Darling River Run

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesBourke
DifficultyDifficulty 2.5/5
Suitable For4WD AWD 2WD Caravan Camper Motorhome Bike 
Distance727.41 km
Minimum Days2
Average Speed79.03 km/hr
Travel Time9 hrs 12 mins
Page Updated: 2 Sep 2020


The Darling River is one of the outback's most famous rivers. It is also one of Australia’s longest Rivers and over many centuries has been an important link to the people that line it's banks. Starting near Bourke in central NSW and draining into the Murray in Victoria the Darling River Run snakes itself through black soil farming country. Driving along the Darling River Run you'll take a journey through historic pioneering country so take the time to read up on its rich history, drop in on the locals, and take your time to enjoy this unqique area.

Todays travellers can follow the Darling in either direction on mainly dirt roads. Excellent bush camping opportunities can be found along the banks of the river and accommodation with facilities can be found within the tourist parks, national park huts, station bunkhouses, and historic motels and hotels. The drive is over 700kms, although you could add another 300kms for side-trips to Broken Hill and Mungo National Park (recommended). These roads can be accessible by 2WD sedans in dry conditions, although 4WDs are recommended because rain can turn the road surface muddy within hours.

The sparkling lakes around Menindee are a welcome counterpoint to the dust and dry desert plains encountered during the long journey from Bourke via Louth, Tilpa and Wilcannia. The lakes and river-ways that form the Menindee Water Storage Scheme showcase nature at its best - with pelicans, spoonbills, and great crested grebes providing a delight for birdwatchers. The gorgeous sunsets over the waters are an event that should not be missed.

The dirt tracks south of Bourke continue to the first settlement, Louth some 99km away. At Louth, the track to Tilpa runs along the western bank of the Darling and another follows the eastern bank to Wilcannia. The later does not provide riverside camps quite as closely as on the western side. This is a great area to launch your "tinnie" (aluminium fishing dingy) and it's indeed possible to tow a caravan or camper trailer along these tracks. The river is full of yabbies so bring a yabby pot, some lamb neck or raw meat bait and enjoy!

The track continues along the river and then heads into the township of Wilcannia. Keep heading south along the river track (you'll see tracks on both sides of the river). About 30km before reaching Menindee you'll find some great camps in the red sand hills. South of Menindee in the Kinchega National Park are some perfect campsites, some even with beaches!

South of Kinchega National Park you can drive south to Wentworth via the tiny settlement of Pooncarrie. The dirt track from Kinchega follows the western bank of the Darling through cattle farming country along the Old Pooncarrie Road before crossing the bridge into town.

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The Darling River and its tributaries offer abundant birdlife, marsupials, mammals, reptiles, and flora. In the surrounding wooded areas of the river, you will often spot Emus, Koala bears, and Western Grey Kangaroos.



The Darling River region was home to the first Australians and with more than 15 Aboriginal language groups, the indigenous culture in the area goes back over 45,000 years. The area abounds in Aboriginal culture from the fish traps at Brewarrina, the many historical and sacred sites, through to the world's oldest ritual burial ground at Lake Mungo. Lake Mungo was the site where the remains of what became known as Mungo Man – the oldest human found in Australia and Mungo Lady, the oldest person in the world to be ritually cremated.

European Explorers

Explorers George Evans was reportedly the first European to explore the upper reaches of the Macquarie River in 1813 from the Blue Mountains. Authorities believed that there was a great inland sea where all the rivers flowed into, and in 1818, George Evans and the Surveyor General of the time - John Oxley had teamed up and made great progress into the interior but fell short due to the impenetrable Macquarie Marshes. A majority of the upper eastern tributaries to the south of the Darling River were charted over the next 15 years.

The task of proving this theory was given to Charles Sturt who set off in 1828 on the first of his many quests to find this inland sea. Charles was fully equipped - complete with boat, and soon learned that the land was one of extremes with floods and droughts. The river at Bourke was almost empty except for some salty water bubbling from its bed. Sturt realised that this was in fact part of a major river system and named the river after NSW Governor Ralph Darling. During a second expedition along the Murrumbidgee River to track its route to the Murray River, Sturt came across a clan of about 600 Aborigines standing on a sand bar. After any potential hositilities had calmed, Sturt noticed the sandbank the tribe was standing on, was the point at which the river from the north had joined the Murray River. Sturt was in fact at the confluence of the Murray and Darling Rivers.

Now that it was known, from Charles Sturt’s explorations, that there was indeed a large river in the north and a large river that joined the Murray in the south, the government needed to know if in fact these two rivers were the same. In March 1835, Major Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor General of the day, set off on his voyage to continue what Sturt had started and reached the junction of the Darling and Bogan rivers in April. In the region that is now Bourke, he created a stockade (named Fort Bourke) to protect provisions from local Aborigines. He made a number of explorations along the Darling River (by boat and land) and on his third expedition, opened up new areas around Menindee. Mitchell also explored and opened up the extremely fertile areas south of Mildura and along the Loddon River in far western Victoria. The remainder of the Darling River was charted by Sturt in 1844.

TrekID: 15


MUST READ: You are strongly encouraged to read the following articles prepared by the knowledge experts at ExplorOz for your safety and preparation before undertaking any published ExplorOz Trek - Outback Safety, Outback Driving Tips, Outback Communications, and Vehicle Setup for the Outback.

