed loop elevation profileElevation profile of loop route starting/finishing Broken Hill

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 to the following route guide are ephemeral (they flow intermittently after sufficient rain) and included as an insight to the hydrology of the various catchments.

Towns - Parks - Localities:

Watershed Loop Brochure & Map Download

Welcome to the Watershed Loop tm, a unique Outback touring route across three major waterway catchments of Eastern Australia.

Watershed Loop Touring Guide and Map - Touring Guide for Outback NSW

To download your copy of the Watershed Loop Brochure, please use the following link:

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*** Safe Outback Travel ***

Before heading out to the outback, for the safety of you and fellow travellers (and as a courtesy to those living in the outback), please to the Safe Outback Travel for tips and hints to get the most out of your next adventure.