Halls Creek Gold

Where: Duncan Road loop from Halls Creek, WA to the Victoria Highway
Permits: None. These are station tracks so observe all signs, be aware of cattle.
Costs: $0
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (if following old mine tracks) (gravel, sandy tracks – be aware of cattle and station traffic)
Days required to do it justice: 1-2 days (more if your equipped for gold prospecting)

What comes to mind when you think of Halls Creek?  Gold? Challenging 4WD-ing? Thought provoking history? Fabulous Waterholes? I’m guessing that probably the opposite of what came to your mind but if you’re passing through Halls Creek turn left onto Duncan Road off the bitumen and be prepared for a gem of a drive.

The old and the new at Halls Creek

The old and the new at Halls Creek

Duncan Road  follows a 421 km ‘long way round’ to Kununurra and a great alternative to the slow caravan route along on the Great Northern Highway. We followed the road up to the Victoria Highway in the Northern Territory and into Keep River National Park. Our first campsite after a long drive from Broome was at Caroline Pool, 15kms from the Halls Creek town centre. This stunning waterhole offers plenty of quiet shade and a plethora of birdlife from kamikaze budgies to red tailed black cockatoos as well as a few resident cattle who made sure to utter impromptu moo-ing in the dead of the night to keep us on our toes.

Road sign to Caroline Pool

Road sign to Caroline Pool

From the campsite its an easy gravel track 10kms further along to the old Halls Creek town site which hails from the 1880s and was eventually abandoned in the 1950s. Once upon a time this was a gold rush mecca housing up to 10,000 people.  Only a few relics remain, the most interesting being the spinifex and ant hill clad mud structure of the old post office, sadly now encapsulated by an ugly mesh protective body.

The stories from the old town are awe inspiring. Gold hunters flocked here on horseback searching for their fortune scouring every nook and cranny of this unforgiving landscape. Water was scarce and the heat would have been phenomenal…it still is. Some found gold but many didn’t. Inspired, we tottered off in our air-conditioned fourby, towing our trusty van in search of the Ruby Queen mine, south-west of the old town site,  where we were informed some relics of the old workings still remain.

Duncan road to Ruby Queen mine

Duncan road to Ruby Queen mine

There are multiple criss crossing tracks out this way set by modern day gold propectors so following the GPS closely we bumped and crawled along towards the mine off the main Duncan Road.  Only a few kilometres in we came across the dry creek beds of the mighty Elvire River. After a bit of scouting around we found the rest of the track – so eroded it is now a vertical climb that would have been impossible even with a high lift and no van! Cutting our losses and vaguely wishing we were on horseback we retraced our steps back to Duncan Road for a quick paddle in the beautiful Palm Springs.

In search of Ruby Queen mine

In search of Ruby Queen mine

The remainder of the track weaves through barren station land to the Buntine Highway junction. Continuing north on the Duncan Road we unceremoniously crossed into the NT, through Malngin Aboriginal Land and back out again into WA, camping on the banks of the tranquil Negri River right on the state border. Weaving back into NT a few kms later we moved the watches forward 1.5hrs and headed for the Victoria Highway.

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