The Old Telegraph Track
Whenever I think back to my trips around in Cape York, it always is the best part of it.
It can be slow, but it's exciting, and along the track are some of the best bush camping spots in the whole Cape York.
And there is nothing to be scared of even if you are a beginner - you can always turn back should you come to a creek crossing that is too much for you.
There are also several bypass roads that help you to get around the scariest crossings.
The Old Telegraph Track Is Great Fun!
The track is best done from south to north, mainly because it gets gradually harder in the northern parts.
If you are only a half-brave four wheel driver, and unless you have the vehicle properly prepared with a snorkel and all, you are probably best off doing the southern part of it, which is easier, and avoid the northern half by taking the Northern Bypass Road.
The start of the Old Telegraph Track at Bramwell Junction. ©cape-york-australia.com
It starts at Bramwell Junction, where you can turn left to the Old Telegraph Track (Bypass Roads go straight ahead, past the roadhouse).
Bramwell Junction to Palm Creek Crossing
The start of it is really easy-going with a few holes like on the photo below, but nothing major.
The first, easy "creek crossing". ©cape-york-australia.com
If you are a total beginner, your first challenge is Palm Creek. It is quite steep in both ends, although it is a dry creek in the Dry Season.
Palm Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
Ducie, South Alice and North Alice Creeks
The next creek north is Ducie, which is an easy one, and like Palm and the others down here, dry in the Dry Season.
Ducie Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
After Ducie you come to an easy part with quite a level road and the South Alice Creek, which is so easy you most likely don't even notice it.
Near South Alice Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
North Alice is easy too, and like others down here, it is dry during the Dry Season.
North Alice Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
After North Alice you cross the border to Heathlands Nature Reserve.
Heathland Reserve. ©cape-york-australia.com
Dulhunty, Bertie and Cholmondeley Creek Crossings
And after that you come to the first crossing that is wet even during the Dry Season - the beautiful Dulhunty River. It's not a hard one to cross, at least during the Dry Season. It's a beautiful river with green lush vegetation, and it is a great spot to camp.
Dulhunty River. ©cape-york-australia.com
The next creek north is Bertie, which is also wet even during the Dry Season (as are most crossings north from here). The shallowest and easiest place to cross it is after a little drive east along the southern river bank - the exit is right across the river from where it's best to cross it.
Bertie Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
After the Bertie you come to the crossroad where you can turn onto the Gunshot Bypass, where you can either just avoid the infamous Gunshot Crossing, or the rest of the Old Telegraph Track, which after Gunshot will gradually get more adventurous - the crossings get deeper and it's easier to damage your vehicle.
Gunshot Bypass. ©cape-york-australia.com
If you choose to continue, you first come to Cholmondeley Creek crossing, which is shallow during the Dry Season, and shouldn't be a problem.
Cholmondeley Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
Gunshot - the Most Famous Crossing
The next crossing north, after a few kilometres drive through an open heath country, is the famous Gunshot Creek - which, if done properly (using one of the steep drops instead of the "Slingshot"), is the hairiest of all crossings on this track.
Gunshot Creek crossing. ©cape-york-australia.com
North of the Gunshot you come to a grave, which belongs to an Old Telegraph Line linesman, and has quite an interesting story written on the plaque.
The grave of W. J. Brown, a telegraph linesman. ©cape-york-australia.com
Cockatoo Creek - The Old Telegraph Track
The next crossing north is Cockatoo Creek, a beautiful creek with clear water and green vegetation around it. The bottom is rocky but there are some bog holes you need to avoid so make sure you walk the crossing first (and others north from here), and find the safest route to get through it. After the crossing there is a picnic shelter, toilets, and a nice camping ground on the north side of the creek.
Cockatoo Creek crossing. ©cape-york-australia.com
Sheldon Lagoon and Sailor Creek
Next you pass by the Sheldon Lagoon ...
Sheldon Lagoon. ©cape-york-australia.com
... and then you cross Sailor Creek on a small bridge. After the bridge, on your left hand side is an old linesmen's shelter with names of previous travellers under the ceiling.
The old linesmen's hut at Sailor Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
The Old Telegraph Track Joins Bypass Roads
Soon after the Sailor Creek you come to the crossroad where the Old Telegraph Track and the Bypass Roads will join in and go in one for a while - until, you come to the sign that shows you to some of the absolute highlights of not only this road but the whole Cape York...
The Old Telegraph Track - Bypass Road junction. ©cape-york-australia.com
Fruit Bat, Eliot and Twin Falls
First there are the Fruit Bat Falls - I have heard people saying that they haven't seen a better swimming spot in the whole Australia.
Telegraph track to Fruit Bat and Eliott Waterfalls. ©cape-york-australia.com
When I have visited, the water has been so clear you can see the bottom, and it has been reasonably shallow (this depends on the season, of course), and perfectly cool but not too cold. It's a fantastic spot for a lunch and very popular too, since it is close to everyone whether they travel along the Old Telegraph Track or Bypass Roads, and whether they are on their way up or down the peninsula.
