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The easiest route to Hyden is from Kelmscott to Brookton and through to Hyden. There are not many (if any) late night fuel opportunities so check your fuel status. Between Hyden and Norseman there are a few really good camp sites, but no other facilities, and there is no mobile phone coverage...you really are in the bush here!If you want to see some great places and experience a wide variety of exciting 4WD country then Norseman and the Shire of Dundas will get you going. There is arguably some of the best 4WD country in this state! There are many trees and plenty of camping places to choose from. The terrain may be overgrown, but in general there is no extreme 4WD, however, that doesn’t mean you wont end up with scratches.
We'll try to keep this page updated as things happen.... Unless we're in the bush!
Some things to watch out for.
Salt Lakes. Regardless of how tempted you are to cross one. DON'T. If you get bogged you will be there for some time, probably days and you may not be able to get help.
Wet Weather: The ground around Norseman seems to turn into the slipperiest greasiest mud we have ever seen. Sometimes you will be stuck simply because you can't get traction. Take caution during rainy times.
Mud Holes: These will pop up every now and then on bush tracks. Even the camels get stuck. You can usually pick them by the deep ruts. Try the side tracks. These are usually only bad in wet conditions.
Fallen Trees: We have cleared hundreds of fallen trees around the tracks. Most of the trees seem to be very shallow rooted. With a bit of rain and wind they simply fall out of the ground. Be wary camping under them, especially the big ones (because they will squash you dead). You definitely need a way of clearing them from your path.
Other vehicles: A growing number of people are visiting these remote areas. And there are mining people cruising the bush. Expect the unexpected on bush tracks with limited forward visibility, drive slowly and with caution. Its a bad place to hit someone head on!
It is essential to use maps in this area. Signposting is minimal (or non-existant). Like we said this is real 4WD country. We recommend the Western 4WDriver "Trips Out of The Goldfields" booklet.
Then there are cyclones, treat them with excessive respect, they still kill people too, as we found out with Cyclone George early in 2007.
But the wet season also has the most water in creeks and gorges too, and it is a terrifyingly beautiful place!
There is a lot of more extreme 4WD here. And without saying it (but I will), you need to take a lot of extra precautions in this area, especially in summer.
One of the most exciting places to visit is the old air force base at Corunna Downs. This airstrip was so secret in WWII, many people who served there were not aware of the different units stationed around the base. The old runways are still in existence, and the bunkers where the planes were loaded with bombs are easily spotted on the taxiways. The left over bombs at the end of the war were blown up, and the shrapnel of exploded bombs and other miscellaneous parts can be found, as well as the concrete pads where buildings once stood.
If you stand in the old bunkers at night and close your eyes you can almost hear the hub bub of activity as the men load the planes. It is a far cry from those days when many lived in fear of invasion, and the uncertainty of all-out war.
A hill not far away also had a radar station on top. There is a rock with the words “Out of Bounds to all personnel” painted on it. And most excitingly, is the rough engraving of a soldier's name on a boulder nearby.
The RAAF unit that was based there was called OBU73 (Operational Base Unit 73). Slowly, everything will decay and nothing will be left. The old soldiers and airmen, will fade away, as they do. And all that will be left will be the stories of a long ago war that touched our shores.
Port Hedland was bombed during WWII, and one person was killed. OBU73 was serviced by the Hedland to Marble Bar Railway line, and was used so much that by end of the war, it was almost unserviceable. For a State struggling with the task of rebuilding itself, the old railway was simply too expensive and too far away to repair. It too has faded into history, and almost nothing remains, except perhaps a couple of lengths of rail in a creek bed near Marble Bar.
During a 2009 trip we found an old WWII .303 intact and unfired. Later the same trip we found a discarded ID Disc (dog tag). Sadly this old soldier has passed away, we have commemorated him in the link below.
Don’t forget Marble Bar itself. Once renowned for it high temperatures, it is a small community that still services gold prospectors and miners and the pastoral area around.
The grave of Fred Savory can be found at Burrumbar Pool, out of Newman. It is a long drive and quite isolated. The headstone is a marble block, and considering it was erected in 1903, it is a tribute to mateship, as much to the memory of Mr Savory.
The name Burrumbar varies with different maps. I have included a mudmap of the way to Burrumbar pool.
As with all journeys into the outback, be responsible and take care.
Marble Bar Shay Gap Road
is an interesting 4WD route back to Port Hedland from Marble Bar. You
can visit Coppin’s Gap and drive through Kitty’s Gap to where Shay Gap
once stood. Some sections may be impassable during the wet months.
Mining in the area may impact acces, so it would be wise to check with
the visitors' centre in Marble Bar.
Marble Bar Railway
The Port Hedland to Marble bar railway line was opened on July 1st 1912. For the first few years there was one train per fortnight. This was increased to one per week in 1919. When it was not necessary to run a full train, a railcar, called the Red Terror, was used.
There were few bridges and most of the river crossings were no more than a causeway, and often flooded during the wet season.
During World War II the line carried huge loads from Hedland to Marble Bar for the secret air base at Corunna Downs. At the end of the war, much materiel was returned by the line to Hedland. This war time use caused excessive wear to the track and a cash strapped State Government eventually closed the line on 27th October 1951.
There are two sections of the old track that are accessible. The northern part from around the 12 mile to where the track meets the current Marble Bar Road, and the southern section from Marble Bar to near the Coongan river. The southern section is shown on our mudmaps page. Travelling this track requires care, as the formation is covered in dog spikes, spinifex and has numerous hidden washaways. But it is none the less good fun and a fascinating 4WD adventure. Oh and there will be scratches.
This is the ruins of an old siding on the Hedland Marble Bar railway, which was abandoned in the 1951. It has been protected because it is off the main road, behind a hill. There are the ruins of a couple of water tanks and a pipe line to a small water hole in the river bed. This site can easily be seen on Google earth, but sadly a fire has destroyed most of the old wooden tank stand.
It would be amazing to see a steam loco passing through this beautiful place.
Though this siding is on the banks of the Coongan River, it is not the Coongan Siding I believed it to be. A search at the Battye Library and a 1942 map clearly shows this place is Eginbah Siding and the Coongan siding was on the northern side of the river....to be discovered.
As is always the case, you take responsibility for your own actions in the bush. If you can't manage it, don't go; if you aren't prepared, don't go; or if you are just too bloody stupid, stay home and watch the footy!
Remember, we ask you to not damage the environment or leave your rubbish behind, but welcome like minded people who care not only for the bush and our history, but want to ensure we give back to our kids the country our grandchildren have loaned us!