STURT NA­TIONAL PARK, NSW

Leave the traf­fic and chaos be­hind to em­brace the re­mote­ness of Sturt Na­tional Park.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOS BY KEVIN SMITH

STURT Na­tional Park is tucked away in the north­west of New South Wales. Within its 3500km2 lie flood plains, desert, jump-up coun­try, gorges and much more for those will­ing to ex­plore. The park also has sig­nif­i­cant Abo­rig­i­nal sites that date back 20,000 years, and pas­toral­ism that dates back well over 100 years.

Ti­booburra, 332km north of Bro­ken Hill, pro­vides a great base for a few days be­fore you ex­plore the park. Here in town you can get fuel and gro­ceries, as well as ad­vice on ex­plor­ing the Sturt. In fact, most peo­ple only call in to Ti­booburra for an overnight stay when head­ing fur­ther west.

On the search for in­land sea, ex­plorer Charles Sturt pushed his way through Ti­booburra back in 1845. A replica whale­boat that Sturt and his men dragged into this area is mounted in the town’s park along­side other his­tor­i­cal gear, high­light­ing how machin­ery has ad­vanced over the years.

There are nu­mer­ous tourist drives within Sturt Na­tional Park, such as Gorge Loop Road, which starts 24km east of Ti­booburra. This 100km loop road ex­plores Mount Woods and the nearby pas­toral mu­seum.

It’s a very re­mote, harsh area and you need to be well­pre­pared with food, water and com­mu­ni­ca­tion

The Jump-up Loop Road to the north leads to­wards the Queens­land bor­der and the Sil­ver City High­way. On this road you’ll find the Olive Downs camp­ground, 55km north of Ti­booburra. Here you can camp in a re­mote area and wan­der the ru­ins of Olive Downs sta­tion.

The 110km three-hour self-guided drive along the Jump-up Loop Road takes you through some amaz­ing and harsh coun­try, in­clud­ing desert ar­eas, gib­ber rock plains and red dune coun­try. The ex­cel­lent loop is dot­ted with the odd tree and small rocky gorges, to give it a moon-like land­scape. Be warned, though, this is a very re­mote, harsh area and you need to be well-pre­pared with food, water and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. There is no phone re­cep­tion here, so it’s best to ad­vise some­one of your trav­els.

An­other high­light of Sturt Na­tional Park is to spend a night or two camp­ing at Fort Grey. Lo­cated 110km west of Ti­booburra, this camp­ground is sit­u­ated near Lake Pi­na­roo, where you can walk across the dry lakebed via Wells Walk to Sturt’s Tree. When full, this lake is alive with birds and other an­i­mals en­joy­ing the cool wa­ters of the out­back.

Mid­dle Road, which starts just north of Fort Grey, takes you east­ward along the Wild Dog Fence (for­merly the Dingo Fence) through a di­verse land­scape of low flood and gib­ber plains, and along the edges of red sand dunes. This 80km road passes the top end of Lake Pi­na­roo, of­fer­ing vast views of the lake’s beauty. Other high­lights along the way in­clude his­toric bronco horse yards and sev­eral bores. Mid­dle Road is a rel­a­tively easy drive and it joins back on to Toona Gate Road, which is 75km north of Ti­booburra.

Sturt Na­tional Park has stayed vir­tu­ally un­touched since the days of Charles Sturt’s ex­pe­di­tion. With an ar­ray of en­dan­gered flora and fauna, as well as his­tor­i­cal land­marks and sig­nif­i­cant tourist op­por­tu­ni­ties, it’s a park well worth a visit.

The view from the look­out on the Jump-up Loop Road. Sun­rise over Ti­booburra.

Camp­ing at Fort Grey near Lake Pi­na­roo. Your ve­hi­cle must be equipped to tackle some cor­ru­ga­tions.

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