Googs Track is on the bucket list of many Australian 4WDers. For those wanting to cross the Simpson Desert or complete the Canning Stock Route, Googs Track is an excellent introduction to desert and sand driving. The track has an interesting history and makes for some great sightseeing.
Googs Track Overview
Location: Near Ceduna, SA
Length of Track: 200 km
Best Time to Access: Dry season May to October, too hot during summer months
Suitable for: 4WD with high clearance, take traction and recovery equipment. Not suitable for a caravan. Trailers are also not recommended so it’s best to camp in a tent or vehicle.
Camping: Ceduna, Googs Lake, Mount Finke, Kingoonya
Tips: If you want to explore the area around the track, you will do almost double the kilometres. Take your own water, food, fuel, and satellite phone. There are no facilities between Ceduna and Glendambo.
Why the Funny Name?
You could be forgiven for thinking someone with a sense of humour named this track. But it’s no laughing matter. In 1973 local farmers John ‘Goog’ Denton, wife Jenny, their three kids and Jenny’s brother Denis Beattie set out to build a road from their Lone Oak farm to Tarcoola.
The track pushers started clearing the track with a Fordson tractor fitted with a front-end loader blade and a 2WD ute. After working on the track on weekends for two years, a shack was built as a base camp. Following a request by the National Parks and Wildlife services the shack was removed in 1977.
Progress on the road came to a standstill for six months, due to problems with the bulldozer and the family’s other commitments. Locals donated fuel and supplies to help with the track clearing as they were keen to see the track go through Tarcoola.
In March 1976 a grader was purchased to make travelling the track safer and easier. With such steep, soft dunes many hills had to be graded from each side, as it was impossible to grade over the crest. By August they had cut through to Mount Finke. The mount was named by Charles Stuart in 1858 after his patron William Finke.
Station owners took over cutting from Mount Finke to Malbooma. The sheep farmers wanted the road to continue so they could get their wool through to the port at Thevenard, Ceduna faster. However, it was tough going and when the project was abandoned the two drums of water left on the side of the track became known as Drum Camp. The road to Tarcoola was eventually cleared.
Jenny Denton went on to write a book ‘My Memories of Pushing Goog’s Track.’
Googs Track is best tackled by experienced four wheel drivers. There are plenty of challenging sand hills and dunes and some parts of the track are corrugated. One driver must have counted them and noted there are no fewer than 363 dunes to cross.
It’s highly recommended that you drive in a northerly direction rather than southerly. The track is narrow and in most parts doesn’t allow for two cars to easily pass each other. If you encounter a car travelling in the opposite direction you will need to reverse over several sand dunes to find a spot you can pass. Another reason for driving north rather than south is that northern dune faces are steeper than the lumpy corrugated south dunes.
As some hill crests are blind, a sand flag is recommended but not compulsory like out in the Simpson Desert. The overhanging vegetation on Googs can destroy tall sand flags so invest in a low height flag. Monitor UHF channel 18 to communicate with other drivers on the track.
Being a sand track, tyre pressure should be reduced at the start of the track to 18-20 psi. Stay in low gear – most of the sand hills can be climbed at a crawl without revving so you do little damage to the track and minimise rutting for drivers behind you. The track is usually muddy after rain.
Googs Track Camping Options
Stay in a Ceduna caravan park to stock up on supplies before heading out. Campsites along the track include Googs Lake and Mount Finke. The afternoon sun setting across the Googs Lake salt plain offers stunning views. There are no facilities on the two track campsites so be prepared to take all your rubbish with you. Don’t be tempted to bury it as the local wildlife can dig it up.
The Kingoonya camping options include a caravan park with powered and unpowered sites and free camp sites with public toilets. Fuel is available 24 hours nearby if you need to fill up. Glendambo camping sites are available at the Glendambo hotel motel and caravan park.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to camp, you can drive the track in one long day. But if you want to see everything the area has to offer and stay on the track for the best part of a week, one traveller recommended this five-day itinerary:
Day 1 – Ceduna to Goog’s Lake
Day 2 – Travel to Lois Rocks and return
Day 3 – Rest day walking around/across Goog’s Lake and check out the island in the middle
Day 4 – Goog’s Lake to Mt Finke
Day 5 – Mt Finke to Kingoonya/ Glendambo
There are plenty of mallee fowls, wombats and kangaroos in the area to check out. The dog gate at Yumbarra Conservation Park should be closed behind you to keep the wildlife safe. When rockholes in the area fill with water they are a magnet for the local wildlife.
At the turn off to Googs Lake is a memorial to ‘Googs’ and his son Martin ‘Dinger’ Denton. The memorials were laid in 1994 and 1997 and in 2018 they underwent an upgrade. A new plaque was added for Mrs Denton’s mother Coral ‘Nana Nong’ Beattie for her compassion and dedication while the track was being pushed.
The salt lake is 15 km long and 1 km wide in places. The edges of the lake are soft and many vehicles have been bogged to their axles in the clay so best to take a walk rather than drive around the lake’s perimetre. The vegetation along the track is constantly changing.
Once you reach Mount Finke, the fittest people in the party can climb the 170m to the summit for a look at the views and the commemorative plaque at the top.
Further along the track after the salt lake is Lois Rock, Narlara Rockhole and Childara Rockhole. If you take the Kingoonya Wirulla Road you can travel to Lake Everard Station. Further north a track leads to Jellabinna Rocks.
The last section of the track is gravel and has been realigned to avoid the dog fence and Kychering Rocks. The track crosses over the rail line at Maloomba and follows the Trans Access Road (TAR) east along the dog fence to Tarcoola.
Around 400m before Tarcoola you can take a track to your left which leads you to old gold mine workings. The 2.5km detour is well worth it to see the remnants of the mine manager’s house, school house, assay house, steam engines and stamp battery.
In Tarcoola you can check out the disused railway station, abandoned petrol station and pub. For a cold drink and a campsite with facilities, drive another hour on to Kingoonya. Several travellers have recommended the Kingoonya pub for a meal at the end of the track.
Before you tackle the track, grab a copy of Goog’s Track. The map provides detailed road and track, park and reserve, and heritage information. The map’s scale is 1:650,000 with GPS locations and a latitude and longitude grid.
More detailed information about the track including photos and notes of hazards including dips, crests, creeks, floodways and tight corners are listed in the Googs Track Outback Travellers Guide. Otherwise, Westprint’s Goog’s Track map is very good.
If you have any queries about these or any other track publications, call the friendly team at The Chart & Map Shop on 08 9335 8665 or contact us online.