South Australia – Queensland
|Length||517 km (321 mi)|
|SW end||Oodnadatta Track, Marree|
|NE end|| Eyre Developmental Road,
|Region||Strzelecki Desert, Tirari Desert, Sturt Stony Desert|
|Fuel supply||Mungerannie ( )|
|Facilities||Mungerannie ( )|
The Birdsville Track is a notable outback road in Australia. The 517 km track runs from Marree, a small town in northern South Australia, north across the Tirari Desert and Sturt Stony Desert, ending in Birdsville in south western Queensland.
In former years the track was of a very poor quality and suitable only for high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles, but it has been upgraded to a full-scale dirt road and is now a popular tourist route. It is also used by stock trucks carrying livestock.
The path traverses the driest part of the country with less than an average 100 mm of rainfall annually. The area is extremely barren, dry and isolated, and anyone wishing to travel the track must carry fresh water, supplies, fuel, and spare parts for their vehicle with them in case of emergencies.
The track was opened in the 1860s to bring cattle from northern Queensland and Northern Territory to the nearest railheads Port Augusta and later Marree. The pioneering drover that is credited with establishing the track was Percy Burt. Burt set up a store at Diamantina Crossing, today known as Birdsville, and used the path to bring cattle out of the Channel Country to the railhead at Maree that was completed in 1883. This stock route was more than 1000 km shorter than the alternative path to Brisbane.
Over the years the Birdsville track became one of the country's most isolated and best-known stock routes as well as a mail route made famous by outback legend Tom Kruse. Tom Kruse and the Track were immortalised in the 1954 documentary film made by John Heyer, The Back of Beyond. Kruse's services ceased in 1963 to be replaced by an air service from Adelaide that started in 1970.
The route was earmarked to be signed as part National Route 83 in the original plan of National Routes. It was to start in southern SA before travelling north through to far-north QLD. The route was never fully signed, the Birdsville Track being still largely unsealed.
Up until the 1930s only stock and camel trains would take the Birdsville track. Nowadays it has become a very popular track. As a result, the track is reasonably well maintained and generally fairly smooth. However like any outback track, its condition can change, especially after rain. Large stretches of the track can still be destroyed by flash flooding and drifting sand.
Fuel, supplies and facilities, including a hotel, can be found on the track at the Mungeranie station (population: 3), 204 km from Marree and 313 km from Birdsville.