The History of Australian Stock Routes

The History of Australian Stock Routes

The Australian stock route network is a vast and complex system of roads and tracks. Many of the stock routes were originally pioneered by Aboriginal people to trade, travel, and conduct ceremonies. The earliest movement pathways were created by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. These pathways were often marked by songlines. These are traditional Aboriginal stories that are sung or chanted to guide travelers along the way. The songlines helped Aboriginal people to navigate the landscape, and they also served as a way to pass on knowledge and culture from generation to generation.

These pathways were later adopted by European settlers for travel and the transportation of livestock. Evidence suggests they either discovered these pathways themselves or were assisted by Aboriginal guides and trackers.

In the 19th century, European settlers began to use these pathways to transport livestock. This led to the development of a more formalized network of stock routes, often built and maintained by the government. They played an important role in the development of the Australian outback.

When traveling on Australian stock routes, it is important to be aware of the history and significance of these routes. The routes are a reminder of the long and rich history of Australia. They also offer a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of the Australian outback.

They provide a valuable link between the past and the present, and they play an important role in recreation, eco-tourism and the conservation of Australia’s natural resources.

Here are some of the most famous stock routes in Australia:

    • The Canning Stock Route: This is the longest defined stock route in Australia, stretching over 2,000 kilometres from Halls Creek in Northern Territory to Wiluna in the Western Australia. The route was plotted in 1910 by Alfred Canning, with guidance, to provide a way to drive cattle from the Kimberley region to the goldfields in the south. 


  • The Birdsville Track: This is a major stock route that runs from Marree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland. The Birdsville Track was originally used as a stock route to drive cattle from Queensland to South Australia.


  • The Strzelecki Track: This is a historic stock route that runs from Innamincka to Lyndhurst through the Strzelecki Desert, connecting to the Birdsville Track into Queensland. Harry Readford, a cattle thief, created the Strzelecki Track in 1870 while driving 1,000 cattle south from Queensland. He was found guilty of stealing the cattle, but the judge was so impressed by his determination and service to future pastoralists by creating the track that he was not convicted.


  • The Murranji Track: This is a major stock route that formed part of the connection between Mataranka in the Northern Territory to Camooweal in Queensland. Nathaniel Buchanan, a famous overlander, pioneered the Murranji Track, also known as the Ghost Road of the Drovers, in 1881.

Stock routes are an important part of Australian history and culture. They have played a vital role in the development of the Australian economy and have helped to shape the Australian landscape we have today.

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