the old telegraph track
For most 4WD entusiests driving the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) is the ultimate challenge and with its abundance of crystal clear creek crossings, spectacular landscapes, difficult terrain and sheer remoteness it’s not hard to see why. The OTT is mostly travelled south to north. This is due to a majority of the creek entries being steep on the southern side and gradual on the northern side so it makes for an easier drive. The OTT can be driven north to south but expect more of a challenge, plenty of traffic coming the opposite direction and to get the winch out more regularly. The OTT can change drastically from year to year due to the high amounts of rain reiceved during the wet season so make sure you follow our Facebook page, True North Adventures, for all the lates updates.
The southern section of the OTT starts at Bramwell Junction. This is a good spot to fill up with fuel and stop for a photo at the iconic sign.
There is no messing around from here and you are straight into it, with Palm Creek crossing only 2km from the OTT sign.
Palm Creek is a shallow sandy crossing but has developed a steep muddy entry and exit over the last few years (especially after the damage caused by the 2019 wet season) and it is slowly becoming one of the hardest crossing on the OTT in my opinion. A slow steady drop into the southern side and a possible winch out the northern side and you will be on your way.
Quickly following Palm Creek is Ducie Creek. Ducie Creek is a reasonably deep crossing with a firm bottom and has a relatively straight forward entry and exit. From here to the Dulhunty River is fairly straight forward and you will barely notice you’ve crossed the small South and North Alice Creeks.
Dulhunty River flows crystal clear year-round and it has a few good camp grounds alongside it. It is a great spot to stop if you have a few days to do the OTT. The Shallow pools at the top of the falls offer a well needed spot to cool off but as with all water ways up the cape, be croc wise. I wouldn’t advise swimming in the deep pools below the falls. The Dulhunty crossing has a hard rock bottom, is shallow and is a breeze to cross.
The following creek is Bertie Creek. To cross you drive upstream along to the hard rock bank and make a sharp dog leg left. It has some deep holes in amongst the hard rock bottom so be sure to follow the track worn in by other travellers.
Next you will come to a fork in the road. The righthand track will take you up the Gunshot bypass track back to Bamaga Road. The Left track will take you down to Gunshot Creek! This fork is well signposted although we would still recommend packing an Old Telegraph Track map or using GPS off road maps.
So you’ve made it to the infamous Gunshot creek! Be sure to get out and look for the best route through. Over the years the entry into gunshot creek has split up into about 5 or 6 possible routes and the best option changes every year. The ‘original’ Gunshot is a 3m, almost vertical drop and definitely a sight to see. It is attempted by a few 4wds every year, with some being successful and some coming off second best.
The final crossing you will drive through on the southern section is Cockatoo creek. Cockatoo flows year-round and is moderately deep with a lumpy rock bottom. Choose your line wisely to avoid bottoming out on any large rocks. Be sure to keep an eye out for crocodiles if you choose to enter the waters by foot as they are known to frequent the area. With only a small log bridge over Sailor Creek left to traverse you are nearly back on Bamaga Road and at the end of the Southern section of the Old telegraph track.
After a short 6km drive along Bamaga Rd you’ll take a well signposted track off to the right and enter the Northern Half of the OTT.
The first 8km of the northern OTT feature both Elliot and Fruitbat falls. They are both must sees, so make sure you set some time aside to explore and swim amongst the crystal clear falls (with no crocs!!).
Between Fruitbat and Elliot Falls is Scrubby Creek. Scrubby is a deep, brown/red coloured crossing, that can be all but avoided by taking the “chicken” track to the right hand side.
Shortly after Scrubby Creek is Canal Creek. Canal Creek has a firm bottom but can be quite deep so pick the best line by walking the track first.
There is good camping on both the northern and southern sides of canal creek, so if you made good time on your first day this can make a good halfway point.
A few kilometres past Canal Creek you will cross Sam, Mistake, Cannibal then Cypress Creeks in the space of about 6km.
This is a great section of the OTT with plenty of technical creek entries and exits, with clear moderately deep crossings.
Sam Creek has a sharp drop off upon entry that will hit most rear bumpers, so the last couple of years we have taken the left hand track that runs along side. It is off camber and will test your articulation so still needs to be treated with caution.
Mistake Creek is another easy crossing. The entry is through a winding, high banked cut in and at the bottom you are met with a shallow clear crossing.
Cannibal Creek is a more technical crossing and has a few different components. The entry on the right is a steep drop off comparable to a ‘mini’ gunshot. Last year an entry to the left was pushed through, this is a steep but gentle track down into the creek that may be more forgiving on your rear bar. Once you enter the creek you will do a u-turn and exit back up the opposite direction you entered. Once out of the water you are met with a articulated climb up out of the creek. If you have a diff lock they will come in handy here. If not, then some shovel work will get you up quickly.
Cypress creek is a narrow, steep banked creek that has been ‘bridged’ over with logs by previous travellers. Take your time and check the old log bridge before you cross, you never know what went over it before you.
Now you get a break in the crossings for a while whilst you build up the courage for Logans Creek and Nolans Brook.
Logans creek has two main entries. The entry to the left is deep and long (video below) and the entry to the right is deeper but shorter. Choose the track best suited to your vehicle and have the recovery gear ready just incase.
You’ve made it to the famous Nolans Brook! This crossing is notorious for drowning vehicles…. The water is crystal clear and the bottom soft and sandy. (video below)
Lower your tyre pressures as if you were about to drive on soft beach sand and have a recovery strap hooked up to your car prior to crossing just incase.
There are nearly always other travellers camped or spectating on the northern side of the crossing so don’t be afraid to ask for someone to get there car ready to pull you out, it could save your car and your holiday!!
Nolans Brook makes a fantastic camp site.
The crystal clear water and sandy bottom make it the perfect spot to cool off in the shallows (crocs have been spotted here so be cautious!), set up a chair in the shallows, have a drink, watch the next groups come through and enjoy the show.
From Nolans it is an easy drive along the end of the OTT, back onto Bamaga Rd and through to the Jardine River Ferry.
Make sure you grab a True North shirt or singlet to wear along the track!
How long does the Old Telegraph Track take to drive? We would recommend 2 days.
Do the creeks along the Old telegraph track have crocodiles? YES! even some of the freshwater creeks have salt water crocodiles. There are a few known swimming holes along the OTT. Elliot falls and Fruitbat falls are crystal clear and croc free.
What distance is the old telegraph track? The Old Telegraph Track is approx 200km long from Bramwell junction to the Jardine reviver ferry.
Old Telegraph track Fuel? There is fuel available at both ends of the Telegraph Track at both Bramwell Junction and The Jardine River Ferry
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At True North Adventures we have a passion for everything adventure. Based in Cairns, Cape York is our back yard and traveling this amazing part of the world is at the core of what we do. Our goal is to travel to Australia's most remote and rugged regions and inspire others to do the same.
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