Border Track Article - 4x4 Australia, December 2003

Ian Lacey, PR, ANFWDC, You may publish the articles but please acknowledge the source as ANFWDC.

Ron Moon got it right in the October 2003 issue of 4x4Australia when he panned four wheel drivers for attempting desert crossings in two wheel drive and for not lowering tyre pressures when travelling on sand and other soft surfaces. Lower pressures are easier on tyres in rocky terrain as well and are certainly easier on tracks, as Ron pointed out.

It is just this behaviour, and worse, that has put the glorious Border Track, in the Ngarkat Conservation Park along the SA-Vic border, in real danger of being lost forever, if it hasn't already. This track, on the National Register of 4x4 destinations, has long been cared for by 4x4 Clubs from SA, with help from Victorian 4x4 Clubs, particularly at Red Bluff Camp. A large fire in the adjacent Big Desert Wilderness focussed attention on access for fire fighting and the unsuitability of the Border Track for fire fighting vehicles. In recent years continued abuse by four wheel drivers attempting the major dunes in two wheel drive, or attempting to tow trailers over the dunes, has degraded the dunes. Not prepared to back down, drivers have persisted, or created new sidetracks part way up the dunes, sometimes two or three sidetracks in places.

Toward the Southern end of the track the clay swales between the dunes and the track South of the dune section has been abused to the extent that mud holes more than twenty metres long, and deep enough to submerged a Landcruiser to the roof gutter, have been created. Worse, these are now seen as a further challenge by some who care little for the destruction they are causing.

Well its now come to this. The Border Track was temporarily closed, and may still be closed, denying the responsible four wheel driver the sand driving experience and remote desert beauty this area has to offer, unique in Southern Australia and within reasonable distance of Melbourne and Adelaide. A wide fire break has been cleared to the West of the dunes and a track formed along this break that will allow fire fighting vehicles access.

The indiscriminate and illegal use of motorcycles and four wheel drives along this track, combined with the high usage rate, has all but destroyed Ngarkat Border track. Four wheel drivers and motorcyclists can blame no one else for this closure. No other vehicles can negotiate this track, and no other vehicle has caused the damage and destruction. Sadly those who caused the damage probably wont know or care.

Four Wheel Drive South Australia is talking with National Parks & Wildlife SA in an attempt to reach a workable solution that may see the Border Track, or at least parts of it, open again. It will need a lot of hard negotiation to convince NPWSA that a workable track management regime can be established for the Border Track. It may mean that the track is closed more often when wet conditions could mean that use would cause track damage, or extreme dry conditions increase the fire risk.

In the meantime the track may remain closed and before you plan any trips along the order Track contact the NPWSA at Lameroo on 08 8576 3690 OR Tintinara on (08) 8757 2261 for advice on conditions and other relevant information.

What can you, as a responsible four wheel driver, do to prevent a repeat of this disgraceful situation? For a start you can report any deliberate track abuse to park management or the police. Its either that or say good bye to more tracks - your choice. The ANFWDC and its State 4x4 Association members do not condone track abuse and will support any moves to identify and eradicate irresponsible four wheel drivers.

This story from 2003 is quite old now but elements of it still remain true. By the persistence of FWDSA volunteers and DEWNR personnel the mud holes and bog holes have been eliminated on the Border Track in the Ngarkat CP. All unnecessary side tracks have been closed off leaving only the main Border Track with one or two alternate side tracks at substantial sand dunes. The proliferation of ad-hoc campsites has been eradicated with several “official” campgrounds accessible before, along and after the one-way section of the Border Track. These campgrounds can all be booked on-line before entry to the Ngarkat CP.

Each year the annual Ngarkat CP Border Track working bee remediates any emerging items that have come about in the previous year by those less than public minded 4WD travellers and so maintains access to the Border Track for all responsible 4WD’ers.

FWDSA Border Track Committee