Have you got a permit to cross the Simpson Desert?

By: Roon Moon, Photography by: Ron Moon

Ron Moon sets out for the Colson Track for the first time, with his long-awaited permit in hand.

Have you got a permit to cross the Simpson Desert?
Travellers need to seek permission to access many of the tracks passing through the Simpson Desert

As soon as I finish writing this, I’ll be throwing the swag into the 4x4 and heading to central Australia.

It’s not that I don’t like being home; far from it, although some people do wonder, as I’ve only been home for six weeks since returning from our four-and-half month trip through a verdant North America. And, in those last six weeks, I slipped away for 10 days and wandered the beaches along the Coorong and over on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia as well as spending a few days testing all the new dual cab utes on the market with the crew at 4x4 magazine.

I know…it’s a tough life, but somebody has to do it!

Somewhere in those weeks, I heard on the grapevine that permits for the Colson Track were being issued so I jumped on the phone to the Central Land Council in Alice Springs and then the web and applied for a permit. Lo and behold, two weeks later I had an entry permit to travel the Colson Track.


The Colson Track is just one of a couple tracks that run north-south in the Simpson Desert, starting at Linnies Corner on the WAA Line, 65km east of Purni Bore and about 216km east of Mt Dare. It was built in the early 1960s to provide access to and from Alice Springs for the crews opening up the desert for oil and gas exploration, although any other info on its construction has been awfully hard to find, as I’ve found out in recent days.

From the WAA Line, the Colson heads basically north (actually a little west of north), crosses the French Line and then the border into the NT. It passes a track to the old Colson Oil Well, which was capped long ago, and continues its run northward along the interdunal valley to where an even fainter track marks the place where most Madigan Line travellers cross the Colson on their way east or west along this tough desert crossing.

The boundary of the Pmere Nyente Aboriginal Land Trust is then crossed as the track skirts around the Allitra Tableland and through this section you are not allowed to wander off the main track. The permit I have is only a ‘transit permit’ and I’m not allowed to camp while in the Land Trust lands, nor am I allowed to access any of the rock outcrops in the area.  

About 335km north of Linnies Corner you come to Numery Station about 185km east of Alice Springs and from there onwards, you are in station property.

For much of the last 20 or more years it has been extremely difficult to obtain a permit to traverse this route because of the sensitivity of the area around the Allitra Tablelands. And while I’ve travelled most of the routes in the Simpson over the last 30 years, some of them on numerous occasions, the Colson hasn’t been one of them.

Now I’ve got the chance and the permit, I’m off to do it. And while the rules and conditions imposed may be a little inconvenient or restrictive, at least they are allowing us through. And, one thing I’ve learnt over the years, is that if an opportunity arises, take it before the rules change, or somebody bans it, or the ownership changes and it’s closed!

It’s a rule I try and stick by, as too many opportunities have been lost in the past.

So, if you want to travel the Colson, maybe this year is the year to do it. Best of luck with the permit!

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Check out the full feature in issue #96 January 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.