The Old Telegraph Track is one of the highlights of Cape York and is a great track for 4WD enthusiasts. It’s what’s left of the original telegraph track that was used in the 1880s to connect Cairns with Thursday Island. The method of communication was Morse code back then, and the last message was sent in 1962 before the system was replaced by microwave repeater towers.
The track is fairly narrow, with plenty of turnouts for oncoming vehicles and you can still see old telegraph poles along the track. The surface varies from dirt and sand to rocky slopes, mud and washouts and there are a number of great creek crossings. If there is a crossing or section of eroded track that looks a little intimidating, there is usually a chicken track that bypasses it.
We were able to drive the telegraph track without using our winch, as it was fairly dry, but we did have to let the air out of our tyres for a few spots – so you will need an air pressure gauge and a compressor. Having a mate there in another vehicle is also reassuring. Depending on the time of the year, you could probably get away with not having a snorkel, but keep in mind that the water rises during the wet season. There is also a deep crossing just north of Fruit Bat Falls that you will definitely need a snorkel for.
From Bramwell Junction Northward to the Bypass Road
At Bramwell Junction, we got some info about the upcoming river crossings, let our tyres down and began our adventure on the Old Telegraph Track.
The first crossing was the worst. There is a very steep, narrow entry full of mud and water, and after watching a few people go through, we decided to take the so called ‘chicken track’. Even though we knew the Troopy could handle it, we didn’t want to risk damage to our home, especially since we’re travelling on our own.
The chicken track was nearly as steep and narrow, but definitely less muddy.
The next major crossing was through the beautiful clear waters of the Dulcunty, er… Dulhunty River. A sturdy, rock bed made it easy to drive across, but not before we waded around in the water a bit. This river is free of crocs, which makes it a great place to camp for a few days (permit required).
It was around this time that we met Anthony, a guy who was out 4WDing with his mate and mate’s dad. Their convoy had gotten separated, so for the next few crossings, we sussed them out together.
Another crossing similar to Dulhunty River but there was more manoeuvring to be done to get to the crossing. The deep pot holes are easy to navigate around and the water is fairly shallow and croc-free – another great camping spot (permit is included in Jardine River Ferry cost).
We had heard rumours about Gunshot Creek – the near vertical crossing that appeared on Youtube a few times. If the rumours were true, then the Troopy wouldn’t make it so we took the sandy bypass road and swung past the Ranger Station, which was actually closed.
This is a creek crossing with the threat of crocodiles so keep your eyes peeled. The entry is a little steep, the river has a deep section and there are a few pot holes to get around but the Troopy managed just fine.
This was the last major creek crossing before the Cape York Developmental Road. We headed straight for the Jardine River Ferry and made it to the Tip by sunset, with the intention of doing the rest of the Old Telegraph Track on the way down.
From Sam’s Creek Crossing Southward to Fruit Bat Falls
After exploring the tip, we crossed the Jardine River and got back onto the Overland Telegraph Track at Sam’s Creek Crossing. It wasn’t long before a convoy was coming in the opposite direction and while making room for them to pass, we got the Troopy’s bulbar stuck on a tree. All the blokes got out to help bounce the Troopy free – it was all quite funny really.
Once we arrived at the Canal Creek Crossing, Juz felt that it was time for her to get behind the wheel. The crossing has plenty of obstacles such as slippery mud, pot holes and rocky surfaces and was a great opportunity for Juz to practice her 4WDing skills.
Eliot Falls & Twin Falls
These are popular spots because of the swimming. There is a small pool at the bottom of Twin Falls, and you can wade in the water at the top of Eliot Falls. A refreshing stop for anyone who needs to wash off some stink.
On our way down to Fruit Bat Falls, we were confronted with a large body of muddy water over the road spanning about 30 meters. We weren’t quite sure what we were up against until a convoy appeared on the other side. After a brief pause, they started to come through and we got a good idea just how deep the water was.
After seeing at least four cars go through unscathed, it was our turn. Juz got behind the wheel and with white knuckles, she led the Troopy into the water. Keeping up with the bow wave and maintaining revs in low range 2nd gear, the Troopy powered on as the water came up over the bonnet. Despite being a very intimidating crossing, the ground was firm and it was a piece of cake.
Fruit Bat Falls
Another popular spot that accommodates for tour groups, Fruit Bat Falls is a low, wide waterfall with a large pool of clear water for swimming.
Once we got back onto the Cape York Developmental Road, we made the decision to camp at Bertie Creek, because our ferry pass acted as a permit for that spot. While we usually avoid back tracking, we liked the Overland Telegraph Track so much, we were happy to do it again.
The most difficult part was getting back through the Palm Creek crossing. After a few goes, Dave reversed back down the bottom to let the tires down a bit more. The Troopy roared as one wheel lifted up into the air and sand sprayed from the other three. Up, up, up and out! Go Troopy!