Fruit Bat Falls. ©cape-york-australia.com
North of the Fruit Bat Falls is a nameless ford, which doesn't look like much on the map, but can in fact be deep enough so take care.
The ford between Fruit Bat and Twin/Eliot Falls. ©cape-york-australia.com
After the ford there are Eliot Falls, and a short stroll from them are Twin Falls - another beautiful swimming hole.
Eliot Falls. ©cape-york-australia.com
While the Fruit Bat Falls are day-use only (the picnic tables in the carpark are popular places to have a lunch), at the Eliot and Twin Falls there is a camping ground where you can stay over the night. It is a national parks camping ground (and unfortunately the new rules mean that from February 2012 you need to pre-book by phone or on the internet!). The camping ground can get crowded, particularly during the height of the Dry season.
Twin Falls. ©cape-york-australia.com
Canal Creek - the Old Telegraph Track
The first creek north of the waterfalls is Canal Creek, which can be quite deep and also has an uneven bottom worth walking through and checking out the best route before you drive it. It is possible to camp here too.
Canal Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
After Canal Creek, you leave the Heathlands Resource Reserve and enter Jardine River National Park.
Jardine River National Park. ©cape-york-australia.com
Sam, Cannibal, Mistake and Cypress Creek Crossings
Next, there are four crossings right next to each other. The first one is Sam Creek, which is not too bad but the bottom is uneven so walk it to find the shallowest route through it. There are some nice shady camping spots on the northern side of the creek.
Sam Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
The next one is Mistake Creek, which is not too bad. It's got sandy bottom but is not too deep, not during the Dry Season anyway.
Mistake Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
The next one is Cannibal Creek, which is a beautiful creek and a great spot to camp. The entrance and exit are quite steep, but the water is not too deep during the Dry Season.
Cannibal Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
The next one is Cypress Creek, famous for its log bridge which is quite wonky so take care.
Cypress Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
After the Cypress you follow the red-soiled track through tropical savannah vegetation with grass trees and some forest palms, past the poles of the Old Telegraph Line that seem to be in better condition here than elsewhere...
The Old Telegraph Track north of Cypress.. ©cape-york-australia.com
... until you get to Logans Creek - one of the deepest crossings on the whole track.
Logans and Nolans - the Deepest Crossings
And it doesn't help that the water is murky and the whole area looks like a croc habitat - however there are no croc signs unless I have missed one, and people do walk it to check the bottom, which is a smart thing to do for the sake of saving your vehicle. If you feel it's too hard, you have the opportunity to turn back to Mistake Creek and take the bypass.
Crossing Logans Creek. ©cape-york-australia.com
Your next one north is Nolan's Brook, also called Bridge Creek, although the days when the bridge was driveable are history. This is often the deepest of all crossings and is the crossing that claims most vehicles. So many people get their vehicles stuck here that nowadays there are towing ads in trees.
Nolans Brook. ©cape-york-australia.com
The bright side of Nolans - where the old bridge used to be (I am hanging in some of the last remains on the pic there), - as you can see, is a wonderful swimming hole. Beautiful emerald green water, clear and clean, and just right temperature to cool down :-)
Nolans Brook swimming hole. ©cape-york-australia.com
The End of the Old Telegraph Track
After Nolans Brook, the Old Telegraph Track is effevtively over. You continue to Jardine National Park and have the opportunity to continue all the way to the mighty Jardine River, or turn left to the ferry crossing (which takes you across the river on the Jardine River Ferry).
Quick cool-down and croc watch in Jardine river. ©cape-york-australia.com
Some cheeky people still try their luck to save $90 and cross the river at the old river ford instead, however it is nowadays considered too risky even though I have seen people doing it and getting across too!
In any case, don't do like Rob on the photo below and walk in the middle of Jardine - people have been taken by crocs here and I have spotted crocs in this river myself.
The old Jardine River Ford. ©cape-york-australia.com
It is still worth driving to Jardine and camping here before you catch the ferry - there is a nice camping ground and great opportunities to spot crocs - we even saw a Palm Cockatoo here. But your safest bet is to catch the ferry to the Tip, at least I don't want to be blamed if you loose your car doing the Old Ford!
Read more about crossing this river at the old Jardine River Ford...
Did You Do the Old Telegraph Track?
The readers want to read your story! Send in a photo, send in a video or a few! (The video cannot be attached here - please let me know so i can send you my email address, or put it on You Tube and send me the link - i can embed it from there right into your page).
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Old Telegraph Track Report 5/05/2013
We have finished the OTT and there is a couple of spots not accessible at this stage from south end. Palm Creek is passable with winches and 30 …
Old Telegraph Track Report 2/05/2013
Haha just finished it all. First ones for 2013, the Tele Track is very hard, Gunshot is not drivable in its original drop ins, also Cockatoo Creek …
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