The Darling River Run is a nice region to travel through, and is easily accessible. Like any journey, correct planning, preparation and common sense will ensure a memorable, wonderful and safe experience. Safe outback travel is about common sense and potential dangers come from the hot and dry summers, and the considerable distances between towns and services. Try avoiding driving at sunrise and sunset as many native animals (Roos and Emus) will be active then and will be attracted to your headlights and can jump in front of your vehicle – and cause serious damage. Also take heed of road closures, since unsealed roads may be closed after rain. This is for personal safety and to prevent the roads form being damaged.

Plan and research where and when to go, and talk to others who have travelled the area (e.g in the ExplorOz Forum). Consider communications equipment for more remote travel, such as a UHF Radio, mobiles with good outback coverage and EPIRB devices. Organise accommodation and contact details before leaving and let someone know. Ensure you vehicle is fully serviced before embarking, and take spare parts that may be needed such as spare fuses, tyres, belts etc. Carry spare fuel, first aid kits, and water containers carrying 20 plus litres of water.

Etiquette, Camping and Swimming

Country people are renowned for their hospitality but remember that their property is their home and livelihood, and not all are amenable to random access of their properties; in the same way you would not be at your home or office. Ask permission for camping at the homestead. Check with the station owner before camping and let them nominate a place for you. Rivers and creeks can be great for a refreshing swim on a hot day BUT be cautious as there can be steep slippery banks, undertows and submerged trees.


There are no permits required for the Darling River Run trek note as the route follows public roads and highways. For information on the status of roads, please click: Darling River Road Conditions

There are entry and camping fees required for parks such as Kinchega National Park. For information regarding these fees please visit: Camping in Kinchega National Park or contact the park office at Broken Hill.

Broken Hill

Street address: 183 Argent Street, Broken Hill NSW
Postal address: PO Box 788, Broken Hill NSW 2880
Phone: (08) 8080 3200
Email: brokenhill.office@environment.nsw.gov.au

Fuel Usage

Unfortunately, there is no longer any fuel available at Pooncarie.
4cyl 113 litres *4cyl 118 litres4cyl 145 litres
6cyl 83 litres *6cyl 117 litres *6cyl 128 litres
8cyl 112 litres8cyl 121 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Outback New South Wales experiences very hot and dry summers. Travel is safer and more enjoyable between March and October. Please note - unsealed roads may be closed after rain.

Closest Climatic Station

Wilcannia (Reid St)
Distance from Trek Mid Point 83.07km NW
Mean Max. °C35.434.631.326.221.217.717.119.523.527.431.233.9
Mean Min. °C19.919.316.
Mean Rain mm25.926.524.617.023.622.418.417.515.925.220.926.0
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended


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Bourke to Louth
Driving: 98.42 km
Heading: 238°
Avg Speed: 85.87 km/hr
EST Time: 01:08:46
Louth to Winbar
Driving: 25.73 km
Heading: 232°
Avg Speed: 78.54 km/hr
EST Time: 19:39
Winbar to Paddys Creek Bridge
Driving: 4.15 km
Heading: 223°
Avg Speed: 66.07 km/hr
EST Time: 03:46
Paddys Creek Bridge to Compodor Creek Bridge
Driving: 19.12 km
Heading: 226°
Avg Speed: 87.76 km/hr
EST Time: 13:04
Compodor Creek Bridge to Budjewarra Bend
Driving: 6.69 km
Heading: 207°
Avg Speed: 80.77 km/hr
EST Time: 04:58
Budjewarra Bend to Tilpa
Driving: 36.94 km
Heading: 251°
Avg Speed: 81.65 km/hr
EST Time: 27:08
Tilpa to Tankarooka
Driving: 20.06 km
Heading: 208°
Avg Speed: 77.71 km/hr
EST Time: 15:29
Tankarooka to Barrier Hwy & Bourke-Wilcannia Rd
Driving: 118.08 km
Heading: 236°
Avg Speed: 77.32 km/hr
EST Time: 01:31:37
Barrier Hwy & Bourke-Wilcannia Rd to Wilcannia
Driving: 6.41 km
Heading: 335°
Avg Speed: 77.32 km/hr
EST Time: 04:58
Wilcannia to Barrier Hwy & Bourke-Wilcannia Rd
Driving: 6.41 km
Heading: 155°
Avg Speed: 77.32 km/hr
EST Time: 04:58
Barrier Hwy & Bourke-Wilcannia Rd to Billilla
Driving: 38.98 km
Heading: 225°
Billilla to Tintinallogy
Driving: 32.63 km
Heading: 210°
Tintinallogy to Barraroo
Driving: 6.44 km
Heading: 214°
Barraroo to Windalle
Driving: 38.32 km
Heading: 236°
Windalle to Menindee
Driving: 28.72 km
Heading: 242°
Menindee to Tolarno
Driving: 47.62 km
Heading: 183°
Tolarno to Karoola
Driving: 16.19 km
Heading: 184°
Karoola to Chalky Well
Driving: 20.77 km
Heading: 179°
Chalky Well to Pooncarie
Driving: 38.89 km
Heading: 151°
Pooncarie to Wentworth Pooncarie Rd & Top Hut Rd
Driving: 28.01 km
Heading: 200°
Wentworth Pooncarie Rd & Top Hut Rd to Fotherby Park
Driving: 88.15 km
Heading: 222°
Fotherby Park to Wentworth
Driving: 0.68 km
Heading: 287°
Distance is based on the travel mode shown (Driving, Straight, Cycling, Walking etc), Direction is straight line from start to end, Avg Speed & EST Time is calculated from GPS data.

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